Many of us these days are worried about the state of education in this country. As a teacher, I certainly am. I'm probably going to anger a good number of people with this post, which is fine. It's not the first time, and it won't be the last. Let me begin by qualifying this post: I love teaching. It is very gratifying to me, and it is a chance to inspire a new generation of students and scholars. Therefore, I also treasure my students.
But there is something very wrong in America, my friends. A dark, malevolent unhinging of our educational system has been taking place for the last several decades. Oh, it seems innocuous, I mean after all, kids are still graduating from high school, right? They're getting diplomas, right? They're getting an education, right?
I've been doing this for thirteen years, so I don't make these statements lightly, nor do I make them from the armchair. I have taught in the high school classroom and the college lecture hall, and I hae ha ample opportunity to see what is happening to our public education system, but the real problem stems from K-12 public education. You read that correctly: K-12. Now, I have taught with some fine educators in the public school system--competent, dedicated individuals. So let me say this: teachers--for the most part--are not to blame. The blame rests squarely on a system that has become so bureacratized and corrupted by such horrendous ideologies as class warfare, eugenics, and social engineering to name a few. Likewise, the blame lies squarely on the shoulders of politicians, policy makers, and administrators who have perpetuated this system. So I bear little ill will toward teachers, but have little patience for the system anymore.
It saddens me because I run into people all the time who have never read a book in its entirety. They have never read Twain, Hawthorne, Melville, Cervantes, or Shakespeare. They cannot reference world geography, basic American history, perform the most basic math, or recite a poem. Now there are those who can--of course--who have read on there own. But this level of rigor and value, has long vacated the curriculm found in our public schools. By and large, this is not the fault of students. It is the fault of a corrupted system.
I believe in public education, but we have taken the methods that work, that keep a high level of rigor, and replaced them with standardized testing and a bland, often inaccurate, ineffectual curriculum. You have to have seen this, whether you have children or not. This kind of widespread decline in education is not accidental. What did we throw out? We threw out what worked. We threw out education that was either partial or entirely based on classical education, reading, engaging the material, and creativity. We are steadily throwing out grades, in many schools failing grades are not even given. Classical education....hmmmm....."isn't that a little antiquated? I mean, what can Cicero and Herodotus really do for us? Isn't that just for fancy prep schools?" No! We have the means to implement it across the board! It works!
"Yeah, but this is the twentifirst century, and students now will be working in fields that we can't even fathom," say the educational theorists. Well, I've heard that before. My response? Every generation can say that out about the one learning under them. When ebooks became widely available on the internet, entire works of classical literature, I noted to an educational administrator once that "if someone were of so a mind, they could garner without cost from the internet, all the great works of the classical curricula and give themselves a classical education." Her responce distills how the persons working under the current educational paradigm think: "To what end? The purpose of an education is to get a job."
"Whoa!!! Hold on on. What?!?!?!" Education is an end in itself. To one degree or another it should instill autodidaction in students, so that they can use those skills to acquire a job. JOBS are EPIPHENOMENA of education. Education for education's sake is, sadly, a virtue that is lost on the current system of public education.
What do we do to change it then? Can we? First we must consider that the current paradigm--the rules as it were--no longer serve true education--period.
Consider the words of Commisioner Jim Gordon in the recent Batman movie THE DARK KNIGHT RISES commenting on a currupted and ineffecient justice system no longer serving true justice:
"There's a point, far out there when the structures fail you, and the rules aren't weapons anymore, they're... shackles letting the bad guy get ahead. One day... you may face such a moment of crisis. And in that moment, I hope you have a friend like I did, to plunge their hands into the filth so that you can keep yours clean! "
Are we in such an educational crisis? I think many of us know the answer to that....and feel the weight of shackles.