Why should our children be going to school?


Bird Droppings February 9, 2016
Why should our children be going to school?

After reading Joel Spring’s book, Political Agendas for Education, one might wonder why we even have schools. Spring’s implies they are simply to create and mold youth into whatever it is those in power deem feasible. His idea is that it is consumers first and then employees willing to work at meaningless tasks and not question those in power. While Spring’s book is not quite to that extreme, the book raises questions about agendas of various groups, political entities and some very powerful people within our nation.

The massive shift to high stakes testing and accountability based on that testing leading to teaching to the tests rather than the actual needs of the children that are involved. Is this where we have come to? Teaching specific curriculum, approved researched based curriculum has become the catch word. The big question always in research is who is backing the research. I used a reading program where all the research was done by the company producing the books and program. In terms of scientific research it was not a very reliable study yet according to Federal standards it is a research based study. I often wonder if the actual students are ever talked too.

One of the segments used in the reading research study which directly applied to the students I was working with at the time was a group of 14 Emotionally and Behaviorally Disturbed middle school students with average to above average IQ’s and one to two years behind in reading. The research showed how successful the program was, with a one hundred percent improvement to where all were on grade level. In years past I was told this study applied to a group of students I was working with who were eighteen to nineteen years of age with IQ’s less than 75 and were ten to twelve years behind in reading level. I did question the data and program and actually called the publishing company to verify what type of student study group the research was done on. My direct supervisor was needless to say upset I questioned the data. So where do we go as teachers, educators and students? When in our gut we know the data those in charge are wrong where do we go?

“The aim of education should be to teach us rather how to think, than what to think – rather to improve our minds, so as to enable us to think for ourselves, than to load the memory with thoughts of other men.” Bill Beattie

Each day I get up write and go to school unless I happen to have a day off. Next week I can goof off and write later in the morning and watch the sunrise. I thought we might get a flurry but only under a winter storm watch maybe this afternoon extracurricular school activities will be cancelled due to weather and school is out for winter break. I don’t think the two inches of snow for North Georgia will do it. As I sit here wondering I hope I am teaching my students how to think. Hopefully I am teaching them a desire to learn.

“The whole purpose of education is to turn mirrors into windows.” Sydney J. Harris

I was introduced to Sydney J. Harris’s columns nearly fourteen years ago by a fellow teacher and refer to Harris often in my writing. Each time I find a thought I am intrigued anew. In life this is what education should be about creating windows in people’s lives.

“Education is what remains after one has forgotten what one has learned in school.” Albert Einstein

Far too often we preach content especially now in our teaching to the test mentality, when it is context that is the powerful glue that could hold it all together. I see context as the how does this apply in real life, how is it relevant to me all the pieces of the educational puzzle. I have looked at reports from observers where a teacher ties geometry into the real world and how much more powerful is that lesson when students can see where and when and how it actually has meaning. John Dewey was preaching context and experience in early 1900’s it is not a new idea even today John Dewey is considered progressive. I find so-called education reformers tend to build on new packaging of the same traditional industrial complex philosophy with the added value today of profit as a driving force not education of children.

“The school is the last expenditure upon which America should be willing to economize.” Franklin D. Roosevelt

President Roosevelt said this nearly seventy five years ago and we have said this daily as teachers yet education is one of those things so often put aside when budgets comes up in state and federal spending.

“It’ll be a great day when education gets all the money it wants and the Air Force has to hold a bake sale to buy bombers.” Dr. Ronald D. Fuchs

Amazing as we have spent hundreds of billions the military and our military spending is significantly higher than what we spend on education.

“An educational system isn’t worth a great deal if it teaches young people how to make a living but doesn’t teach them how to make a life.” Author Unknown

Semantics so often is the dividing line and as I read this simple thought about making a living versus making a life I am made aware in a deeper way of how conflicted our system is. We so often put all into economic means a dollar value yet life is so much more than how much do you make.

“If you think education is expensive, try ignorance.” Derek Bok

Daily I will comment “swearing shows ignorance and currently you are pretty ignorant” as kids utter language of inappropriate content and even context. Yet this is what they hear at home and where many learn the words and meanings. It is these same parents that pay taxes and complain about the cost of education.

“Education… has produced a vast population able to read but unable to distinguish what is worth reading.” G.M. Trevelyan

I put my thoughts on several blogs, websites and in an daily email and as I read comments on student’s sites one that so often bothers me is when they answer the question of what books do you read and many answer, none. Read who reads when you have the internet and text messaging. How scary can it be when our children are not reading since it is far too easy to get on line or on the cell phone and pull up twitter and a hundred and forty characters of gibberish or Facebook or yahoo news? There is even a new program that reads to you from written word although it is being tested in court as a copyright infringement on audio-books.

“Nations have recently been led to borrow billions for war; no nation has ever borrowed largely for education. Probably, no nation is rich enough to pay for both war and civilization. We must make our choice; we cannot have both.” Abraham Flexner

When the military, industrial, oil complex has a means of generating revenue from education, money will be spent there. About six years back a family friend of George W. Bush in Texas, actually a cousin raised nearly a hundred million in seed money from oil and mining interests for a computer module software company for schools. Interestingly enough it fit into federal legislation, NCLB as an alternative form of education. We pay companies to look for oil to develop new missiles and one of my favorites recently is we have stock piled millions of rounds of VX poisonous gas around the world. There were thirteen million rounds on an island in the pacific, several million in the northwest, and nine million rounds in Anniston Al. and now we are paying billions to clean up since containers are corroding and leaking VX gas. Just for the record that is the stuff movies have been made about and what we didn’t find in Iraq.

“Education is a better safeguard of liberty than a standing army.” Edward Everett
Would it not be great if we could prove this?

“Every time you stop a school, you will have to build a jail. What you gain at one end you lose at the other. It’s like feeding a dog on his own tail. It won’t fatten the dog.” Mark Twain

The great humorist and author over a hundred years ago saw what was needed and how it affects society I find that amazing.

“Why should society feel responsible only for the education of children, and not for the education of all adults of every age?” Erich Fromm

Wise man and philosopher state that school should not be just for kids but an ongoing ever present learning effort and what a world could be built if we would educate truly educate all people.

“Education’s purpose is to replace an empty mind with an open one.” Malcolm S. Forbes
I recall a button my father used in his safety campaigns in the steel mills of Pennsylvania back in the day, it read simply, “IF ONLY”. That was all that was on the button, and it represented, if only we could, if only I would, if only has so many applications.

“What does education often do? It makes a straight-cut ditch of a free, meandering brook.” Henry David Thoreau

I was never the fan of Thoreau and Emerson back in my own high school days perhaps I never tried to really read into their thoughts. This one line from Thoreau has significance for me. Education should be not forcing the content but allowing that content to be put into context.

“Did you know America ranks the lowest in education but the highest in drug use? It’s nice to be number one, but we can fix that. All we need to do is start the war on education. If it’s anywhere near as successful as our war on drugs, in no time we’ll all be ‘hooked on phonics’.” Leighann Lord

A bit long winded today but a good thought to end on as I think so many law makers are trying to destroy public education in the US. What if we truly did apply ourselves, what if? So please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts till that day when no person is in harm’s way and always give thanks namaste.

My family and friends I do not say this lightly,
Mitakuye Oyasin
(We are all related)
bird

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