There is no more powerful urge humans can experience than to protect and defend our children. For most people it beats hunger, sex, and money…
I recently wrote about how the book bans sweeping the nation aren't about the books themselves. I received a lot of feedback about how this perspective made more sense than just pockets of people bothered by specific titles. And how taking this in a broader perspective also raises the level of concern about what is actually happening.
"Book bans are not so much about the content of specific books as they are about instilling fundamental Christian nationalism, packaged in a glossy white box with a pink OR blue bow, and sold to Americans as “grassroots efforts to protect our children.” The movements hawking that box are proclaiming loudly that American will be safe when it is white, straight, wealthy, patriarchal, and bound by biblically self-justified moralistic rules, handpicked from a 2000-year old text.
This may seem like an extreme interpretation about the actions of a few, “innocent” soccer moms who have proclaimed themselves to be “moms for ‘liberty’” and “joyful warriors” but their end game is far from innocent and far more insidious than they let on. The short-game is to destabilize and create chaos. The long-game is to dismantle public libraries and privatize public schools using voucher systems. Private schools where the white nationalistic narrative can be indoctrinated and strictly controlled."
In a past life, I've represented school districts, teachers' unions (AFT), individuals involved. IMHO the greatest thing that happened to public education was the Education Act. I go back to the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 that prohibits discrimination based on disability in any program or activity operated by recipients of federal funds. now IDEA. Some states now provide that every kid should have an Individualized Educational Prescription, IEP, https://www.verywellfamily.com/essential-parts-of-an-individual-education-program-2162702#:~:text=The%20IEP%20must%20contain%20information,Each%20objective%20should%20be%20measurable.
Unfortunately, parochial schools have been able to use such programs to subsidize religious education. I don't think there is any magic to local control, because local school boards are often dominated or intimidated by groups who want to acquire public funds for their own devices.
Besides the religious "right", libertarians object to any public governmental activity except for defense spending. They object to educating other peoples' kids. They do support tax credits for tuition and other expenditures related to an individual’s education.
And today, in Texas, voting is happening on constitutional amendments...one is promoting property tax lowering...one of the ways that money will be replaced is “compressing public school maintenance and operation funds” quote from Gary Van Deaver newsletter.
Growing up in an evangelical family, attending Sunday School in an evangelical church, I heard the parable of the two houses hundreds of times. The house built upon the sand is washed away in the storm or the flood. The house built upon the rock remains firmly in place and withstands the storm or the flood and the tests of time.
To weather the storms and survive attacks, our schools and our educational infrastructure should be built on a foundation that is rock solid and invulnerable to forces or to people whose aim is to undermine or destroy them for their malign purposes, which are not compatible with our purposes (which in this case allow for a democratic and progressive orientation to education).
I have quoted here before what the Lebanese poet Kahlil Gibran wrote about education in his famous poem from his book, “The Prophet”, which bears repeating once again. He said:
“If he is indeed wise, he does not bid you to enter the house of his wisdom, but rather leads you to the threshold of your own mind.”
No truer words were ever spoken. Our conceptions of schools and education are based on a false notion of teaching and learning, fatally undermining their very foundation. The learner or the student can never be at the center and the child is never led to the “threshold” of her own mind as long as we have a paradigm in which learning consistently follows teaching and the answers constantly precede the learner’s questions.
When we suffer from inherited illusions about our capability as arrogant adults, teachers, and administrators to always ascertain precisely what the child needs to know, and at what time, and our imagined right to arbitrarily compel the child to “learn” what we choose to teach from our perspective and determined by our measurements, we are on a foundation of sand. Who died and made us the omniscient teachers and guardians of true knowledge?
As parents and as adults we have not only the right, but the duty to take responsibility for education. Knowledge is built on the experience, discoveries, and insights of the past.
However, none of that came prepackaged from god or from ANY authority. Respect for the process and dignity for the learner are paramount. Any hint of coercion and any pretense of power or superiority over the student is inimical to the process. A curriculum which is not organic, not originating from the curiosity and spontaneous questions of the learners and derived from a real life and literature rather than an artifice of teaching or instruction for the sole purpose of instruction is an abstraction and a distraction.
How much time do we have left for this lesson to sink in? How much longer will we cling to the use of law, threats, intimidation, force, and punishment to attempt to impose education upon our highly capable and brilliant children? Repeat after me: “If he is indeed wise, he does not bid you enter the house of his wisdom.”
Gibran was writing a full century ago. Dewey tried to tell us soon after. Where does our arrogance come from and when will we learn humility from the intelligence of our children?
As a follower here (Moninna) stated in a message sent to me last week,
“Mass state education has often been referred to as simply a religious doctrinal teaching of secular beliefs.”
In other words, it cannot be called education at all, in my estimation. In a frame or context of transmitting pre-existing knowledge from a position of superior knowledge and doctrinal belief (including even the facts of “hard science”), one inhibits critical thinking and knowledge creation. Teaching in a milieu where the student is passive, submissive, and a recipient of an officially approved curriculum establishes a condition lacking adequate context, which makes information, data, language, or concepts less meaningful, real, and intelligible. The heavy hand of the state obliterates initiative and decimates the spirit.
