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The aim (of education) must be the training of independently acting and thinking individuals who, however, can see in the service to the community their highest life achievement.

Albert Einstein


Today, children from the age of about 5 until 18 are warehoused for nine months of the year and taught not to think.  They read from the standard texts that promulgate materialism and reinforce the notion that anything of worth comes from sources outside of the person; internal thoughts are immature or delusional.

Schools were created in the early nineteenth century to promote literacy, primarily because the young nation needed educated people to work in business. 

Remember, this way of life is barely 200 years old-- the first true factories came into existence in the 1770s, along with the first mass transportation systems (canals); railroads came in the early and mid 1800s. This is when the power-structure began to view human beings as a commodity like any other-- a resource to be mined, manipulated, even owned-- and though slavery has been illegal for some 130 years, they still want to own you. This is why they want to keep you in school for all of your formative years. Conditioning you to accept their rules and their prescribed view of the order of things is 80% of the time and content of our present "educational" systems.[1]

The curriculum was based on the liberal arts curriculum developed after the fall of the Roman Empire in the fifth century.  The methods were based on the medieval academies.  Children sat quietly in rows and listened to the teacher intone facts.  The children were to learn the facts.

Schools changed dramatically between the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.  In the colonial era through the early nineteenth centuries, families played large roles in teaching their children to read, reading poetry from the schoolbooks at the dinner table, and deciding where to send their children to school.  Education of the young was a family responsibility.  Children learned reading, writing, and a little arithmetic and perhaps French.  Women were taught cooking, sewing, household management, and some polished manners such as musical training, dancing, drawing, and needlework.[2]

To be literate meant also being able to read for pleasure and information. A number of books and other printed matter were available. In 1811 Bishop James Madison of Virginia recommended history, geography, poetry, moral essays, biography, travel accounts, sermons and other religious materials to his about-to-be-married daughter to "enlarge your understanding, to render you a more agreeable companion, and to exalt your virtue.[3]

Children and adults learned in a variety of settings, including dame schools, public schools, academies, private schools, church schools, Sunday schools, libraries, lyceums, and at home.  By 1900, public schools were more available, but only 10 percent of teenagers were enrolled in high school.[4]

Through the twentieth century, more students were enrolled and states increased their control over education.

"Whenever the academic curriculum was diluted or minimized, large numbers of children were pushed through the school system without benefit of a genuine education.”  These words sound like they could have been in last week’s New York Times about schools today.  They were in fact written by Diane Ravich about schools in the twentieth century.[5]

Today, schools are an anachronism.  Certain skills will help children function better in the world today, such as reading, writing, and arithmetic, but they don’t need to be taught in schools.  Schools teach nothing of spirituality or the truths of the universe, the subjects of primary importance to eternal beings whose primary focus is to grow in spiritual maturity.  The founding fathers required that congress not create a state religion, but that simply meant not requiring that everyone must become an Anglican or Roman Catholic.  For the founding fathers, there was no spirituality outside of an organized church, so they wouldn’t have considered teaching Rumi or Yeshua (apart from the church) or Buddha as part of the school curriculum.  They didn’t consider that people might need to learn to become loving and compassionate through spiritual growth in schools.

Today, the schools are failing.  They are unable to achieve their goals of making children into the beings a materialistic society values: skilled in one of the revered trades (medicine, law, finance), obedient to the organization, and capable of fitting into the narrowly prescribed niches employers have for them.  Children are dropping out of school because this set of goals holds no meaning for them and most people are unable to achieve them:

. . . a new Education Week report reveals that more than 1.2 million students will fail to graduate high school this year. Half of our black and Hispanic male students are dropping out of public high schools.

Nowhere is the news for our young people worse than in Detroit, Michigan. Detroit's economy has been devastated by so-called free trade policies and awful management decisions. Tens of thousands of jobs are disappearing, and too many mothers and fathers have never attended a parent-teacher conference. Detroit's community is in pain, and the city's future is uncertain. And despite the best efforts of local and state leaders, hope is in short supply.

The Education Week report shows Detroit's public high schools will graduate only 25 percent of their students. Cleveland, Ohio, and Baltimore, Maryland, will graduate less than 35 percent; Dallas, Texas, New York and Los Angeles, California, about 45 percent. In fact, 10 of our nation's biggest cities will graduate fewer than half their students. This is nothing less than a national crisis.

