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Recently, one of my good friends wrote this in an e-mail:

I arrived in the US with the misunderstanding, common among Brits, that because the language is the same (similar), the culture would be familiar. It didn't take me long to realize I'd have been more at home in Spain, even though I don't speak the language. What surprised me most was how controlled US society seemed. It fit my image of Soviet Russia more than the (TV) image of Land of the Free and Home of the Brave. It's difficult for me to cite specifics, but in general, Americans simply did what they were told more than Brits.

How did the first nation to deny the authority of its monarchy became populated by compliant zombies? Some would blame the media, but I think it starts sooner than that--in our schools.

Compulsory schooling was deemed necessary to a healthy democracy. The bulk of people must be able to assess their political environment and vote in their own self interest. They must be able to read and reason well enough to see the pitfalls of arguments.

Does schooling provide this service? Would you be an illiterate dolt, if not for your primary school teachers? Do we learn to read because we are taught, or because we are steeped in a society where reading is essential and powerful?

In public school, every effort is made to teach children to read. Although 98% of Americans can read something, only about 50% can read well enough to function in our society:

The US Dept. of Education, Institute of Education Sciences has conducted large scale assessment of adult proficiency in 1992 and 2003 using a common methodology from which trends could be measured. The study measures Prose, Document, and Quantitative skills and 19,000 subjects participated in the 2003 survey. There was no significant change in Prose or Document skills and a slight increase in Quantitative skills. As in 2008, roughly 15% of the sample could function at the highest levels in all three categories. Roughly 40% were at either basic or below basic levels of proficiency in all three categories.[2]. The study dentifies a class of adults who although they do not meet criteria for functional illiteracy, nonetheless face reduced job opportunities and life prospects due to inadequate literacy levels relative to the requirements of contemporary society.

The study, the most comprehensive study of literacy ever commissioned by the U.S. government, was released in April 2002 and reapplied in 2003 giving trend data. It involved lengthy interviews of over 90,700 adults statistically balanced for age, gender, ethnicity, education level, and location (urban, suburban, or rural) in 12 states across the U.S. and was designed to represent the U.S. population as a whole. This government study showed that 21% to 23% of adult Americans were not "able to locate information in text", could not "make low-level inferences using printed materials", and were unable to "integrate easily identifiable pieces of information." Further, this study showed that 41% to 44% of U.S. adults in the lowest level on the literacy scale are living in poverty.[2]

A follow-up study by the same group of researchers using a smaller database (19,714 interviewees) was released in 2006 that showed some upward movement of low end (basic and below to intermediate) in U.S. adult literacy levels and a decline in the full proficiency group.[3]

Thus, if this bottom quantile of the study is equated with the functionally illiterate, and these are then removed from those classified as literate, then the resultant literacy rate for the United States would be at most 65-85% depending on where in the basic, minimal competence quantile one sets the cutoff.

The 15% figure for full literacy, equivalent to a university undergraduate level, is consistent with the notion that the "average" American reads at a 7th or 8th grade level which is also consistent with recommendations, guidelines, and norms of readability for medication directions, product information, and popular fiction.--Wiki

No effort is made to teach children to read in Democratic Free Schools. Yet, they all master it on their own. In fact, they become literate faster and with less effort. This echoes the explosion of touch typing that occurred with the internet and cell phones. Hard to believe people once took classes to learn to type.

It calls into question the relationship between schooling and learning. All learning, after all, is a deeply personal process. Without the will to learn something, you can not be taught.

The very founders of our compulsory school system made it very clear what they needed from a school system. They wanted  a large compliant workforce. They needed consumers who would become a reliably homogenous market. They needed people to submit to authority figures so they would change consumption and work habits when needed. A barely literate but docile proletariat was a fringe benefit.

So what, then, is the purpose of school? Are schools more about breaking a pupil's will, than about learning? Are they to create a society of people able to assess information and the condition of their world so democracy can survive? Or is it to dumb down the masses and create a docile workforce so democracy will die?

