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Early Warnings about Today’s Education Crisis

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EARLY WARNINGS

about Today’s Education Crisis

By Linda Dobson

The warnings about education you are about to read were gathered in 1994 in preparation for The Art of Education, a book released in 1995. Education has not been fixed. Will you stand up to be part of the solution today? Time is running out.

I can’t help thinking of the Venetian Republic in their last half-century. Like us, they had once been fabulously lucky. They had become rich, as we did, by accidnet. They had acquired immense political skills, just as we have. A good many of them were tough-minded, realistic, patriotic men. They knew, just as clearly as we know, that the current of history had begun to flow against them. Many of them gave their minds to working out ways to keep going. It would have meant breaking the pattern into which they had crystallised. They were fond of the pattern, just as we are fond of ours. They never found the will to break it.

~ C. P. Snow

educationYes, it might have been simpler for C. P. to say: Nothing stays the same. Change is inevitable. Those societies that refuse to bend with the winds of change shall perish.

People – individuals – take the first step on that journey to change. Before setting foot on the path to societal improvement, the individuals who fuel that society are obligated to first look at what we’ve created as it is. Not as it used to be. Not as we would like it to be. As it is. And as it is, it’s not a pretty sight.

Where Has Education Landed Us?

There’s a lot that’s good in this country. But when it comes to the founding principles of life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness of its individuals, things could be much, much better. Among industrialized nations, America is #1 in military spending ($290 billion) [if only it was that little today!], valiantly defending her borders. But what is she today defending? Apparently, her other #1 rankings – in murder and car accidents. And the $425 billion price tag on fourteen million reported crimes. Yes, America’s people could be much, much happier, not to mention kinder.

There are many who realize that the education current has begun to flow against us. They address conferences, they write volumes, they beg for every scrap of media attention they can garner. Yet the many perils of institutionalized education that these people warn are wounding our children’s very spirits – grades, age-grouping, tracking, programmatic instruction, competition, isolation, early starts, incessant testing – are the same aspects that government-controlled schools intensify each time our failures come under the scrutiny of politicians. What insanity!

See also Public School Budget Woes for Families as Test Publisher Makes Out Like a Bandit

The education current has, in fact, been working against us for so long we dare not wait any longer to break “the pattern into which we have crystallized.” We, the people who through our collective energy give life to our society, must find the will to break it.

“What we call necessary institutions,” wrote Alexis de Tocqueville, “are often no more than institutions to which we have grown accustomed.” Shall our conditioned comfort with the familiar stop us from questioning its value?

“A society whose schools are inhumane is not likely to be humane itself,” said Charles E. Silberman in Crisis in the Classroom. Shall our conditioned inhumanity allow us to forcefully herd our children into an institution that grows more dangerous and violent daily?

Voices of Those Within the Education Institution

Listen carefully to what those with intimate experience within the institution warned:

Retired New York State Teacher of the Year John Taylor Gatto reveals, “The children I teach are uneasy with intimacy or candor. They cannot deal with genuine intimacy because of a lifelong habit of preserving a secret self inside an outer personality made up of artificial bits and pieces of behavior borrowed from television, or acquired to manipulate teachers.” Shall our conditioned hypocrisy forever leave our children emotionally crippled?

“By focusing only upon what is observable and quantifiable, [school] accountability obscures and trivializes our view of life by creating a one-dimensional lens,” said Thomas S. Popkewitz in Paradigm and Ideology in Educational Research. Shall our conditioned blindness let us lead our children off the cliff?

Emeritus Professor of Chemistry Joel H. Hildebrand (University of California Berkeley) laments, “The invention of IQ did a great disservice to creativity in education…Individuality, personality, originality, are too precious to be meddled with by amateur psychiatrists whose patterns for a ‘wholesome personality’ are inevitably their own.” Shall our conditioned mediocrity close the door to genius?

“It’s easier,” claimed Massachusetts Institute of Technology Professor Jerrold Zacharias, “to put man on the moon than to reform the public schools.” Shall the weight of our dead horse break our children’s back?

Perhaps the most basic warning comes from Christopher Hills. His conclusion illustrates that change in our approach to education is imperative if we are to create the type of society we would prefer our children to inherit. Hills cautions that only “when the general body of educated opinion believes that the laws of consciousness are as real as any laws of physics, then there can be nuclear changes in the structure of society.” Shall the conditioned unconsciousness our society induces be its very end?

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