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Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Break the Current Model and Free the Children

For John, BLUFIt looks possible we will lose another School Superintendent.  It would be nice if the School Committee reached deep and hired someone with new ideas, someone to boost our MCAS Scores snd graduation rates and to help with our Vocational Education deficit.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

From , by Mr Eric Anglada.  This Article was in the January-February 2014 Issue of The Catholic Worker (Vol LXXXI, No 1), page 7.  Attribution should be give to The Catholic Worker.

Here is the lede plus five:

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?

Recalling our time in both compulsory schooling and university life, we cited several things that worked:  occasionally inspiring teachers, exposure to great literature, social life, resources that big educational institutions afforded and extracurricular activities such as sports and theater.

As discussions continued, however, we found that the drawbacks of school outweighed the benefits.  Competition and compulsion made for an inhospitable context for authentic learning.  Drab, artificial environments, with uncomfortable desks lined up in rows—the atmosphere the elite once envisioned, we later learned—created a stale place for study.  The vast amount of transportation involved in centralized schooling uses an enormous amount of resources.  Debt has forced many young people into a de facto life of servility.  And tragically, standardized testing encourages a narrow focus on language and mathematics, at the cost of learning practical skills, studying critical history and theory, or exploring the spiritual life.

In order to better understand our education experiences, we read and discussed the history of school. We relied heavily on the valuable work of John Taylor Gatto, a public school educator for thirty years, well known for publically resigning from his job in the pages of the Wall Street Journal (“I Quit, I Think”).  His An Underground History of Education provides hugely important insights into the history and nature of schooling.

While education, as 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.

Remember that Apple Ad, with the woman running into a room with a large hammer and throwing it into a monitor.  Yes, break the mold and the hold.

Hat tip to the InstaPundit.

Regards  —  Cliff

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