In this episode of our series on education and schooling, we hear from the one person we most need to take into account in this discussion--the student.

"People could not free themselves from the crown, until, at least, some of them had freed themselves from the established church. [Now] They can not free themselves from progressive consumption, until they free themselves from obligatory school."--Ivon Illich

The following remarks were made by the Valedictorian of Coxsackle-Athens High School in New York State, US in June 2010:

Here I Stand
Erica Goldson,  
Coxsackie-Athens High School, 2010

Unwelcome Guests Audio
You Tube Video

There is a story of a young, but earnest Zen student who approached his teacher, and asked the Master, "If I work very hard and diligently, how long will it take for me to find Zen? The Master thought about this, then replied, "Ten years." 
The student then said, "But what if I work very, very hard and really apply myself to learn fast - How long then?" Replied the Master, "Well, twenty years." "But, if I really, really work at it, how long then?" asked the student. "Thirty years," replied the Master. "But, I do not understand," said the disappointed student. "At each time that I say I will work harder, you say it will take me longer. Why do you say that?" 
Replied the Master, "When you have one eye on the goal, you only have one eye on the path."

This is the dilemma I've faced within the American education system. We are so focused on a goal, whether it be passing a test, or graduating as first in the class. However, in this way, we do not really learn. We do whatever it takes to achieve our original objective.

Some of you may be thinking, “Well, if you pass a test, or become valedictorian, didn't you learn something? Well, yes, you learned something, but not all that you could have. Perhaps, you only learned how to memorize names, places, and dates to later on forget in order to clear your mind for the next test. School is not all that it can be. Right now, it is a place for most people to determine that their goal is to get out as soon as possible.

I am now accomplishing that goal. I am graduating. I should look at this as a positive experience, especially being at the top of my class. However, in retrospect, I cannot say that I am any more intelligent than my peers. I can attest that I am only the best at doing what I am told and working the system. Yet, here I stand, and I am supposed to be proud that I have completed this period of indoctrination. I will leave in the fall to go on to the next phase expected of me, in order to receive a paper document that certifies that I am capable of work. But I contest that I am a human being, a thinker, an adventurer – not a worker. A worker is someone who is trapped within repetition – a slave of the system set up before him. But now, I have successfully shown that I was the best slave. I did what I was told to the extreme. While others sat in class and doodled to later become great artists, I sat in class to take notes and become a great test-taker. While others would come to class without their homework done because they were reading about an interest of theirs, I never missed an assignment. While others were creating music and writing lyrics, I decided to do extra credit, even though I never needed it. So, I wonder, why did I even want this position? Sure, I earned it, but what will come of it? When I leave educational institutionalism, will I be successful or forever lost? I have no clue about what I want to do with my life; I have no interests because I saw every subject of study as work, and I excelled at every subject just for the purpose of excelling, not learning. And quite frankly, now I'm scared.

John Taylor Gatto, a retired school teacher and activist critical of compulsory schooling, asserts, “We could encourage the best qualities of youthfulness – curiosity, adventure, resilience, the capacity for surprising insight simply by being more flexible about time, texts, and tests, by introducing kids into truly competent adults, and by giving each student what autonomy he or she needs in order to take a risk every now and then. But we don't do that.” Between these cinderblock walls, we are all expected to be the same. We are trained to ace every standardized test, and those who deviate and see light through a different lens are worthless to the scheme of public education, and therefore viewed with contempt.

H. L. Mencken wrote in The American Mercury for April 1924 that the aim of public education is not

to fill the young of the species with knowledge and awaken their intelligence. ... Nothing could be further from the truth. The aim ... is simply to reduce as many individuals as possible to the same safe level, to breed and train a standardized citizenry, to put down dissent and originality. That is its aim in the United States. (Gatto)

To illustrate this idea, doesn't it perturb you to learn about the idea of “critical thinking.” Is there really such a thing as “uncritically thinking?” To think is to process information in order to form an opinion. But if we are not critical when processing this information, are we really thinking? Or are we mindlessly accepting other opinions as truth?

