Sunday, September 23, 2012

The Dark Ages Return (Installment 2)

     In the first "Dark Ages Return" installment I generally describe the social climate during this age of education reform: some of the players, the practice, the intent... My belief is that it's a continuation of a policy attack being executed by a wealthy and powerful minority. The victims have always been  the less wealthy and powerful, and that's to be expected-even accepted to a degree. There is a reason they are wealthy and powerful, after all, and strong leadership often requires the ability to take advantage.

     That existing societal condition, and the recent progression toward more class division alone threatened to create a huge and dis-empowered underclass eventually. But it is education reform that poses the biggest threat: serving to water down the intellectual strength of the future citizens forced to comply with its "standards". The intellectual control of the lower classes, the standardizing of their education, while preserving the enriching choices of the wealthy minority already enriched...that is why I fear a return of The Dark Ages.

     This is how the current education reform movement, together with political policies of the recent decades, is serving to divide access to freedom, knowledge, and the political process. In education policy specifically, children are being subjected to a mechanized and controlled process of standardization that conflicts with their normal developmental process. We are essentially being moved towards a modern version of the "Dark Age". Neil Postman, in his book The Disappearance of Childhood says of this time in history:

                        Our textbooks cover the transformation well enough except for four points
                        that are often overlooked and that are particularly relevant to the story of
                        childhood. The first is that literacy disappears. The second is that education
                        disappears. The third is that shame disappears. And the fourth, as a
                        consequence of the other three, is that childhood disappears.      

     That was my closing of the first installment. It sounds a little melodramatic, I know. But when confronted with misguided education reform policy, blatant scapegoating of public schools (if not outright ignorance regarding them), and repeated unwillingness to address weaknesses in "school reform" me this reveals intent. Coupled with an avoidance of honest debate with those equipped for the challenge-it reveals some intent reformers are ashamed of or can't defend.

     True defenders of education need to point out that enough time has gone by to categorize the ineffective, top-down practices in our education AND economic system as failures. It is THOSE practices that are the "status-quo" needing to be reformed. Inspired/inspiring educators, well versed and adept at guiding groups of varied ability learners need to be freed from those who benefit from that status quo, those spearheading the privatizing of America's public schools and the already weighty bureaucracy of the ever-swelling standardized testing industry. It is bogging us down and making true progress very difficult.The problem is that the reform industry has insinuated itself into the policy-making process, and pushed to the forefront the bad school myth.

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