Christopher Swanson, director of the Editorial Projects in Education Research Center and supervisor of that national dropout rate report says: "I think that really speaks to the challenge of getting students to graduate from high school at a time where it's more important than it's ever been...to provide opportunities for our young people to have a successful career and for the United States in general to be competitive in the world."[6]

“To have a successful career” means to make children into cogs that will fit the tightly prescribed slots on business wheels.  Nothing in Swanson’s statement refers to whether children will become blissful, fulfilled, spiritually mature adults who will love their own children and help them to grow into a world of compassion and love.  Instead, they must fit into the business wheels so the United States can be “competitive in the world.”

Lou Dobbs, from whose summary of the Education Week study comes cited above, ends by describing the effects the failure of schools will have, in his estimation.  It illustrates this cogs in wheels concept:

The Alliance for Excellent Education estimates that each high school dropout earns about $260,000 less than a high school graduate over his or her lifetime. The Alliance also reports that dropouts not only earn less money but also drain state and federal budgets through their dependence on social and welfare programs. Those students who drop out make up nearly half the heads of households on welfare, and they constitute almost half of our prison population as well. The cost to our society is overwhelming.[7]

The concern is that students won’t become as affluent; they will drain state ad federal budgets through social and welfare programs; they will become criminals and end up in prison that will cost society money.  With assessments that schools are failing to produce these kinds of students, the goals for school reform will continue to focus on creating cogs for business wheels and never discover that any institution working with people should be helping them to become self-confident, find their own way in the world, be blissful, learn to love and be compassionate, and grow in spiritual maturity.  Materialistic goals will result in materialistic successes and materialistic failures, but will do nothing to help society grow beyond its current spiritual deadness and loss of concern for people as greatly varying individuals.

In the schools today, the content is entirely physical realm content.  History is taught as events in the physical realm, not changes in spiritual outlook or human understanding.  Science is taught as the inerrant scriptures of the modern materialistic world, not to be challenged, only to be accepted and memorized.  Anything having to do with the inner person in any form other than psychology as a materialistic study, is to be shunned.  Discussions of respect and regard for others are held, but based in a pragmatic, utilitarian conception that if we all get along, we’ll be able to avoid conflict and get more things accomplished.

Children whose personality styles don’t fit the fact-based, materialistic curriculum are labeled as failures and not given the opportunity to grow in the areas of interest to them, where their strengths lie.  The failure labeling begins as early as kindergarten.  It’s hard to be a failure already when you’re only five years old. 

Creative impulses are subjugated to memorization and structured requirements.  As a result, creative children often drop out of school.

Besides the anachronistic content, the methods fail to accomplish any ends, either the materialistic school’s or a different, spiritual focus.  The notion of warehousing children and having teachers talk at them is notably outdated.  The schools are based on competition, judgment, punishment, and enhancing self-esteem for those who fit the pattern while destroying the self-esteem of those who do not.  It is an assembly line for creating conformers and reducing the self-esteem of those who are different from the standards.

Schools promise to prepare children for work, but in that they fail miserably.  Children graduating from schools are poorly prepared for the requirements of an increasingly changing environment.  In the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, when businesses were more stable, people learned their trades and practiced them the same skills for decades.  The schools did teach some trades, but most of schooling didn’t prepare students for a trade.

Today, even that need to prepare students for a trade no longer exists.  The world into which the children will go after graduation will be different from the one that existed when they were in school, and vastly different from the nineteenth and early twentieth century worlds the anachronistic schools continue to prepare children for.  The skills children today need most are being able to adapt to changes and solve problems the schools can’t know or anticipate, because they will regularly face change when they enter the workforce and every few years after.  The children must learn to learn, on their own, because the changing social and work environments will require them to learn new knowledge and skills.  It must teach them to be confident in their ability to assess novel problems and solve them, not wait for directions from an authority figure.  The schools, instead, teach children they cannot learn without a teacher, not to think for themselves, to look for answers in the past, not their inner resources, not to deviate from the  present so they can adapt to change, and to wait for someone to tell them what to do. 

