Articles about education—or the current sorry status of it in many public and private schools—always draws my attention. It is education and the ability to think and put that thought into reality that defines a nation and a culture—something that is critical to its stability and future. The quality of what passes for learning and knowledge and how it affects a people is best summed up by Thomas Jefferson in this quote:
If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be.”
So when this morning an opinion piece in the Washington Post caught my eye, I had to see what the story was. In essence, students are arriving at the start of the school year, already academically tired. From what, one might ask—as summer vacation is a time of rest and recreation. But alas, the shortsighted “professionals” that have ruined the teaching sector have added a new dimension to a student’s life—summer homework.
It should not be a surprise—students have been falling behind on every measure of education with the exception of taking a standardized achievement test—and the competence in that is given by an entire year of a subject squandered in teaching the test. Now there are those who worry that children will become amnesiac dullards if they are not put to the task throughout the summer. Consider this one more effort to regiment and control the lives of the ordinary citizen-consumer. The article itself is here:
This trend and my tendency to think about the past in my old age—got me to pondering the status of education and the experience of students between my generation and the current crop of unfortunates that are subjected to this travesty we call the American educational system.
We tend to center on what the educational system was in that short window between the end of WWII and the introduction of constructionism into educational practice in the 1970s. It is important to remember that our educational system was reshaped during that period by the GI Bill, a Baby Boom, the rise of suburbia, new economies, and the Cold War. However fleeting, this is held as the gold standard, a time when students actually appeared to be learning something useful.
I remember during this time—beginning in 1961—teachers did not teach and students did not learn for the purpose of passing a statewide achievement test. We learned to acquire a solid set of skills that would serve us in the workplace, and in society. There was a correct answer and an accompanying narrative to what we were learning–and coming to our own frame of understanding and belief about something was not a factor. We had to learn the basics, and then we could use those tools to become critical thinkers. Continue reading “Grade School Sweatshop” »