This was happening to me, and if it wasn't for the rare occurrence of an avant-garde tenth grade English teacher, Donna Bryan, who allowed me to open my mind and ask questions before accepting textbook doctrine, I would have been doomed. I am now enlightened, but my mind still feels disabled. I must retrain myself and constantly remember how insane this ostensibly sane place really is.

And now here I am in a world guided by fear, a world suppressing the uniqueness that lies inside each of us, a world where we can either acquiesce to the inhuman nonsense of corporatism and materialism or insist on change. We are not enlivened by an educational system that clandestinely sets us up for jobs that could be automated, for work that need not be done, for enslavement without fervency for meaningful achievement. We have no choices in life when money is our motivational force. Our motivational force ought to be passion, but this is lost from the moment we step into a system that trains us, rather than inspires us.

We are more than robotic bookshelves, conditioned to blurt out facts we were taught in school. We are all very special, every human on this planet is so special, so aren't we all deserving of something better, of using our minds for innovation, rather than memorization, for creativity, rather than futile activity, for rumination rather than stagnation? We are not here to get a degree, to then get a job, so we can consume industry-approved placation after placation. There is more, and more still.

The saddest part is that the majority of students don't have the opportunity to reflect as I did. The majority of students are put through the same brainwashing techniques in order to create a complacent labor force working in the interests of large corporations and secretive government, and worst of all, they are completely unaware of it. I will never be able to turn back these 18 years. I can't run away to another country with an education system meant to enlighten rather than condition. This part of my life is over, and I want to make sure that no other child will have his or her potential suppressed by powers meant to exploit and control. We are human beings. We are thinkers, dreamers, explorers, artists, writers, engineers. We are anything we want to be - but only if we have an educational system that supports us rather than holds us down. A tree can grow, but only if its roots are given a healthy foundation.

For those of you out there that must continue to sit in desks and yield to the authoritarian ideologies of instructors, do not be disheartened. You still have the opportunity to stand up, ask questions, be critical, and create your own perspective. Demand a setting that will provide you with intellectual capabilities that allow you to expand your mind instead of directing it. Demand that you be interested in class. Demand that the excuse, “You have to learn this for the test” is not good enough for you. Education is an excellent tool, if used properly, but focus more on learning rather than getting good grades.

For those of you that work within the system that I am condemning, I do not mean to insult; I intend to motivate. You have the power to change the incompetencies of this system. I know that you did not become a teacher or administrator to see your students bored. You cannot accept the authority of the governing bodies that tell you what to teach, how to teach it, and that you will be punished if you do not comply. Our potential is at stake.

For those of you that are now leaving this establishment, I say, do not forget what went on in these classrooms. Do not abandon those that come after you. We are the new future and we are not going to let tradition stand. We will break down the walls of corruption to let a garden of knowledge grow throughout America. Once educated properly, we will have the power to do anything, and best of all, we will only use that power for good, for we will be cultivated and wise. We will not accept anything at face value. We will ask questions, and we will demand truth.

So, here I stand. I am not standing here as valedictorian by myself. I was molded by my environment, by all of my peers who are sitting here watching me. I couldn't have accomplished this without all of you. It was all of you who truly made me the person I am today. It was all of you who were my competition, yet my backbone. In that way, we are all valedictorians.

I am now supposed to say farewell to this institution, those who maintain it, and those who stand with me and behind me, but I hope this farewell is more of a “see you later” when we are all working together to rear a pedagogic movement. But first, let's go get those pieces of paper that tell us that we're smart enough to do so!

"Graduating with honors will provide many advantages when applying for a doctoral degree, as it's an obvious demonstration of your capabilities as a student and a professional."

Transcript on Erica's Site

Erica Goldson has been busy traveling the world since she graduated in 2010. She is currently at the other end of the North American Continent in the Pacific Northwest. She continues her blog at: Erica's Blog.