We must rethink what we can do to help children become adults who are spiritually mature, with compassion and brotherhood for all.  How can we justify teaching children calculus when they are binge drinking, bullying, and over half are involved in fights each year?

Today, we live in an information-rich world where children can learn from the wide array of sources available to them.  Parents can teach as readily as teachers.  The concept that a master’s degree in mathematics is necessary to teach fractions to children is naïve and counterproductive.

The venerable elders of our community today are relegated to easy chairs before mindless daytime television or to retirement homes.  Instead, they would be valuable teachers of children, helping them navigate through the rich information environment that would provide all the content necessary.  They would learn as the children learned, finding out about new technologies and new information.  The notion that someone has to be present with the “right” answers is archaic.  Dialogue would teach rather than monologue.  The money spent on schools could be given to families to obtain the sources of information and subsidize field trips and other endeavors.  It would bring communities closer together as they worked with children.  It would bring families together as children, parents, and elders participated in learning and growing together.

Teachers must step down, relinquish their power, encourage student responsibility, goal setting, and self-assessment and reporting. "Constraints on time, content of the curriculum, location of learning experiences, and methods of assessing learning will have to be relaxed to accommodate diverse student interests and the challenges of motivating students who see little purpose in the classic liberal arts curriculum."[8]

All people have talents, but they may not be in the detail-oriented, memorization, structured directions in which schools are oriented.  Every child should be encouraged to be all he or she can be, with his or her unique talents.  Every child should be successful because the child is advancing as much as he or she can in ability, in whatever areas are uniquely suited to him or her.

When schools work to meet this challenge, issues such as inclusion will no longer be debated. "Success can occur in many differen t areas yet still be validated by the school."[9]

And that means every adult will feel fulfilled and accomplished, regardless of his or her style, abilities, or disabilities.  Everyone’s talents will be recognized and they will fit in noble places in society.

Adolescence is extended into the early 20’s, so children are kept in lockstep educational systems that teach them not to think or solve problems.  Businesses are accustomed to the fact that college graduates entering the workforce know nothing and must begin their educations then. 

The widespread sense of apathy, hopelessness and even despair among many (particularly young) people today is not at all a reflection of the realities of what is possible, but rather of the sophistication of the system of thought control by which those possibilities have been obscured.[10]

Among 13-17 year olds, school is by far the most commonly mentioned source of stress.  In a 2007 survey, 45 percent of girls and young women reported experiencing stress frequently, and 32 percent of boys and young men experienced stress.[11]

 

Endnotes



[1] Schools, learning, and adults. (n.d.). Quavajo. Retrieved May 27, 2007, from http://www.geocities.com/Athens/Delphi/2911/school.html.

[2] Rowe, L. (n.d.). Women and education in eighteenth-century virginia. Colonial Williamsburg. Retrieved May 27, 2007, from http://research.history.org/Historical_Research/Research_Themes/ ThemeFamily/WomenEducation.cfm.

[3] Rowe, op. cit.

[4] Ravitch, D. (n.d.). American Traditions of Education,” Diane Ravitch. Retrieved May 27, 2007, from http://64.233.167.104/search?q=cache:lz_ruO5wEKAJ:media.hoover.org/ documents/0817999426_1.pdf+schools+academy+nineteenth&hl=en& ct=clnk&cd=54&gl=us, May 27, 2007).

[5] Ravitch, D. (2000, August 29). Left Back: A Century of Failed School Reform. Simon and Schuster,

[6] Dobbs, L. (2007, June 20). Dobbs: A legacy in search of a president.” CNN. Retrieved June 20, 2007, from http://www.cnn.com/2007/US/06/19/Dobbs.June20/index.html.

[7] Dobbs, op. cit.

[8] Ascolese, J. (n.d.). Why schools must change. Retrieved May 27, 2007, from http://www.ed.psu.edu/insys/esd/need/JA_Why.html.

[9] Ascolese, op. cit.

[10] Edwards, D. (1996). Burning All Illusions: A Guide to Personal and Political Freedom. South End Press.

[11] Academic performance top cause of teen stress. (2007, August 23). Retrieved August 23, 2007, from http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/20322801/.

 

 

 

 

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