Saturday, June 27, 2009

Suffer the little children unto the nearest trade school

I heard this one back in the fifties. I’m not sure who said it, but I suspect it was Bennett Cerf. Whoever it was said:

The trouble with American education is that the teachers are afraid of the principle, the principle is afraid of the superintendent, the superintendent is afraid of the parents, the parents are afraid of the children, and the children aren’t afraid of anything.

Children are feared. Society fears their passion, their spirit and their sexuality. When I was teaching, the one workshop guaranteed to draw an attentive crowd of teachers was one with “Behavior Management” in its title. Many a charlatan with a doctorate in Education made a small fortune by hawking a “guaranteed” behavior management program.

What the author of the above left off, however, was the corollary to his statement—we crush what we fear. Why else would the Supreme Court have to rule that it is illegal for a school administrator to strip search a teenage girl because he suspected she had ibuprofen on her person.

The sixties taught our plutocrats the danger of a permissive education that teaches children how to think and question. Ours is a sick system, one decaying at the hands of corrupt plutocrats whose sole objective is to strip out as many resources as they can before the whole thing collapses.

A system this decayed cannot stand questions, and as every parent of a young child knows, “Why?” is one of their favorite words. This curiosity must be bludgeoned into submission by what William Astore calls, “The Tyranny of Being Practical.”

This is why books are so dangerous. A good book reaches out and embraces its readers; it challenges and stimulates; it opens new vistas of thoughts; it is downright subversive.

We no longer have to burn books; we simply put them online and download them to portable readers. In this way, books remain passive and dormant because readers can no longer underline the passages that inspire or make margin note when a new idea is struggling to break free.

The whole educational enterprise is just that, an enterprise designed to reduce our schools and colleges to vocational training centers. As Astore points out,

If you view education in purely instrumental terms as a way to a higher-paying job—if it’s merely a mechanism for mass customization within a marketplace of ephemeral consumer goods—you’ve effectively given a free pass to the prevailing machinery of power and those who run it.

As a result, we are little more than a nation of atomized individuals who live vicariously through the lives and foibles of celebrities. This suits our plutocrats because they fear that too many books and too much learning could foster what Astore calls, “[A] struggle against accepting the world as it’s being packaged and sold to us by the pragmatists, the technocrats, and those who think education is nothing but a potential passport to material success.”

And the girl who was strip searched? She was an honor student.

Maybe she thought to much and had to be taught a lesson.


Suzan said...

I hope it teaches her the right one.

Thank you so much for your fine essay.


Case Wagenvoord said...

Like don't put up with the bullshit.

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