Rocker and Sage

The Quintessential Optimist and the Quintessential Cynic - Working Together to Build a Better America.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Holy Grail

I am writing this post upon the recommendation of my good friend Right-wing Rocker. If you read his blog, you may have already read it in the comments over there under "Sage on Education".
This is the last day of school,finally, as it has been a long year and I am looking for some R&R! This will be my final post until September. I will be travelling to Wyoming, and NH for the purpose of monitoring the pulse of "freedom" in America, which brings me to the point.

For the record, let it be known that I am only "nominally" a Libertarian, and that being only for the sake of some sort of political I.D. that most people can recognize. I am a staunch Constitutionalist with a deeply grounded faith in the power of that document as a core human response to the fundamental yearning for freedom. I believe in its ability, when applied, to provide the support necessary for a truly prosperous, and vital society of people. I also believe that it is in grave danger, as is the culture that birthed it, from those in power who live in fear of the limitations imposed on them by its dictates.

I write in hopes of providing a warning to the people of freedoms lost, and its impact on the future of the republican form of government.The quest for the "holy grail" of government has become my passion, as well as my pleasure, and has opened my eyes to a truth that is, to say the least, somewhat scary.

I am, however, a "Free Stater" having already made the committment to move to New Hampshire by purchasing property there. I had done so prior to the choice of that organization(Free State Project) of the state of NH as the most "free" state in the union for like reasons. I believe we(lovers of freedom) will have to make a stand somewhere where it counts. New Hampshire just may be the best bet for success. We shall see!

As far as the Libertarians are concerned, they are actually moving away from positions that I hold dear in an attempt to become "legitimate" contenders in the upcoming elections(read: middle of the road).

I, meanwhile, hold to Jefferson's thinking: "He who is governed least is governed best", and while that may sound too much like anarchy to some, it sounds like paradise to me!

Have a great summer!

Power to the people-The revolution will not be televised

Friday, June 09, 2006

The Old School

It is no secret that I have major disagreements with the way discipline is handled(or not) by the administration in the school where I work. We have gone 'round and 'round for the last several years, but never more so than in the past year as the state breathes down the proverbial necks of those whom they would first "make mad".

Most of you know this to be as a result of the dumbing down of America's public schools ander the guise of No Child Left Behind in preparation for the future homogenization of North America. But as I was in a heated disagreement a few weeks back with one of my supervisors over a disciplinary issue which I felt was not handled very well by them, an epiphanal moment occurred for which I was not prepared. I had said to her that when I was the age of my students, and I was not in class on time, the teacher would simply close the door, and I would then be required to go to the office to get a late pass, which of course would be accompanied by an office detention as a consequence of my tardiness. Her reply was to say that I was "old school", and that "we can't do that anymore". As I reflected on these words, I asked myself,"What is that supposed to mean?, just what is "old school"? Is it a point of reference, or a historical moment in education? Or is it a way of thinking, or acting that has somehow become archaic, and unneccessary in this "new age" of education?

So, just exactly what does it mean to be "old school"? My search for the answer to this question led me on a quest that took me back to the roots of public education. Back in time to old, dusty, library shelves containing articles, and books that are mostly yellowed by the passage of time, and in many instances, out of print. Back to "old school", and an even "older school", if you will, than that.

It is no secret to anyone that the public school system of the US doesn't do a very good job of "educating" the children. Studies abound that show American schoolkids lagging behind their counterparts in pretty much every other country in the industrialized world. We are shocked, and horrified at the number of high school seniors that cannot find the United States on an unmarked map of the world, and have never heard of Abraham Lincoln(an especially disturbing statistic to a teacher of history). Fingers are pointing everywhere as to the whys, and wherefores of the problem, and as to how to fix it. Some will say overcrowded classrooms are the problem, others will insist that the teachers are incompetent, many say that the government has underfunded the school system, and has therefore inadvertantly created the problem. But what I found in my search for the "old school" led me to a completely different conclusion. All of the aforementioned problems are secondary, and therefore insubsequential in trying to fix the problems. Even if all of them were cleared up, American schools would still be sub par. Why?

Because they were purposely designed that way.

How do I know that this is true? How do I know that America's public school system was designed to ultimately not educate the children that it was supposed to be educating? Because the men who were the designers, and those responsible for its implementation wrote about what they were doing.

Almost all of these books, articles, and reports are out of print and impossible to obtain. But a man named John Taylor Gatto did his "homework" and tracked some of them down for us. Gatto was voted the New York State Teacher of the Year in 1991, but he became disillusioned with public education- the way they enforce conformity, the way they crush natural creativity, inquisitiveness, and ultimately the love of learning that every child is endowed with by nature. So he began to dig into the roots of an even "older school", America's educational system.