When the innumerable and chronic failures of our schools are mentioned and the reality of 25% of our citizens remain illiterate (and probably another 30-35% are semi-literate, inept, and incapable of critical thinking) educators and other people who are supposedly trustworthy reflexively hit the “minimize” button. Why is that? Why are they not honest with themselves or with us? Why do they deny reality? Why do they need so badly to believe that traditional schools are not built on the sand of mythology and coercion, and that their crumbling is not the consequence of their defective authoritarian structure?
You tell me.
I repeat myself, again and again. It is not about funding, teacher salaries, or unions. It is not about good or bad programs, policies, curricula, techniques, or strategies, and it is most definitely not about test scores or IQ scores. The reactionaries and privatizers have it all wrong. But, so also do the traditionalists and the purveyors of retrenchment to some version of the good old days. Our schools are creating authoritarians and followers and they are anti-intellectual factories for conservativism. You need to get this right Thom. Nostalgia and anecdotes are not reliable guides. Look at the science - and weep.
I work for the public school district in Texas. Abbott is trying to collapse the system by pushing vouchers. We should all be afraid if he does.
With unhealthy food, the right wing media, the deep State billionaire globalists, the greedy churches, the right wingers are turning America into another third world failed? NATION is too good a word. You can't help someone who won't help themselves and the writer hell bent on Armageddon, so you better prepare yourself for a bunch of insane chimpanzees knocking on your door. I don't think they can be elected honestly but they are not honest or virtuous. The right are thugs!
Since a segment of our society doesn't want to work AND doesn't want to pay a living wage to those who do, must create a permanent "underclass" to do the tasks required to support their privileged life style. Rich Republicans have been working on this for awhile and have really got it going. The thing that keeps them up at night is all these worker's votes getting tallied.
Public schools are as good as their community provides and advocates for them. Granted school districts with weak funding will suffer until the state adds more to their budget, wealthy communities have stellar public schools because they recognize the value of a solid secular education, where students are prepared to solve problems, behave in a socially appropriate manner and grow/learn always. They are not perfect, but the alternatives which rely on scripture, alternate history and pseudo science will serve the GOP agenda of having voters who believe what they're told unquestionably and vote as directed whether from the pulpit, the podium, internet, TV or talk radio. The goal is ignorance and obedience, full stop.
This essay is dead on target as usual. I would like to clarify Thom's remarks about private schools sponsored by religious groups might leave readers thinking that they are all like Evangelical Christian grooming factories which often seem to reject a liberal education. Thanks to Trump's Education Secretary DeVos, vouchers became a federally promoted movement. As such, many private money-making scams, like Trump U are flourishing. In these schools ideological grooming overshadows liberal education. Many lack state accreditation and hire teachers lacking education credentials.
Back in the day (1952 until 1980), I graduated from a Catholic grammar and prep school, Got a BA and PhD from non-profit universities sponsored by the United Church of Christ, and my MA was from a state university. I cannot recall any courses that were not accredited, nor were textbooks or library books selectively included or excluded on religious grounds. Participation in religious rites or services at school were always optional. I took one comparative religion course for my BA, and not a single religion course for my PhD. I never felt prostheletized. Such schools still dominate and offer exceptional educations.
Despite my considerable educational experience in religion-sponsored schools, I strongly support policies that prohibit state funding of private schools. If you want to go Ivy League, then pay for it.
One side note. I have observed one edge to attending Christian private schools, and many of my academic colleagues agree. Public high school students today appear to lack critical reasoning skills. I doubt that this is unintended as politics have influence on public school curricula.
Such an important issue. Not easy. "Public Education" can't really altogether compensate for family background. I had the complete Shakespeare in my barely big-enough lap playing the "can you find what they're saying on TV? Isn't this fun?" game when primitive PBS was showing "The Age of Kings." (Isn't it astounding, I remember the title of the series, that was the positive intensity!) We got National Geographic, etc., and stacks of the Time-Life educational picture books were under the coffee tables. My parents called it :"The Hidden Curriculum of the Middle-class Home." Both teachers. Learning needs to be valued in the broader culture; i.e. recognition of upward mobility aspirations. There is almost a glorification of the opposite in the Zeitgeist, and I humbly submit it may be a negative self-reinforcing spiral fueled by frustration of hope, dare I reference Aesop, the fox who justifies failure..... I happen to be reading a novel, the most charming aspect of which, (to me) is a venerable VW camper named "Rocinante." Like the worldwide masses referenced in "Ship of Fools," who do not know what a "curve ball on the inside corner" is, how many, educated enough to commence this book, ("A Darker Place," Laurie R. King) yet never heard of "Rocinante?" Easy to Google, I assume, but curiosity is needed. We are inundated with information at our fingertips, yet seek narrow indoctrination. Is that a reaction to overwhelm?
Nothing brings me scutting to edge