Re: Schooling: The Hidden AgendaApril 13 2012 at 2:05 PM
|Jackie (Login BlueJudah)|
Response to Re: Schooling: The Hidden Agenda
During the Great Depression it became urgently important to keep young people off the job market for as long as possible, and so it came to be understood that a twelfth-grade education was essential for every citizen. As before, it didn't much matter what was added to fill up the time, so long as it was marginally plausible. Let's have them learn how to analyze a poem, even if they never read another one in their whole adult life. Let's have them read a great classic novel, even if they never read another one in their whole adult life. Let's have them study world history, even if it all just goes in one ear and out the other. Let's have them study Euclidean geometry, even if two years later they couldn't prove a single theorem to save their lives. All these things and many, many more were of course justified on the basis that they would contribute to the success and rich fulfilment that these children would experience as adults. Except, of course, that it didn't. But no one wanted to know about that. No one would have dreamed of testing young people five years after graduation to find out how much of it they'd retained. No one would have dreamed of asking them how useful it had been to them in realistic terms or how much it had contributed to their success and fulfilment as humans. What would be the point of asking them to evaluate their education? What did they know about it, after all? They were just high-school graduates, not professional educators.
At the end of the Second World War, no one knew what the economic future was going to be like. With the disappearance of the war industries, would the country fall back into the pre-war depression slump? The word began to go out that the citizen's education should really include four years of college. Everyone should go to college. As the economy continued to grow, however, this injunction began to be softened. Four years of college would sure be good for you, but it wasn't part of the citizen's education, which ultimately remained a twelfth-grade education.
It was in the good years following the war, when there were often more jobs than workers to fill them, that our schools began to be perceived as failing. With ready workers in demand, it was apparent that kids were coming out of school without knowing much more than the sixth-grade graduates of a century ago. They'd "gone through" all the material that had been added to fill up the time--analyzed poetry, diagramed sentences, proved theorems, solved for x, plowed through thousands of pages of history and literature, written bushels of themes, but for the most part they retained almost none of it--and of how much use would it be to them if they had? From a business point of view, these high-school graduates were barely employable.
But of course by then the curriculum had achieved the status of scripture, and it was too late to acknowledge that the program had never been designed to be useful. The educators' response to the business community was, "We just have to give the kids more of the same--more poems to analyze, more sentences to diagram, more theorems to prove, more equations to solve, more pages of history and literature to read, more themes to write, and so on." No one was about to acknowledge that the program had been set up to keep young people off the job market--and that it had done a damn fine job of that at least.
But keeping young people off the job market is only half of what the schools do superbly well. By the age of thirteen or fourteen, children in aboriginal societies--tribal societies--have completed what we, from our point of view, would call their "education." They're ready to "graduate" and become adults. In these societies, what this means is that their survival value is 100%. All their elders could disappear overnight, and there wouldn't be chaos, anarchy, and famine among these new adults. They would be able to carry on without a hitch. None of the skills and technologies practiced by their parents would be lost. If they wanted to, they could live quite independently of the tribal structure in which they were reared.
But the last thing we want our children to be able to do is to live independently of our society. We don't want our graduates to have a survival value of 100%, because this would make them free to opt out of our carefully constructed economic system and do whatever they please. We don't want them to do whatever they please, we want them to have exactly two choices (assuming they're not independently wealthy). Get a job or go to college. Either choice is good for us, because we need a constant supply of entry-level workers and we also need doctors, lawyers, physicists, mathematicians, psychologists, geologists, biologists, school teachers, and so on. The citizen's education accomplishes this almost without fail. Ninety-nine point nine percent of our high school graduates make one of these two choices.