1973 - when I started asking questions, like, "Why are we all dressed so funny?"

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

What's wrong with American Schools? Anthropology for Starters

The British author G.K. Chesterton was asked (along with other U.K. luminaries) by an English newspaper, "What's wrong with the world?" His response was as follows:

Dear Sirs,
I am.

I think what is most atrocious in American education is our lack of regard for the humanity of the student. Often lip service is paid to things like a "student-centered curriculum" or leaving no child behind, but generally the rhetoric about children is a clever way for the adults (teachers, school boards, principals, administrators, governors, presidents, et al) to at once appear concerned about kids while retaining their hold on power.

What is lacking in far too many schools is a concern for the "I" in Chesterton's reply.

We are a homeschooling family and I teach at a public school (a damn good one, I might add). We don't think homeschooling is the right choice for all families, but we do insist that until we find schools that are concerned with our kids integral development, we don't plan on sending our kids to those schools. (The school I teach at is a high school and we do plan on sending at least one of our kids there when he is old enough)

Our culture is saturated with reductions of the human person: The person as economic cog in a vast financial machine. As a family, materialism doesn't interest us - regardless if that materialism flows from the mind of Adam Smith or Karl Marx or any of their progeny. Yet that is what most public schools offer: a "pragmatic" education that focuses on skills without reference to the meaning of life.

The justification for ignoring meaning (except in the occasional literature class) is often "church state separation." Yeah, best to ignore issues that might bring in a hail of lawsuits in our litigious culture. Or not.

Of course even the term "public education" seems to be a farce when public ideas, values, debates, religions, and ideologies are barred from the school house. (When I was crabbier I refused to use the term public education and substituted "government education," but the latter term is also misleading.)

The fundamental problem, as I see it is that we fear asking two or three questions because they could/would upset the status quo. Question #1: What is the human person? Question #2 What is education, really? Question #3: What would an adequate education of the human person require?

There's a can of worms! I have my "answers" to these three questions, but I'd like to hear what others have to say....

No comments: