Friday, February 15, 2013

On Education

I couldn't have less respect for the decisions of committees and councils, let alone government ones, let alone ones stuffed with the PhD'd scions to "national policy." For that reason, I don't have much to say contrary to this article. Anyone with a modicum of common sense and any teaching experience will fund much truth in it, even if they're put off by the voice-crying-in-the-wilderness. What did bother me is summed up in the following:

Even the most distinguished and honored among us have trouble getting our voices heard in the discussion about educational policy.
During my years in the classroom I tried to educate other adults about the realities of schools and students and teaching. I tried to help them understand the deleterious impact of policies that were being imposed on our public schools. I blogged, I wrote letters and op-eds for newspapers, and I spent a great deal of time speaking with and lobbying those in a position to influence policy, up to and including sitting members of the US House of Representatives and Senate and relevant members of their staffs.
Did it ever occur to her that the system is broken? What if it's not just one failed policy, "No Child Left Behind," but a systemic failure? That it is fundamentally and irreparably flawed, prey to corruption and insulated from correction?

Perhaps more importantly, did it ever occur to her to strike out on her own, to compete with the system and show the fools how it's done? To take a personal risk, and stand, for her ideas? Where does this unshakeable desire for national policy, for mass-scale solutions, come from and why are people so wedded to it?

I understand some folks, especially conservatives, feel obligated to justify or preserve the status quo, but I'm not suggesting we strike Thomism, Aristotelianism, Platonism, or any such ancient, august, and tried tradition from the course of learning. Instead I'm suggesting that 20th century pedagogical orthodoxy, progressive mandated government education, might not have been validated by its results, and that something else, maybe old and maybe new, might be worth trying.

Education doesn't have to be the state-funded, state-run, forced march through twenty consecutive years of teachers, classrooms, and tests, and you don't have to contrive some rosier version of the status quo as the ideal. Education can occur with friends, family, professionals, and part-time teachers, in libraries, businesses, and homes, and it can be discursive, inconsistent, and even incomplete. Teaching doesn't have to be a lifetime of lecturing the same classes. Education can be a world and, as the cliche goes, a lifelong path, instead of a committee-concocted czar-approved commodity boxed by politicians and sold to coerced participants.

Education can be any of these things, but it takes a lot more than tweaking around the edges of the bureaucracy. It takes creativity and risk, just like, well, learning.

If you enjoyed this brief, check out longer APLV articles on education.

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