*I’m assuming that the title under 12/6, 11 labeled “School and Voting/Education and Politics” is just a label for the last subject topic. But since I’m not quiet sure if you are wanting a blog on the classroom discussion of 12-11 or not, I instead decided to share an essay of similar content that I wrote earlier this year based a few articles in the book “Re-reading America” and a speech from John Gatto based on public education and the hidden curriculum.
Just Do What You’re Told.
The rules are simple. Speak only when asked for your response, even if you have something informative and creative to say, sit where they’ve assigned you to sit, even if you’d flourish or better learn in another area, and memorize what’s been chosen for you to learn, whether you like the subject matter or not, even if you’ll never need to know the information again. Do these things, and you’ll be sure to get the approval stamp as a successful student. The gold star award can be yours at the expense of your gifts, talents, interests, characteristics and unique individuality. The trade off will prepare you for very little in your later life and leave you feeling empty, hollow and unfulfilled inside. But your parents will be so proud!
This is the kind of mental attitude that has created a domino effect of issues in today’s American public education system. With scores, data, and statistics being placed at a much higher value than the actual thriving life of a human being, it is time for us to recognize that our current system does not work for the long-term benefits of mankind. Not simply that it just needs a little tweaking or reforming here and there, nipping and tucking away at the outward appearance of superficial matters, but that it needs a complete overhaul from the inside out, top to bottom, and start to finish. With government programs grasping onto the same old tactics under a new label every 4-8 or at best 16 years, it’s time for America to wake up and demand a change for the mental health of our society. As one becomes more aware of these problems America is facing with the public education system, we realize we must become admittedly aware that we are all included as a part of the problem. Unless one is coming from a homeschooled, alternative background, or a foreign education system, anyone who has come out of the public school system has a role to play in these issues. Of course, for most of our lives, we are oblivious to our roles, but now, as independent responsible adults, with or without children, in or out of the education field, we all have a moral duty to take it upon ourselves to stand up to this never ending downward spiral of humanity. The problems that arise from strict standardized testing, prejudged social class circles that assumes an individual child automatically must stay at that level, trapped in a lifestyle, that he or she may otherwise have had the opportunity to climb out from, and blindly conformed thinking patterns affect our culture far beyond the K-12 school walls. The profiteering of our children who are at times, near complete ignorance by the time they enter society as adults is creating a dumbed down, demoralized and dependent society.
“Today, policy makers think of education solely in terms of its secondary purposes. They speak of children as future global competitors. They sometimes refer to children in rather ugly terms as “human assets,” forgetting they are unique people and they are not fungible.” This quote is not an assumption of an angry parent whose child is being failed by the system. This description of America’s children has been personally observed from Diane Ravitch in her article “The Essentials of an Education” Ed. Rereading America (pp.109). Ravitch has spent decades of her life as an educational historian and past policy analyst, whom, walked away from her former beliefs in standardized testing and linked test outcomes to school funding. Currently she is an author and a research professor at New York University’s Steinhardt School of Culture, Education and Human Development. Ravitch advocates against the federal policy in which she states, “is obsessed with test-base data” and suggests a more broad and enriched curriculum. Students that are just being passed to the next grade without knowing the material is of little benefit to society in the long run, past mundane jobs and robotically taking orders.
It is necessary for a well-balanced society to move beyond mere memorization, and eagerly grasp onto the growth potential in learning. It is essential to fully recognize the impact of history and how it’s shaped our world today. It is imperative that a hands on experience with science that allows the student to question their surroundings and open up ideas of possibilities beyond their wildest imaginations. Children need the depth and romance of essential Literature, both historical and current, pouring in from every corner of the earth, in order to develop their sense of spirit. With the awareness and instant access to many peoples of many areas, a foreign language can only benefit the child and spark their curiosity to seek life outside of there own neighborhood. Ravitch reminds us that, “All are enriched by the arts, that they are essential for everyone, and life is enhanced by the arts… The arts are a source of joy and self expression…that enables students to express their individuality…”(111).
“The fact is, that these enrichments and foundational needs that are vital to the growth of our society, are being removed from public schools and replaced by lifeless statistics, data and minimal information on pre-packaged subjects in order to keep students from thinking outside the box. This alone should send the public a red flag signal stating that The United States Department of Education is not interested in a self-thriving and critical thinking, capable society. In an article found on Center for Online Education, a point from “Nueroeducation: Learning, Arts, and the Brain,” Johns Hopkins researchers shared findings showing that arts education can help rewire the brain in positive ways. Studies show changes in the brain structure that allows students to better focus their attention and increase their efficiency, improving their overall IQ scores. Removal of these opportunities seem counter productive to their overall agenda since higher scores bring in higher revenue, but the end cost of a well balanced, self sufficient human is not the priority of this multibillion dollar industry that molds their living, breathing products into unaware and numb commodities.
