Wednesday, June 13, 2012

How "School Reform" Maintains the Status Quo

3 random definitions for status quo:
1. Heaven on Earth achieved;
2. the trade-off optima we have so far managed to achieve;
3. Hell on Earth accepted.
-- Mephistopheles(?)
Faith in God's revelation has nothing to do with an ideology which glorifies the status quo.
-- Karl Barth
An economist from another solar system, non-partisan, let us assume, on most issues that concern our peoples, might report on American Education in the following manner:
There are three major market interests supporting schools: Values, Skills and Social Control. Although there is no persistent agreement as to which is most important, most schools try to respond in some way to all of them, since one well-established constituency or another promotes them.
Values, also known, occasionally more specifically, as “Cultivation,” “Snobbery,” “Scholarship,” “Academics” or “Fine Arts” involves convincing most people that things that bore them should be honored, at least, for preserving (someone’s) important traditions.

Important means “allowing tax monies to be spent on them” or “showing the proper respect” – see “Social Control” below -- when one’s social betters demand it.

This “Values” product is often promoted as “Rounding Out the Individual,” or “High Quality Education” or “Developing the Mind.” Cascades of diplomas representing no specific achievement, as well as profusions of higher degrees, are the deliverables generated to support this interest.

Skills involves training people how to make money (for someone) by acquiring the narrowest possible knowledge about and dexterity in producing whatever geegaws, jimcracks or whizbangs are selling at the moment or predicted to sell in the near future. High levels of skill development skills may be tolerated, even praised; but, seldom seen as cost-effective. For example, economic institutions, i.e. the Stock Market, are run by perfunctorily skilled persons who rely mainly on consumer faith to support their deliverables – which often fail to materialize.

Social Control involves teaching the great masses of people how to obey. Even in the United States, which imagines itself a multicultural Land of the Free, “obedience” means learning that procrastinating, bad-mouthing, objecting, moaning and groaning are all OK so long as one conforms in the long run to what “society” – read,“values controllers” -- expect of you.

Schools of all kinds do a pretty good job in satisfying all three markets. (This often involves some sacrificing of one market, usually Skills, to maintaining the others.)

School Reform concerns involve the pretense that Academics, a superficial hodgepodge of often unmarketable skills, is the primary, if not the sole, point of schooling. This, market strategem enables the promoters of school reform materials and processes to plausibly hawk their wares in the face of much opinion that real follow-through, which might damage other educational markets, is unlikely.

To examine these issues further, see How much can school reform enhance a student's occupational fitness?


Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Your Authority is an Attitude in the Minds of Others

I have as much authority as the Pope, I just don't have as many people who believe it. -- George Carlin
Authority of any kind is ultimately based on a consensus, an agreement to acknowledge the validity of that authority. This consensus may based on traditionally shared beliefs, values and attitudes, or be merely expedient acquiescence or outward conformity.

Mentally disregarding authority while outwardly conforming to it is no weird, esoteric practice only carried out by bald monks in mountaintop monasteries. It is exactly what we do to a great extent when we visit other countries and cultures: we acquiesce in behaving so as to keep ourselves out of jail, or to avoid social opprobrium; even though we accord no real respect whatsoever to other concerns a native of that culture might have. Sight-seeing in a church does not mean you are a convert.

The authority we exercise often distances us from others, making ordinary forms of social intercourse strained, if not impossible. Yet, it does not in and of itself, protect us from brute force, as any battered spouse with a restraining order knows full well.

All new teachers discover that the reputation of those who bestowed authority upon them may matter very little. Kids are not impressed with State issued teaching licenses. People raised in one religion are not very impressed that a religion different from their own has ordained the missionary.

Not acknowledging as authority what others do is what makes the differences between families, religions, cultures and nations. It also is what makes teaching and preaching an uphill battle. Especially where power is lacking.

To examine these issues further, see The Indeterminacy of Consensus

--- EGR

Friday, June 1, 2012

Cloning Citizens: mission accomplished … mostly.

The main product of the newsmedia has been and continues to be … anxiety. – Eric Sevareid.

Remember the fuss raised by religious and political personalities (generously referred to as “leaders”) when cloning first made it appearance in the media? Why has it died down? Who worries about cloning anymore now that new forms of life have been created in the lab?

We have been cloning “educated” minds for millennia. What do religious leaders want? Doctrinal clones. What do political leaders want? Political clones. What do ethnic leaders want? Ethnic clones. What do parents want? Clones of themselves.

What do educators lust after? Cultural, informational, and behavioral clones. Even "deviant" or “revolutionary” educators try to self-replicate: self-actualized clones, EST clones, inner child clones, Iron John clones. And how those miserable humans do resist! In spite of dungeon, fire, and sword. In spite of morality, patriotism, and rationality!

Forget Rousseau; educators look to clone. We pursue not the noble savage, nor do we indulge the feral child. We clone; not, genetically (yet), but much more effectively: mentally, intellectually, emotionally. Our cloning is the incarnation of our “ideals” into the recalcitrant flesh of homo sapiens.

To examine these issues further, see Cloning Student Voice

-- EGR