Creating more sheep to be sheared

Lyon Keating:

Sorry it has taken me so long to respond to this email.  I just got back yesterday from our road trip and am so glad to be out of the van.  I spent 18 hrs. straight driving from fort collins, co to san francisco.  Longest trip ever taken!

I read the article you sent me and although I agree with everything written in it I found it repetitive to read.  Not repetitive in the sense that it repeated itself over and over but repetitive in the way that everything stated in the letter is believed by most educators and has been said countless times throughout history.  This isn’t to say that it is unwarranted or shouldn’t have been written but I think by now most people know what’s going on in the educational system but they just don’t care.

Schooling, since the beginning of formal education in our country, has always been pushed out of a need of obedience in our society and a need for people to be able to follow simple directions.  Since schooling is mostly in the public sphere and paid for by the govt it is in essence just another arm of our govt dictating citizens this way and that.  People always support what is taught in schools for something say like the American Revolution and the notion that “all men are created equal.”  It is taught so aggressively and incredibly valued in our public schools but at the same time why isn’t it equally studied how the founding fathers did not live up to treating all men equal?  Gov’t dictates the standards, the assessments, the curriculum, and basically everything that is supposed to be covered in school.  Why would they include the situations where they did not look so favorably in history?  Unfortunately, by leaving these events in school out we sacrifice the critical thinking skills in our society and create a people that are obedient and unable to “think” about things in a way that will create a better life for themselves and a better life for our world.  We feed kids information and make them think our system is perfect and don’t really allow for them to think about our country, our leaders in a human and critical way.

The industrial revolution came along and used schools as a place where people could learn obedience and how to follow directions and simple things needed to work in a factory.  When the population was making a transition from the fields to the factories the govt recognized that in order for these factories to make money they needed people who could work efficiently.  Thus formal public education turned into a place where discipline and rules were learned and not much else.  People learned how to react to bells ringing that brought them to and from breaks and work.  They learned simple arithmetic and how to behave under a stern disciplinarian (the boss) that would punish them if they weren’t on task.  All this set up perfectly the environment for people to make a smooth transition from formal schooling into the industrial factories.  Most importantly though, people were never taught critical thinking skills.  They were exposed to dreary facts about the presidents, states, etc. and this was meant to train the minds of the people and have confidence in the system they were partaking in as being right and just.  Schooling favors the government.  It creates social classes where most people are taught to abide by and be disciplined by the rules, regulations, and stories of the upper, ruling elite and nothing else but this is pushed forth by law to be accepted.

I believe that the difference between this letter and the letter I read from your old teacher is that he describes the outcomes of our educational system whereas I am trying to describe why our system is the way it is.  Hopefully my last comment on his letter is that although he tries to explain the woes of our system and make the reader feel emotionally compelled to make change, it seems that it is much more effective to deal with the problem from a more systemic angle.  We live in a capitalistic society.  “The business of America is business”  and this means that anything that can’t economically compete is doomed for failure.  The people that control and make decisions in our society are politicians, but even beyond that are corporate business owners.  These business owners have mastered the capitalistic system through their unlimited power that they have gained by having astronomical amounts of money.  They invest in products that in turn create enormous monetary wealth for themselves and their business and this is one of the ways how capitalism functions.  If you don’t have any products that create demand and make money then sorry your entity will fail.  This is why education is going to have an extremely hard uphill battle in our capitalist system.  Politicians and business leaders do not hold education as a high priority because it doesn’t create any direct monetary ends.  Investing in people is not something that is commonly done.  If two corporations are competing and one invests in people and the other invests in making the most monetary ends as possible than the later will always prevail in our system.  Politicians want the most power possible and since education does not produce direct economic rewards then investing in education would seem like a sure way a politician would plummet their political career and not get funded for re-election.

There of course is much more to say on the matter but I feel that as of right now I hit some of my finer points.  Don’t mistake this letter as an attack on the letter you sent me but merely a critique.  I believe fool heartedly in everything that was written in that letter but I have trouble reading the same things over and over again that focus on the problems instead of focusing on the things that make the problems.  Education in our country is very far from being anything that most educators would be satisfied with.  Unfortunately, I feel that change has to come through politics where almost a completely different political party is created that holds education as one of its top priorities.  Yes, this is an enormous feat that in no way is coming true at the moment but in the meantime teachers themselves need to be passive contributors to creating a well-rounded education that enlightens students how to think critically about everything.  In my first year teaching, one of the hardest things I had to learn was how to show you are teaching the standards but then not teach the standards when actually teaching in the classroom.  Yes, if people followed the standards then we would be creating a dull population that would contribute to a very narrow outlook on the world and in each student’s individual lives.  It’s unfortunate that this is the way it has to be but until our government learns to invest in people or is forced to then change will not occur.  Every educator should believe that education will lead people down a righteous path that will make them more likely to positively change their own lives and contribute to the world.  The American educational system is not living up to this standard because it does not place a realistic critically thinking element in its curriculum.  As far as many areas in our society have advanced it does seem shocking that public education in this country still resorts to value the age old need of creating obedient students and is stuck in the industrial age of the 19th century or earlier.

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