According to the US Census Bureau, these precious commodities cost taxpayers anywhere from $6000 – $18,000 each. That is the budget per student, per year. This averages out to just under $11,000 per student. If the money is not going into a thriving, variety filled education curriculum, where exactly is it going? With the allotment for the kids being blatantly ignored and misused, it is far too often spent on administration buildings and administrators in charge of a system they rarely, if at all, personally take part in. With the budgets being abused and redirected, it is no wonder that teacher strikes and walkouts are steadily on the rise and spreading like wildfire from state to state.
Inside the Huffington Post, Dave Jamison and Travis Waldron posted an article on 4/7/2018, titled “The Red State Teacher Revolt Has Been Brewing for Decades” in which he states the elementary schools in Oklahoma and Kentucky “was dirty and dilapidated. Many of the textbooks were 15 years old. First through third grades lacked a contemporary reading series, and the classrooms didn’t have whiteboards for the teachers to write on.” The schools have been called appalling and the conditions of facilities were labeled as nearly disgusting. Budgets in the red states have slowly but steadily been on the decline since the recession in 2008. Oklahoma, Kentucky, West Virginia, Arizona are all the heels of the Chicago Strike just a few years ago. This time, the strikes are not against management but against legislature. Teachers are demanding more school funding and higher salaries. Not only are these state dealing with fund shortage, but they are dealing with a teacher shortage as well. Some of these areas are taking in unqualified teachers with no formal education, on temporary emergency certifications. In Texas, New Mexico, Alaska and Colorado, teachers are expressing their anger of their pay and funding as well. This should not merely be considered just a “red-sate” issue, but a rapidly growing nationwide issue. This problem belongs to every age, color, race, geographical region, religion, and social status.
Regardless of the teachers losing out on fair pay and decent work environments, no matter how you view it, one thing is for certain; the students are losing out in a multitude of areas. They lose out on the security of rights to their own education, they lose confidence in a in the system to provide a curious environment, conducive for real learning, and they are losing even more interest in even being at school at all, knowing that something they are a part of on a daily basis, is very, very wrong, and they are powerless to do anything about it. They are realizing at far to young of an age that they are devalued, and aren’t worthy of much in the eyes of the very people they should be able to depend on to make moral decisions over their lives. The system of their homeland has failed them. At a time when these children are meant to be flourishing and growing, expanding their minds, building their characters, discovering their unique talents, and being free to express themselves through experiments of exploration, the weight of their world is crashing down and suppressing them even further.
These problems are effecting how students learn and the way teachers teach. We’ve got students that have lost interest in school, and teachers that have lost interest in the system. Their fight is a worthy and necessary cause, but in reality, it just proves they are, themselves, products of the systems ceaseless cycle. If we take a look back through the years, we find that although teacher strikes were rare in the beginning of the 20th century, when they did occur, it was for the exact same issues as schools are having today. Under funding and under paid due to budgets cuts and mismanagement. By 1943, teachers went on strike in 12 states. Again, for monetary reasons. According to the article “A Brief History of Teacher Strikes in the United States” written in 2012 by Bill Lucey and published by “The Morning Delivery”, strikes are not uncommon throughout the decades. Most every one of them is for the same demands.
In order to end the ongoing financial cycle of the system, it is time to focus on the methods of teaching and reasons behind them. With billions of dollars being spent on upgrading materials, only after dramatic and demanding statewide walkouts take place, the US not continue to try and fix the same problems with the same solutions. One solution in this cluster of the multitudes of issues would be to introduce online learning in every single classroom in every single state. This could solve the problems of outdated material and keep the students up to date with real time events and new discoveries from history to science to politics. At the touch of a button, the access to an endless array of learning materials that could potentially be catered to various learning needs. This would allow students to learn visually, aurally, verbally, and logically in both solidarity and social methods all at the same time while response times and feedback are nearly immediate. With this one change, it would allow for more time in the day to explore the physical nature of arts. With all the piled on issues previously mentioned, our old methods and techniques that are boring the students to the point that 25% of them are led to an early drop out, not only is the question of what is taught, but the question of how its taught needs to evolve. Our students need to know they are worthy of modern materials and they deserve to have the same learning opportunities at all socio economic class levels, and are perfectly capable of keeping up with our competitive countries.
