Tag Archives: what are schools for

Issues with Educating Everybody

Lynn Stoddard

Lynn Stoddard, my friend and fellow participant in the Alternative Education Resource Organization (AERO), shared with me the text of a guest commentary, “Educating Everybody”, he wrote for the Ogden, Utah Standard-Examiner. Lynn is a now retired long-time teacher and founder of the Educating for Human Greatness Alliance. His commentary lays out clearly the vision of holistic education that has its roots in John Dewey, Maria Montessori, Rudolph Steiner and others. He is a great champion for a vision embraced by many alternative educators, and an approach to teaching that I acknowledge and respect. But with my emerging left-libertarian orientation to education, it is a vision that I have developed some issues with.

He sets the context in his opening paragraph…

The time has come to change the way we educate children in our public schools. There are signs that a vast majority of students are not even coming close to achieving their potential. A 27 percent national dropout rate may be but the tip of an iceberg of students whose potential for success are not being met. Many students never get an A or a B on a report card. Most students are educated at a low, C or D level of understanding. This is disastrous for those who drop out of school and too often enter the prison population. It is equally tragic for those who stay in school to acquire knowledge at a low level. Even those who get high grades may be deficient in understanding the real life application of subject matter content. They often aim for high grades rather than genuine learning and soon forget the material after the tests are given. The sad fact is that we do not have a public education system that aims to help all students master the knowledge they will need to fulfill their lives.

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Five Themes of American Conventional Wisdom Part 5: Nationalism

So in the fifth installment of this series, based on my friend Ron Miller’s parsing of American culture in the first chapter of his great book, What Are Schools For?, I’m plunging into his thoughts on American nationalism, which weaves together the first four themes. When I reread his words on this topic, it seems apropos to what’s going on in Washington this week with the Beck/Palin rally. According to a CNN dispatch on that event…

In what resembled more a revival than a political rally, conservative talk show host Glenn Beck urged the large crowds at his “Restoring Honor” event Saturday to “turn back to God” and return America to the values on which it was founded.

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Five Themes of American Conventional Wisdom Part 4: Capitalism

So the fourth installment of this series, based on my friend Ron Miller’s take on American cultural conventions, I’m going to look at his thoughts on Capitalism and how it plays out in American conventional thinking, based on the first chapter of his very insightful book, What Are Schools For?

Ah “capitalism”… a word that to me connotes a big driving machine. A word that is loaded with so much baggage from the last 200 years of Western (and world) history, including all the robber barons, all the strife between workers and management and the competing ideologies of socialism and communism. A term that emphasizes the people, the “capitalists”, with the big bucks to finance business projects, rather than “free enterprise” which connotes more the entrepreneurs who start those small businesses (like my son and his friends did).

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Five Themes of American Conventional Wisdom Part 3: Restrained Democratic Ideology

Continuing to look at the first section of his wonderful book, What Are Schools For?, where author (and friend) Ron Miller calls out five dominant cultural assumptions that he believes are at the root of conventional American thinking, particularly conventional American thinking about education…

1. Puritan (Calvinist/Protestant) Theology
2. Scientism & the Culture of Professionalism
3. Restrained Democratic Ideology
4. Capitalism & Free Enterprise
5. Self-Righteous Nationalism

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Five Themes of American Conventional Wisdom Part 2: Scientism & the Culture of Professionalism

Following up on yesterday’s post, “Five Themes of American Conventional Wisdom”, I continue the thread by looking at my friend Ron Miller’s second theme (from his book, What Are Schools For?) which he labels as “Scientific Reductionism”. What intrigues me most in his text is his description of science as a belief system or “ism” (scientism) and the “culture of professionalism” that emerged in America from that belief system.

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