Upcoming Diaries

Nov 20: Justina--"The Real Right to Life: Capitalism Jails Senior Citizens, Socialism Gives Them Housing and More."
Nov 27: NY Brit Expat-- "Campaign for Food Sovereignty: Agricultural Production for People's Needs Not for Profit."
Dec 4: T'Pau--"Miliary Democracy" as a tool to reclaim power.
Dec 11: Don Mikulecky--Sustainable Systems and Why Capitalism is not One of Them
Dec 18: T'Pau--"Nullification and States Rights" as a way to reclaim our power.
Dec 25: Blue Dragon--"Teaching from Radical Texts in the College Setting." (She is using Shock Doctrine in her class.)
Jan 1 T'Pau: "The Power Behind Resolutions" and an exciting announcement.
Jan 8 Geminijen: Cooperatives Changing Relationship to Unions, Part III

Originally posted to T. P. Alexanders on Sun Nov 13, 2011 at 03:00 PM PST.

Also republished by Anti-Capitalist Meetup.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Bobs Telecaster, tofumagoo

    De air is de air. What can be done?

    by TPau on Sun Oct 16, 2011 at 03:00:03 PM PDT

  •  Very thoughtful (0+ / 0-)

    We spend so much time trying to learn how to climb the ladder, we forgot to learn what ladders are.

    Rick Perry - the greatest scientist since Galileo!

    by Bobs Telecaster on Sun Oct 16, 2011 at 03:23:30 PM PDT

  •  Trying to rec your tip jar but I think we are (8+ / 0-)

    running into problems with the publication of the diary and republishing it and old or out-dated tip jar. Can I ask you to do another comment called tip jar so that you can get tips for the diary ... yes, at times I feel like we are mice in a cage and need to give tips for work at the right place, but at least you will get them! :)

    "Hegel noticed somewhere that all great world history facts and people so to speak twice occur. He forgot to add: the one time as tragedy, the other time as farce" Karl Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte .

    by NY brit expat on Sun Nov 13, 2011 at 03:18:50 PM PST

  •  as long as we continue to think of schools (10+ / 0-)

    as simply an elaborate form of employment preparation and nothing else, then I think we'll continue to see our schools "fail".

    we focus on knowledge, skills and abilities instead of focusing on teaching people to think and fostering the values of curiosity and creativity.  

    Words can sometimes, in moments of grace, attain the quality of deeds. --Elie Wiesel

    by a gilas girl on Sun Nov 13, 2011 at 03:23:54 PM PST

    •  agreed completely ... however in the context (6+ / 0-)

      of the capitalist system and the roles in which schools are meant to play, there purpose is not to foster accumulation of knowledge, skills and abilities. It is to create people that fit into roles appropriate for the system.

      "Hegel noticed somewhere that all great world history facts and people so to speak twice occur. He forgot to add: the one time as tragedy, the other time as farce" Karl Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte .

      by NY brit expat on Sun Nov 13, 2011 at 03:28:25 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  "Critical Thinking" Mandatory Subject in Venezuela (7+ / 0-)

      In the last year here in Venezuela, a new educational law was passed which makes it mandatory for schools to teach "critical thinking" in their curricula.  It specifically requires that critical thinking be raised in connection with considering the media.

      (Would that we in the U.S. required everyone to pass a critical thinking course before being allowed to listen to Fox News!)

      In 1998, when President Chavez was first elected, the illiteracy rate in Venezuela was something like 60%.  His first major program, called Mission Robinson, was a campaign to combat illiteracy. Teams of teachers were sent all over the country to provide free reading and writing classes.  Now the literacy rate is almost 100%, and additional Missions have been initiated to bring high school and university education to the majority of the population.  

      Copies of Latin American classics, re-published in paper versions by the government, are even handed out free on street corners!  