Jean Anyon boldly suggests in her own schooling observance experiment, “From Social Class and the Hidden Curriculum of Work” Ed. Rereading America, that there is a hidden curriculum in schoolwork that has profound implications for the theory- and consequence- of everyday activity in education. Her observance of a variety of schools in different economic classes has recorded that each school has different teaching techniques, according to geographical areas and economic class, that trains the child in a way that has already stereo typed him or her. This forms a preconceived, agenda formed society in which some students are made to move up the ladder and others are made to know only enough to keep them as followers without the know how of independent thinking skills. In working class schools, “the children often had no access at all to learning materials” (142) and were trained to just be obedient at all times. Following directions from their leaders with no real learning experience. In the middle class school, “teachers made every effort to control” (143). Regardless of effort or rules, it was more important that the students just got the answers right. Answers, which were already previously given out. If they were unable to memorize a task or solution, regardless of the students understanding or interest of the subject matter, then they were not considered good. In the affluent professional environments, students were encouraged to be expressive and creative, while critical thinking was inspired and supported. There was much more individuality and freedom, therefore creating a positive, happier student. And finally, Anyon describes the Executive Elite system as an environment where students “have a fair amount of official sanctioned say over what happens in class” (148). The children are expected to utilize their own logic and reason with no answer being completely wrong, just another viewpoint. These students are gearing for life success rather that test success and therefore have overall student success rates.
If the education methods and learning tools are evened out across the board, allowing each child the same resources, we could see a positive shift in society in a short matter of time that could only benefit us a whole. Children would be pushed through the system for the mere sake of statistics, leaving them completely unprepared for life. Instead, they could be taught on how to research and how to learn. They could be taught on how to assure information accuracy, question their resources, and dismiss misleading information. They would learn how to think logically and critically, and most importantly, for themselves. As John Gatto puts it in his article “Against School,” Ed. “Rereading America” (121), “we must wake up to what schools truly are: laboratories of experimentation on young minds, drill centers for the habits and attitudes that corporate society demands… its real is to turn them into servants.” But with a system that could shift to fit individual needs, allowing more time for unique talent developments, and removing the statistical stigmas off any one group, the problems of undereducated, unaware, graduates could be nearly eradicated.
Educational oppression and generational cycles that allow our political system to decide our paths and abilities need to be swiftly shifted. Children being allowed to graduate with only basic math and reading skills affect the entire span of society. It leads to higher crime rates due to higher unemployment rates, social conflicts and government dependence. When there are lack of skills readily available as children leave school and are pushed out of homes, companies have no choice but to outsource their employees, leaving these newly independent young adults with no hope and no where to turn. This feeds into an entire economic problem on a nationwide level. Undereducated adults overall have low self worth, guilt for not being able to provide their own children with a better life, they have higher suicide rates, unstable relationships, higher teen pregnancy rate, limited health care and allow for an entirely new level of abusive and misguided political power. The voting percentages of the educated vs., undereducated is a dramatic difference. In an entire educational system of people who have been told what to think, how to think, when to talk, what to say, because their opinions don’t matter, and they are meant to just follow instructions, stirs up a very dangerous concoction with the perfect ingredients for government takeover and dictators to be put into place. When people are not able to think critically, and have not been allowed to learn how to think for themselves, it’s an oppressive disaster that few are aware they are even in.
In Education Week Teacher, April 2018, Ashley Lamb-Sinclair refers to the book “A Whole New Mind” written by author Daniel Pink, who “elaborates on the necessity of pursuing creative thought. In our students future…what will be necessary is creative problem solving, divergent thinking, and unique perspectives on old ideas. Pink explains that it will take standout designs, ideas, and solutions to make a real impact. It is not important that we cultivate creativity just because it feels good, but because our students’ future depends on it.” Sinclair correctly reminds us “There is much at stake if we ignore the creative potential of our students. Developmental research shows that young people actually have a special affinity (inherent connection) for risk that is well suited for developing creative thinking. Teenagers like to rebel, be unique, try new things, and are highly impulsive. Because standardized methods of education often leave little room for deviation, teens can lose sight of this trait, or put it to use in less productive ways.”
In Conclusion, constraints put on learning opportunities by these poorly constructed government entities, rigid administrators that haven’t stepped in a classroom since they left school themselves, and a culture of like-minded people demanding ongoing conformity, causes a need for teachers who are brave enough to take risks against the system in order to provide them with the highest possible lessons and experiences. And teachers deserve the freedom in their working environments in order to do so.