It plays like this. In 1888, the Senate Committee on education was getting nervous about the localized, non-standard based, non- mandatory form of education that was actually succeeding in the teaching of reading at advanced levels in very young children. Apparently, these kids, normal, regular, red-blooded American kids from mainstreet USA, were demonstrating(there is a good ole education buzz-word) an uncanny ability to read and comprehend history, and, egads, think for themselves. The committee's report stated, "We believe that education is the principle cause of discontent manifesting itself among the laboring classes." By the end of the 19th century, a whole new breed of education technocrats were promoting a "new school" form of public education, with a new mission (and it was not educational).

The famous philosopher, and educator John Dewey wrote in 1897:"Every teacher should realize that he(she) is a social servant set apart for the maintenance of the proper social order and the right social growth." In his 1905 dissertation, the future Dean of Education at Stanford, wrote that schools should be factories "in which children are to be shaped and formed into the finished products whose specifications for their manufacture will come from government, and industry." The very next year, the Rockefeller Education Board, which was very instrumental in the funding of this new public education initiative, issued a statement which read in part: "We shall not try to make these people or any of their children into philosophers, or men of learning, or men of science. The task before us is very simple, we will organize children, and teach them to do in a perfect way the things that their fathers, and mothers are doing in an imperfect way."

At the same time the US Commissioner of Education, William Harris wrote: "ninety-nine out of one hundred students are automata, and made careful to walk in prescribed paths, and to follow prescribed customs. This is not an accident, but the result of an essential education, which, scientifically defined, is the subjection of the individual." Harris, in a later writing, also said,"the great purpose of school can be better realized in dark, airless, ugly places... it is to master the self, to transcend the beauty of nature. School should take the human out and replace it with something better." And again several years later, President Woodrow Wilson would echo these same sentiments in a speech made to an audience of businessmen: "We want one class to have a liberal education. We want another class, a much larger one by necessity, to forego the privilege of a liberal education that they might be made fit to perform specific manual tasks.

One of the major architects of standardized testing, H.H. Goddard said in his book, "Human Efficiency" that public education was about "the perfect organization of the hive." President of Harvard, James Bryant Conant wrote that the change to a rigid, forced, penitentiary style of education had been demanded by "certain industrialists,and the engineers of innovation who were responsible for determining the nature, and progression of the future industrial process."

In other words, the chieftains of industry, and government purposely created an educational system that would maintain the "proper' social order by teaching us just enough to get by as "trainable idiots", but never enough so that we could think for ourselves, question their idea of the "natural order' of things, or communicate articulately. We were to become the good worker bees in the hive, with the children of the chieftains inheriting the royal jelly that is fit only for a queen-to rise to the level where they could continue to maintain the status quo.

This is the blueprint used for the formation of the public education system, which remains unchanged unto this day.

So,if this is the "old school" that the administrator in question accused me of being, then she is right to say that "we can't do that anymore", if it is our job as teachers to communicate this culture to our youth, than we are indeed failures, and no amount of finger-pointing, hand-wringing, or buck-passing is going to change anything. If the "old school" order that John Dewey envisioned is to be maintained, then we need to get back to the "old school" practices that instituted it in the first place. Under those circumstances then, "I just may be the lunatic they are looking for". I heartily prescribe an engaging diet of hard work, and intensive study in which "education" instead of "sports" is the main course on a very spartan menu.I am very demanding in terms of discipline, both on myself and on my students. I don't give grades, I give opportunities to earn them, which are then rewarded accordingly. I expect the best that my students can do for themselves every time, and why shouldn't I?; I will tolerate nothing less than that for myself. And as a result I find myself in this "new age" of education, having to defend these proven tools of success against encroaching mediocrity, and ignorance. And the assault is not coming from a "new and improved state vision" intelligently planned by a "new and improved" generation of education technocrats bent on dragging a tired, and worn out "old school" into the 21st century, no siree, the assault is coming from a legal/state mandate that is determined to protect a system of values that ultimately rewards failure over success,and thus has removed any possibility of success for the "old school" or any other school for that matter.The "old school", for all of its shortcomings, was successful because it did what it needed to do in order to be successful, and thus became the American institution known as "public education"

On the other hand,if we really want to get a truly "public education", we need to go back to a yet "older school" than that, one that puts "public education" where it belongs which is in the hands of the people themselves.There is no time like the present to do the right thing.

Power to the People-The Revolution will not be televised.