Constructive gadfly
Published on January 7, 2012 By stevendedalus In US Domestic

De-schooling, schools without walls, alternative
schools, freedom and open schools—are all predicated on the premise that
traditional or prevailing schools are oppressive. Somehow out of, and in spite
of, this oppression, democratic esprit presses for change and enlightenment.
There is a subtle contradiction here. History notes that oppression succeeds by
suppressing the conscious level of subjects by the ruling class and delimited
for the expediency of industry, but as the complexity of civil society entails
widespread expertise, traditional learning only services the elite or those
ready to cope with the demands of academics. The traditional method is designed
for those with supportive environments, including the institution itself. Most
inner city and impoverished suburban schools, therefore, are oppressive by
default since cultural enrichment— together with supportive pre-school years—is
lacking. However, where public education has adequate resources a kind of middle
class aristocracy is perpetuated; nonetheless, the culturally and economic
disadvantaged—except for the extraordinarily gifted, not to mention parent
awareness—remain muddled and frustrated. Since the traditional lock-step
presupposes a path to achievement, enrollment of achievers is essential and
illogical to enroll under-achievers. No one would expect a child who cannot draw
a straight line to enter an art school any more than one unable to divide or
multiply be placed in advanced math. By the time these children reach high
school age they are indelibly etched as non-achievers and sorted as
non-academic, vocational, or out-the-door at sixteen. Though pre-school
experience helps to develop a child’s history of skills, the glaring fact
remains that home support is still essential for development, and in part
possible through economic justice—light years away. Today’s high school means
well by offering alternative programs or revising academic programs with little
content and much frivolous activity. Charter schools—armed with strict
selection—try to stride the high road with much no nonsense drills of the
disciplines to the detriment of the child’s depth and societal consciousness.
The point here is that elitism very early becomes dramatically apparent through
scheduled and geographic segregation—the melting pot, particularly in secondary
education is non-existent—such as both ends of the “special kids” spectrum on
the elementary level and on the secondary advanced courses in literature,
science and math. Most modern critics of public education like to scapegoat
teachers unions for today’s school dysfunction when every thinking person knows
the problems are far more complex and imbedded in the layers of American
society. They also like to point to other countries for models of
proficiency—South Korea’s longer year, Finland’s creativity and progressive
route—but in the main, ironically, the high regard held for the teaching
profession there. Critics never discuss the “purity” of race in many of these
countries juxtaposed to our extreme diversity from immigration, myriad of
cultures in so many states, and the lingering impact of slavery. Yet most admit
that there is no better education system than the American universities where
most seem to think that because of the rich diversity and cultural differences
students are taught to think! On the other hand, the very same elitism and
exclusive ambiance—and by the way, teacher unions—subsist in the high end
universities. The main theme of the critics, however, is the economy and the
inability to of the poorly educated to upgrade themselves in face of the
seemingly better educated poor in foreign countries laboring for less. Aside
from the ambivalence of technological advances creating and reducing jobs, there
is no doubt the future will emphasize basic disciplines for technical training
to make and operate equipment and as a result making college for most of us
irrelevant. However, more than ever this implies that the human side of
education must still be championed in elementary and secondary levels, for the
American dream does not exist in alternatives that are but mere instructional
gimmicks of doing one’s thing in lieu of the hard work of true individuality
within the matrix of society. The true core curriculum should always be the
balance of child and her being in the world. Yes, it is still light years away
from real justice in education; but a kind of GI Bill in public education would
go a long way in advancing the general character of intellect and citizenry in
our young. To turn Confucius on his head: “learning without thought is

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