      Free technical and job training programs abound.  It sometimes seems that everyone in this country is a student!  President Chavez himself is a perennial student, a voracious reader who frequently reads aloud from the books he is reading to his TV program viewers.

      As we have seen in the U.S., capitalism thrives on mass ignorance.  Education and critical thinking are key to building a new, human and democratic society.

      Convict Bush, Cheney and their torture cabal. Support universal health care,unions, WikiLeaks and Occupy Wall Street! Time for a totally new, democratic economic system. Turn the corporations into worker cooperatives!

      by Justina on Sun Nov 13, 2011 at 04:24:46 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  I HAVE TO go to Venezuela! (4+ / 0-)
        Would that we in the U.S. required everyone to pass a critical thinking course before being allowed to listen to Fox News!

        Amen to that! Fox News makes my eyes melt if I watch it too long.

        Critical thinking was one of the first things taught in classical education. They taught grammar and language and then they taught how arguments are properly constructed and how arguments are misused to fool people and how to spot that misuse.

        Copies of Latin American classics, re-published in paper versions by the government, are even handed out free on street corners!  

        Free higher education on the cheap! I love that.

        De air is de air. What can be done?

        by TPau on Sun Nov 13, 2011 at 04:48:04 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  Intelligence is not a guarantee of intelligence. (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        a gilas girl, bigjacbigjacbigjac

        Critical thinking is one of my favorite sports: deconstructing political, philosophical and religious arguments. TV commercials and political speeches are the most fun.

        Just today I wrote yet another pun sort of related to critical thinking:

        On Intelligence
        Intelligence is not a guarantee of intelligence. That is, high intelligence does not guarantee that one will draw any correct conclusions. However, low intelligence always makes one right.

  •  oh, and I'm not so sure that (6+ / 0-)

    the will to authoritarianism/conformity found in US culture gets fixed via more radical approaches to schools and education.

    It would help, but I do think the roots of that will lie more in the US fear/disdain for diversity.

    Words can sometimes, in moments of grace, attain the quality of deeds. --Elie Wiesel

    by a gilas girl on Sun Nov 13, 2011 at 03:26:25 PM PST

  •  This is somewhat off topic, but fits into (5+ / 0-)

    the discussion. I find myself and others doing it. We look at work in the capitalist system and we see what workers are constrained to and we begin to view work as making us into worker bees. Work can be creative, fulfilling, thoughtful unless as in this system we are reduced to cogs in a wheel where everything is reduced to its most basic and everything fulfilling is removed from it. Work can have value, it can provide us with pride, serve as a place of thought and creativity , but when we hear the term worker or peasant we automatically think of people with empty lives doing things beneath us. We really need to move beyond this and separate the notion of work in this system from work as a thing in itself. We need to recapture this from the hands of the system that has reduced us to living automatons rather than people of ideas, talents, skills, creative instincts. Those things should not be only found in special employments (musicians, artists, writers), they should belong to us all.

    "Hegel noticed somewhere that all great world history facts and people so to speak twice occur. He forgot to add: the one time as tragedy, the other time as farce" Karl Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte .

    by NY brit expat on Sun Nov 13, 2011 at 03:37:06 PM PST

    •  I can't agree with you more. Becoming a writer... (3+ / 0-)

      under my alter ego saved by soul if not my life. I was so dreadfully unhappy in a profession that should have brought great satisfaction but was ruined due to the constraints of capitalism.

      Looking back, I was always a writer, but for 30 years was so discouraged from doing it by those who "knew better" or "knew what would make me happy in the long run". This of course was always about financial success and not really happiness. That process started very early in school.

      When it started to happen to my daughter as well, I had to fight it tooth and nail. Still, the success over happiness did win for a while in her teen years when parents don't know anything but I think I am finally getting her back to choose happiness over economic security.

      De air is de air. What can be done?

      by TPau on Sun Nov 13, 2011 at 03:46:50 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  A lot of that might be just method. (4+ / 0-)

      Procedures should support and be supported by principles.  However, many workers in industry are taught the procedures without being taught the principles.

