Thursday, August 27, 2009

Rethinking How We Think About Education

As one who has attended both public schools, a community college and now Carson-Newman, I've had my fair share of exposure to the education system or shall I say the formal education system. What comes to mind when you decide to attend a college or get your diploma? Is it to find a job? A career? Get more education?

While it has been marketed in this manner for much of the 20th century and now, I have learned that it is actually neither of these. Instead the purpose of public schooling was and is to create bored people. Being a bored person means a better consumer. "Since bored people are the best consumers, school had to be a boring place, and since childish people are the easiest customers to convince, the manufacture of childishness, extended into adulthood, had to be the first priority of factory schools. Naturally, teachers and administrators weren't let in on this plan; they didn't need to be. If they didn't conform to instructions passed down from increasingly centralized school offices, they didn't last long." John Taylor Gatto

Perhaps most kids are dropping out of school because they aren't learning anything, rather than they drop out of school because they don't want to learn as traditionally advertised. Just a thought.

I have experienced this first-hand, but it didn't really hit me until I began waking up almost ten years ago. Granted, I've known that corruption existed in a general sense and that yes people do get together to do bad things. But I gathered at the time it was mostly isolated incidents. But as I did more research and asked questions most wouldn't even think to ask, I have learned that corruption and evil can be institutional, legalized and has a top-down approach. After all, in any given society, there are leaders and followers. Most follow and a few will lead even if they are of bad character. Little did I know then that many of the themes from The X-Files did indeed have basis in fact.

A few years ago, I was a reporter for a newspaper which I shall not name. While covering the school board, I encountered the politics that is part and parcel to education today. As a fellow reporter told me, generally school boards are actually the most political entity at the local level, not the county commission or sheriff's department. I butted heads with the board chairman over several articles pertaining to the violations of the Sunshine Law. On top of that, while conducting research for an in-depth article on "No Child Left Behind", several administrators did not wish to go on the record about their opinion for fear of retaliation from certain individuals or organizations. Many teachers go into teaching because they want to teach, not to get into politics. Yet, the system is inherently political and rewards and punishes on the basis of adhering to a certain agenda.

At the college level, it is somewhat better, but still there are grounds for improvement. Have you ever failed a class because your professor voted for one candidate and you voted for another? Have you noticed the tuition and cost of room and board? Are you getting a return on your investment? On top of that, while getting your diploma and/or degree meant a rewarding career or a higher paying job a generation or two ago, people of my generation are learning the hard way that a college degree doesn't ensure a better life or more money.

The college loan program is another area that is in need of improvement or shall I competition. The first thing that needs to happen is to take back education and learning on a personal level. This requires a lot of unlearning and relearning. The U.S. Department of Education ultimately needs to be abolished, but it will start at the local level.

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