The delicate tools necessary for our intellectual workshop are achieved by schooling. I suspect that our best tools are realized rather automatically, but if there is to be outside influence, then, best it is done early, as the human mind matures all too rapidly.
Children are not consumed with anxiety to learn anything; least of all has it ever crossed their minds that they must learn English. How shall we teach it to them, when the few of us who have begun to know what it is know it to be a issue of accommodations, a thing with which order, method, and all that the developing mind first apprehends and rests upon have nothing to do with a single word. A kind of miraculous flowering of man’s still unconscious wisdom, preserved to us as a compensation for our many blunderings, as a reward for our patience in confusion and our fundamental faith in life.
Education might be defined as a social process by which, skills and beliefs, attitudes and ideas of the previous generations are passed to the new generation; it is a process, which is necessary for the maintenance, achievement and development of man in society. Gerstner States, ?in the public schools we have clung tenaciously to the ideas and techniques of earlier decades and even previous centuries,? proving that each generation depends on the preceding generation. This definition assumes a biological view of society, one that grows and evolves with each new generation depending on the growth of previous generations.
We all come into this world uniform, and, from the start, we are obliged to turn to others; and while we need a lot of help when we are young, nature has compensated by building into the young a susceptibility to learning. So, no matter what one’s view is of what an educational system should be, most will agree, best to start in while young. What is the first lesson to be? What each individual needs to know is the difference between what is naturally right and what is naturally wrong. The second lesson to be learned, is, that the individual is better off doing what is naturally right. How does one teach morals? This is an old dilemma, the teaching of virtue. It is a dilemma largely because virtue is immeasurable. Virtue is instilled likely by repeated actions, a process of trial and error, beginning at the mother’s knee and to be continued by all those with whom the child has close connections, and this would certainly include the child’s teachers.
It takes a “good” teacher, one full of great skills and a glow for presentation of the subject; it is particularly difficult when the subject is morals or virtue. We, adult and child alike, find ourselves in a vast market where the “Culture Standardizers” provide an immediate and sensual gratification to all comers.
The question before us is, what is the importance of education? One goal, as Spring states in his book American Education, is to produce reasonable citizens, ones that ?commonly hold a political creed or else society is doomed to political strife or chaos?
Education should be the essential method of building humane, free, and democratic societies. The aims of education are many: the transmission of knowledge; training for occupations, careers, and democratic citizenship; and the encouragement of moral growth. Dewey states, ?the subject matter of education consists of bodies of information and of skills that have been worked out in the past; therefore, the chief business of the school is to transmit them to the next generation.? Among its vital purposes should also be an attempt to develop the capacity for critical intelligence in both the individual and the community.
Unfortunately, the schools today are being increasingly replaced by the mass media as the primary institutions of public information and education. Although the electronic media provide unparalleled opportunities for extending cultural enrichment and enjoyment, there has been a serious misdirection of their purposes. In some societies, the media serve as the vehicle of propaganda and indoctrination. In democratic society television, radio, films, and mass publishing too often cater to the lowest common denominator and have become dull wastelands. We need to believe that television directors and producers have an obligation to remedy the balance and revise their programming.
The essential answer to any question usually comes out of its definition. Considering the definition set out at the first of this section, then, we might say that essentially that education is a socialization process. Is this best achieved by public education? By private education? , Or by a combination of both, with one being favored over the other?
What are the arguments for putting education into public hands? If not the impossible goal that every one should be educated, then, at least, the goal of equal educational opportunity for all, or, another way of putting it, to make education readily available to all. As stated by Spring, ?all people are given an equal chance to receive an education or, in other words, equality of educational opportunity?
The assumption has been that if the state does not make “free” education readily available, many of our young will not be educated, an assumption that may not hold up in these modern times. A further assumption is that with “free” public education that our children will be educated, an assumption that is not being born out by the statistics. Parents, at least those who possess a sense of parental responsibility, would like to see that their children get the educational basics, whatever they may be. If children were to get more than just the basics would depend on whether the parents had the time, the money, and the interest, interest being the most important commodity. Berliner and Biddle say, ?Students who care more for their fellow citizens and their social and physical environment, should ultimately produce a higher standard of living for us all than one obtained by educating only the advantaged members of society to score high on all the tests that accompany the new standards.? Having a lack of interest in education, parent or student, but more the student is the single greatest prohibition to our educational standards.
What other reasons might be stated in support of public education might be stated as follows: to insure that the education of our young takes place in an atmosphere which is conducive to learning; that only the best teachers be employed in the education of our young; and to see that education takes place in safe surroundings. Anyone might agree, in respect to our young, that these are necessary goals for any educational system; the question is which system comes the closest to meeting these goals? Is it a public school system? Assuming for the moment, that it is only a public school system, which provides a mechanism for all to have input (school boards have only recently become elected bodies), do people reward themselves of such a mechanism?
The fact of the matter is that most all of us, including parents, have handed off our individual responsibilities to make decisions in regards to education. We as humans feel the need for our responsibilities, Rogers states, ?personal freedom and responsibility have a crucial significance, that one cannot live a complete life without such personal freedom and responsibility.? Are we to just stand by and let someone else assume our responsibility? The public does not run the public school system; bureaucrats who are continually trying to seek a consensus run it. That which is done in the public school system is done because it has been watered down to the lowest common denominator.
Does this description describe our education system here in West Virginia? I do not know, but the cost and, sadly, the results of our educational system could certainly be used to support the reform. The proof is in the product.
Berliner & Biddle: issue #10 Have public schools failed
society? P. 164-168 Taking Sides 10thed. Noll,J.W. Dushkin 1999.
Dewey, John. Issue #1 Should schooling be based on social
Experiences? P.2-10 Taking Sides 10thed. Noll,J.W.
Gerstner, Louis V. issue #10 Have public schools failed
society? P.156-163 Taking Sides 10thed. Noll,J.W.
Spring, Joel. The purposes of public schooling p.7 American
Education 9thed. McGraw-Hill 2000.