Sunday, February 08, 2009


Busplunge quoted a contemporary and applicable diatribe about ignorance, written by Mark Slouka for Harpers, which is directly related to the classroom, and I feel compelled to continue the discussion.

As enticed as you might feel to read the piece as a rant on the red masses of America, on the conservatives, please refrain. The piece, whether intended to or not, is directly applicable to red and blue, conservative and liberal, religious and atheist, and a whole host of skin colors and ethnic backgrounds. My experience in education has demonstrated this point at least in my own mind.

There is a growing subculture of apathetic learners in the United States. It is a community of persons who view education as elitist, unattainable and unconnected to their daily lives. It is the idea of "if it was good enough for me then it's good enough for you" ideology. I see it often and it still shocks and shakes me.

At one time there were generations of parents who wanted more for their children. Who desired a better life for the progeny. Who wanted their little ones to be more, have more, attain more than themselves. Amazingly, those who can identifyy with such sentiments are finding their culture shrinking, giving way to those who wish to hold their children back.

More and more people no longer value education as an important aspect in their life. The evidence of the widespread nature of this movement can be seen on college campuses where first generation college student services are available. These services are designed for that student who comes from a family that has never had a anyone go to college. We find that these students are unduly stressed by familial expectations, anger and a lack of understanding of the requirements of school. Quite often the families push the student to quit, to stay behind, to follow paths of the rest of the family, to be like them, live like them and – I think most importantly – to not leave them behind.

What's more, and this is not based on observation as much as a hunch, is that those of us who do value an education are reproducing at smaller rates than those who reject education.

It is the job of educators to help connect children to education and demonstrate the value of life-long learning and thinking for one's self. It is a daunting task when compared to the oppostive value system being taught in some homes. We can place career seeds in our students and give them hope and purpose, a drive toward a goal even if it is a non-traditional goal such as comic creator, stand-up comedian, or dancer. Hope is a powerful thing.

I teach my kids to think ... for ... themselves. This is an issue that can be controversial. Why? Teaching children to explore, research and think beyond what they are simply told requires something that many parents can object to: exposure to different thoughts, beliefs and ideas. In fact, many parents find themselves in the precarious situation of wanting their child to think for herself so long as that thinking is in direct line with the parents' ideas. That's not thinking for self. It's a hard line for educators and we try hard to balance that line and push our students to think while not teaching the kids to think too much.

What do you think about that?


Jeremy D. Young said...

Very interesting. How systemic is this problem that you describe? I haven't ever observed anyone in that circumstance, but I cannot say that my personal observations are by any means broad.

I think that the solution to education is the same, whether it is the institution that is failing because of bad management, or it is simply bad parenting. Parents must have responsibility for their children's education. How can children be educated against their parents' wishes? Or even educated when the parents just can't seem to care?

In my estimation, it isn't sufficient to force children to go to school. If you want to break the cycle of poverty, you have to reform entire households. You cannot do that against people's will. You have to make it something that people are willing to fight to accomplish. Christians are completely failing their neighbors in this and many other areas, and the attitude that education is a government provided right hinders both the charitable, and the needy. The charitable think that the problem is covered by government, and the needy are too proud to admit that they must have help.

The next major phase in education in america must be the private charitable schools that see it as their mission to take whole families into their care and teach them to be better parents and to educate the children. The government cannot accomplish this in a fair and equitable way, so it must be left up to private schools or even home schooling groups.

As to Mark Slouka's article, I will read it in it's full version instead of just excerpts and see if his intentions were misconstrued.

Anonymous said...

The problem is, you see, we got a whole bunch of kids who would rather play guitar hero than a real guitar.

I'm going to write on this, how this comment, while it is only one sentence, one thought, less than one paragraph, is the result of about 60 years of thought and experience.