      Suggestions for a more efficient or better method are often squashed, rather than accepted.  Thus workers don't know what's actually important, what are the likeliest failure modes, what the margin of safety is.  Conformity becomes the only answer, because if you aren't doing it differently, you aren't doing it wrong.

      -7.75 -4.67

      "Freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose."

      There are no Christians in foxholes.

      by Odysseus on Sun Nov 13, 2011 at 03:52:46 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Why do you think that is? Why does the upper (3+ / 0-)

        echelon of business decline to explain the finer points to the workers? Doing so frequently enhances productivity because the workers come up with suggestions. Why, then, does upper management refuse to share its reasoning with those doing the work?

        De air is de air. What can be done?

        by TPau on Sun Nov 13, 2011 at 04:03:53 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  Agreed, interesting changes have occurred (5+ / 0-)

        over time in the system. Many innovations were invented on the shop floor at a time when working people were far more than tiny cogs in the wheel; their dealing with a larger part of the job and machinery gave them an overview enabling ways of making adjustments and changes that actually improved the machine. We have forced people to fill tiny roles, broken down things into such small parts that innovation and creativity are difficult to achieve and exactly as you state suggestions are ignored (as people stepping outside of their boxes).

        Agreed, this is an excellent point. thank you!

        "Hegel noticed somewhere that all great world history facts and people so to speak twice occur. He forgot to add: the one time as tragedy, the other time as farce" Karl Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte .

        by NY brit expat on Sun Nov 13, 2011 at 04:06:45 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Deadly Division of Mental and Manual Labor. (6+ / 0-)

          NY brit expat writes:

          Many innovations were invented on the shop floor at a time when working people were far more than tiny cogs in the wheel; their dealing with a larger part of the job and machinery gave them an overview enabling ways of making adjustments and changes that actually improved the machine.

          How true.  One of the most inhuman aspects of the capitalist production system is the fact that it severs the function of mental and manual labor, allocating to "management" the role of thinking while depriving workers of the right to use their minds to improve their jobs.  

          Kos poster "lightbulb"has been writing a fascinating series about his work as a manual laborer for a big box retail store in which he discusses how little the company managers actually know about the jobs they supposedly manage and how dependent they are on one of the long-term, low paid workers, Bob, to make the store operation function.

          Read lightbulb's story here.

          Convict Bush, Cheney and their torture cabal. Support universal health care,unions, WikiLeaks and Occupy Wall Street! Time for a totally new, democratic economic system. Turn the corporations into worker cooperatives!

          by Justina on Sun Nov 13, 2011 at 04:44:35 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

  •  Thank you TPau. You describe well the 'education' (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    NY brit expat, TPau, DawnN

    ...I received.

    Life prevented me from participating in the discussion last Sunday of Robin Upton’s diary. But I later read it and then wrote a message to him. This is from that message. You will readily see that it fits perfectly what Tpau and Erica Goldson are talking about in this diary:

    The schooling system you describe fits well the ‘education’ I endured. I remember well how excited I was as a kid that I would finally get to go to school. By the tenth grade I was sick of it, and I had to plow my through to high school graduation by brute force. The problem wasn’t grades (As and Bs), but boredom and the whole frustrating process of memorizing and coughing up endless useless factoids. I repeatedly went to college and dropped out again. Each time I went back I studied what I liked until once again I hit the inevitable brick wall … all that stuff they insisted I take that I just couldn’t get myself to study. In the end I never finished college.

    Meanwhile, on a parallel track, I’ve been a lifelong reader of several fields of study: metaphysics, religion, philosophy, particle physics, cosmology, other sciences, and much else. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed pursuing questions such as: What is reality? What are we? What is “enlightenment”? What is moral? What has value? Since we are here together on this planet, you and I, how should or might we organize our often conflicting ways that we may live together in peace and intelligently live in the world? What is “the good society,” and what kind of government would best achieve it? What is most fundamentally wrong with our (American) government, and what is the best way to repair it?

