Sunday, February 21, 2016

School and Its Discontents


For John, BLUFWe have probably gone as far as we can with the current school model.  Nothing to see here; just move along.



On City Life on Friday the question of Charter Schools came up, as it should with someone like Mr George O'Hare on the show, a person who has served on the Lowell School Committee and the School Committee of the Greater Lowell Technical High School.

Two years ago I read an article,"School and It’s Discontents".  This Article was in the January-February 2014 Issue of The Catholic Worker (Vol LXXXI, No 1), on page 7.  The author was Mr Eric Anglada. In the article Mr Anglada talks about public schools.  He starts out:

In the spring of 1971, Dorothy Day refused an invitation to receive an honorary degree from the Catholic University in Washington, DC.  “The Catholic Worker,” she wrote, “stands in a particular way...for people who need some other kind of schooling than that afforded by universities and colleges of our industrial capitalist system.”  She added that the Catholic Worker is trying to “stimulate the young to study ways by which they can change the social and educational system nonviolently.”

In that spirit, as part of our ongoing work at New Hope Catholic Worker Farm, in what Peter Maurin liked to call an “agronomic university,” we hosted more than thirty people last September for a four-day workshop on alternative education.  We sought to clarify our thoughts and practices in relation to the world of school, education, and learning.  From unschooled children, to frustrated grad students, to parents exploring alternative education models for their children, to avid lifelong learners, our workshop contained a wide array of backgrounds and experiences.  Thus we began our seminar by reflecting on our own experience of education, asking ourselves two basic questions:  What has worked?  What has not?

Now if you are like most people, with only a glancing contact with the Catholic Worker Movement, you probably think of it as a bunch of Progressives.  That would be an error.  As you can see from the above quote, it is more of a Libertarian movement, more in line with Rerum Novarum than with the Democrat Party Platform.

Below is a discussion of the history of schools and references Educator John Taylor Gatto.

While education, as [Educator John Taylor] Gatto points out, has been centered on the home and the community for most of human history, compulsory schooling—six classes a day, five days a week, nine months out of the year—is a recent phenomenon. Originally an idea of Plato, it wasn’t until centuries later, in 1819, that compulsory education was first signed into law, in Prussia.  Prussia’s system inculcated values like obedience and lent itself to social stratification and uniformity in thought.  School proved to be a perfect transition for children to go on to work in the military or the mines.  Such a bold program of schooling did not go unnoticed.  In the US, intellectuals like Horace Mann became fascinated with Prussia’s educational system, seeing school as the perfect way to create a disciplined, ordered citizenry.  In 1852, Massachusetts became the first state to follow in Prussia’s path. Notably, the literacy rate has never been higher in Massachusetts than it was in 1850—before compulsory schooling was instituted.
Let us ponder this a moment.  Ever since Horace Mann brought us public education our literacy rate has not move up?  That is an astonishing statistic.  And, going along with this, I heard, on Friday last, someone say that a Junior College education (Associate of Arts degree) is what a High School diploma was in the 1930s.  How did that come about?

On the other hand, many parents are aware of the problems in schools.  Parents are, in fact, the first educators of their children and many have an interest in their child's intellectual development.  In Saturday's edition of The [Lowell] Sun there is an article by Ms Katie Lannan, "State:  34,000 students on charter-school wait lists".  That is a fairly large number.

Then there is the whole home schooling movement, which is legal in all 50 states.  Home schooling is for parents who (1) don't trust public schools and (2) can't get their child into a decent charter school.

The point of all this is that not everyone trusts our public school systems here in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.  And that is NOT to say that school committee members aren't working the problem hard.  They are.  But, change may require revolution and revolution is hard.  Not the take to the barricades type revolution but the mental rethinking kind.  And mental rethinking is scary—scary to parents, to students, to teachers, to unions, to administrators, to school committees and to Government bureaucrats.

Read the whole thing.

Regards  —  Cliff

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