    And then there’s just self-taught and learning-in-the-world stuff: Repairing bikes as a kid, making forts, later fixing cars, other mechanical stuff, electronics, computer and Internet programming, gardening, built my own house, foundation, framing, wiring, plumbing, etc. Can I fix this? How does that work? This list is just the tip of the iceberg.

    My point is that I have found things exactly as you and the people that commented said they were. The current school system was for me a complete mind and spirit-sucking drag. And pursuing my own interests and questions and studying stuff as I needed it in life has been fascinating, my real education.

  •  Demand More Freedom and More Funds for Our Schools (5+ / 0-)

    If all schools had enlightened, passionate teachers who loved learning and were allowed to teach what they loved, I would have no fear about making schooling "non-compulsory", but this is far from the reality today.

    So too, if all parents were wise enough to expose their children to an intellectually rich environment where they could thrive as creative learners, no need for compulsory schoolings.

    But The reality is that it is a minority of parents who have both a deep appreciation for learning and sufficient monetary resources to actively seek creative learning environments for their kids.  Now, most schools which strive to provide creative learning environments for kids are, unfortunately, expensive and private.

    The neo-conservative "voucherists" who are trying to destroy our public schools, and thus further "dumb-down" the majority of the population, would no doubt be delighted to dispense with compulsory education for the majority of us.  They would, no doubt, consider illiteracy for the 99% a major social achievement.

    So, I think we have to be very careful how we frame our demands for radical changes in our educational curricula, demand self-determined public education, end standardized testing and rote memorization, allow students to choose what they wish to learn and teachers to teach subjects they love.  When that kind of a school environment is a reality, then students will choose to go to school and "compulsory education" will become naturally obsolete.  

    In the meantime, we have to fight for more funding and more freedom for our schools and teachers to help us reach the goal of no longer needing to make education "compulsory".

    Thanks, TPau for an important post!

    Convict Bush, Cheney and their torture cabal. Support universal health care,unions, WikiLeaks and Occupy Wall Street! Time for a totally new, democratic economic system. Turn the corporations into worker cooperatives!

    by Justina on Sun Nov 13, 2011 at 04:03:25 PM PST

    •  There must be a few non-wealthy schools trying... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      TPau, bigjacbigjacbigjac

      ...some of this?

      Good comment. I agree with all you say, including your comment message at the end.

      You give me hope that perhaps much could be done to improve education even before we can manage to adequately change the whole political-economic system.

      •  The Hippie School: (8+ / 0-)

        This is from my comments to Robin Upton's Post last week:

        When we first moved to a small town in Oregon, there were two elementary schools my daughter could attend. The first was the traditional public school. The other was held together by a shoe string budget and we now fondly refer to that one as the "hippie school".

        The hippie school was taught in a straw bale building with a paper mache tree growing in the middle of class and spreading painted leaves out onto the ceiling. The students of a previous year had actually built the building themselves and my daughter's class spent some of their time plastering the building and painting a mural on the wall.

        The class was taught in a circle of couches and bean bag chairs with three grade levels in one room. The teacher brought her dog to class.

        Before class started the teacher had buried a series of artifacts in the back yard. All yr long the students dug up "artifacts" and discovered what they were and how they were used and what place they had in history. At the end of the year the ran a "museum tour" for the parents.

        Social studies was taught by dividing them into groups and then having an international UN. The teacher did not foresee that the children would divide themselves into mythological groups: Fairy state, Techno state, Dwarf State, etc. But she allowed it.  She was further dismayed when the Techno state bombed the Fairy state in an attempt to acquire natural resources.

        What happened next was almost magical. The nations met at the UN to discuss the war. They embargoed Techno State until it gave in to international pressure. Then the other states demanded reparations to Fairy State and got them. The end of the year Techno state lagged behind the other states in wealth.

        When the school was forced closed by political pressure from the school board, my daughter was afraid that she would be behind the other children in the public school because her perception was all she did was play games all day.

        She was so far ahead she needed to be moved up a grade. All of the children from the class had similar experiences and one of them graduated valedictorian.


        This school was supported by the parents only and literally ran on bake sales and used goods. Money is not the problem--it is the ideas we have behind schooling.

        De air is de air. What can be done?

        by TPau on Sun Nov 13, 2011 at 04:23:21 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  Many of you are seeking an alternative: (5+ / 0-)

    There are many alternatives to our current public school system. I am trying to get some people involved in those alternatives to write something for this series.

    In the meantime, I thought I would throw a few out there to see what people thought about some of the experiments out there.

    1.) In reply to RogerAtBeyond's "Thank you" comment I write about a "Hippie School". This school had some Waldorf characteristics. The most important thing, though, was that it was actually run by  the parents. The parents took an active role in organization, curriculum, planning and even maintenance. this was done on an unbelievably low budget.

    2.) Democratic Free Schools I mentioned above put the emphasis on letting the child choose what he or she wishes to learn at any one moment. This is not unsupervised or unguided. Adults are there to assist in learning but what to learn is left up to the child. The other emphasis of this school is making the children govern themselves--even to the point of making the rules, dishing out punishment and choosing which educators will return next year. You might be surprised how that works out in most cases. You might be able to visit such a school near you by checking this list.

    3.) Unschooling has a similar emphasis.

    4.) Ivon Illich describes a system where school is not at all compulsory but available for the taking for anyone at any time. Age appropriate learning centers are available for the young but no effort is made to force children to attend. As people grow older, much of their learning occurs through groups like this one or lectures on the internet. (I learned to knit from You Tube so don't laugh, it worked quite well actually.) A bulletin board like Craig's List for education provides a space for those who wish to teach and those who wish to learn to meet. All this is subsidized by gov funds and an economy of credits--you get credits for teaching and spend them at learning.

    Just some interesting suggestions. What do you think?

    De air is de air. What can be done?

    by TPau on Sun Nov 13, 2011 at 04:42:10 PM PST

  •  I am apparently in the autism specrum, (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    NY brit expat

    it seems to me.

    I get high on analyzing things.

    I am smart,
    so I did okay in school
    without trying very hard.

    What I remember
    of my childhood years,
    my teenage years,
    is that I spent a lot of time daydreaming.

    I spent a lot of time assembling jigsaw puzzles.

    I spent a lot of time reading
    National Geographic,
    and Newsweek.

    I still spend a lot of time
    reading newspaper articles,
    and magazine articles.

    I spend a lot of time reading articles
    here on Daily Kos,
    and other places on the internet,
    when I get curious,
    and research something.

    I get high on analyzing things.

    So,
    ironically,
    analyzing educational methods
    is hard for me to do,
    because my own method,
    for me,
    is probably not well suited to the typical student.

    However,
    I find myself drawn
    to the idea
    of a media blitz,
    aimed at parents,
    pounding into them
    to ask their children questions,
    to challenge them,
    to ask them how they can make the world,
    soon to be their world,
    a better place.

    Then,
    maybe,
    the children will learn
    to read
    in order to gather information
    on how to fix the world.

    •  hey bigjac ... haven't seen you in a while (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      bigjacbigjacbigjac

      missed your work ... glad to see you!

      "Hegel noticed somewhere that all great world history facts and people so to speak twice occur. He forgot to add: the one time as tragedy, the other time as farce" Karl Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte .

      by NY brit expat on Mon Nov 14, 2011 at 06:55:04 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  My dear brit, thank you so much, for the welcome (0+ / 0-)

        words.

        I thrive on such words.

        In my face to face world,
        since I'm long winded,
        and often amongst folks
        not very well educated,
        (who have trouble understanding me,
        maybe?)
        they ridicule me,
        laugh at me,
        or try to shut me up.

        It always feels good
        to hear that my words are welcome
        to someone.

        Thanks again.

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