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Philosophical Meanderings

Mandatory Education Is Not Cruel and Unusual Punishment

Cross posted from my blog, Blogging Through the Fourth Dimension

An interesting debate has been sparked in the comments section of my post “Not Grading is Awful” here on the Cooperative Catalyst, with some people stating that forced school is inhumane.  I have been pondering this for a bit and I must say I disagree; having an educational system that is mandatory is not inhumane, not having one would be.  And neither is forcing courses on students, it all comes down to how those courses are taught, which incidentally is something we do have a bit of control over.

Now I know that we are tied to standards and district regulations, the politicians are breathing down our neck to raise test scores and there are, indeed, major flaws within our educational system, and yet…There are many things we can change within the public school setting.  I did.  But back to the original point that forced courses or mandatory education is cruel and unusual punishment and that students should have a free reign instead over what they study and how.  I disagree.  I think students should be expected to take certain classes simply because education is what rounds us out at human beings.  Particularly in the primary grades.  I loved climbing trees as a child and could have spent most of my days outside roaming around with my knife, and yes because of school I couldn’t pursue that all day, however, that childhood passion would certainly not have led me down the path of teaching.  Instead going through school and having a foundation to do further studies on led me to where I am.  Children may have the curiosity to explore, and that should never be stifled, however, we must support that curiosity with basic common knowledge and a well-rounded worldview.

So some may argue that there is no point in knowing historical facts that do not directly relate to whatever we end up pursuing as a career.  Some may argue that much of math is arbitrary for most people who simply do not end up using it.  Some even say that grammar and how to write an essay is superfluous knowledge that does us no good.  I disagree.  I think all of these lead us to where we end up.  I think knowledge as a whole is needed to be a citizen, to be a knowledgeable member of society, to be respected and accepted.  So I may not remember all of the days of grammar drilling, or spelling lines, or even math facts, but I see the result of them; me teaching it to my students but trying to make it more interesting.

I think we sometimes mistake the whole notion of “education for all” as flawed, where instead we should be focusing in on the parts that are.  Drill and kill, sometimes that is a necessary component, such as in math facts.  Teacher talking, yep that too.  However, how we teach becomes just as important as what we teach.   And that is something we all have control over in this endless debate of education policy.

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About Pernille Ripp

I am a passionate 5th grade teacher in Middleton, Wisconsin, USA, proud techy geek, and mass consumer of incredible books. Creator of the Global Read Aloud Project, Co-founder of EdCamp MadWI, and believer in all children. I have no awards or accolades except for the lightbulbs that go off in my students' heads every day. First book “The Passionate Learner - Giving Our Classroom Back to Our Students Starting Today” will be released this fall from PLPress. Follow me on Twitter @PernilleRipp.

Discussion

25 thoughts on “Mandatory Education Is Not Cruel and Unusual Punishment

  1. I agree, Pernille, that eliminating mandatory education would be more inhumane than keeping it. As an urban educator, I see many of the students in Philadelphia leave school when they are legally allowed and end up continuing the cycle of poverty in their families. Many of their home lives are not educationally enriching and do not offer them stability to ‘follow their passions,’ nevermind discover them. That is not to say that there aren’t amazing families in impoverished neighborhoods with nurturing and supportive home structures, but many families in these neighborhoods have to work doubly hard to keep their children on a successful and positive path for their futures.

    I also believe that quality schools provide resources that many families could not provide for their children..computers, Internet, a gym, music instruction, art supplies, and sometimes a free meal.

    Granted, many schools here in Philly are complicit in the “schools to prison pipeline,” so there is a lot of work to be done, but to eliminate mandatory public education would hurt my students more than the current system, even as it exists.

    Posted by marybethhertz | June 14, 2012, 8:11 am
  2. While I think access and opportunity should be a mandatory requirement the people place on government for equitable education, when I think about anything – including drill and kill being a necessity, I wonder, for whom? Cui bono? Can we not imagine learning without schooling as it generally is, which is not very human or humane? I agree that learners make all kinds of connections to help them learn, communicate, and achieve their own goals, but I don’t agree that schools, curricula, or even other people should deliver the “right” connections to kids.

    That the system depends on compassionate teachers to make standardized education look humane reflects poorly on the system. I hope that one day we make a variety of choices available to kids so that they can all learn in a place that recognizes their humanity and values their questions and connections. It’s not that kids won’t pursue those connections, it’s that we set up school (and society) to make some kids complicit in both our delivery of pro-gatekeeper connections and our separation of those kids from those who dare resist.

    There is a dark trove of societal forces to unpack here – for some kids mandatory education as it is contributes to academic and disciplinary issues that lead to dropping out or and/or incarceration.

    I won’t argue against the idea of teachers making a positive difference in kids lives by providing kids with opportunities for personally meaningful, authentic education. I will argue against mandatory participation in the standardization of education in public schools.

    Thoughts?

    All the best,
    C

    Posted by Chad Sansing | June 14, 2012, 11:55 am
    • Chad,

      …I’ll take “a dark trove of societal forces to unpack” for $1000, and add “an incredibly complex and intertwined mess” for the bonus bucks…

      Brent

      Posted by Brent Snavely | June 14, 2012, 12:53 pm
    • “There is a dark trove of societal forces to unpack here”–exactly. I don’t think we can have a conversation about changing the way we do school until we have unpacked some of these forces. Until it is safe for children to walk down their block, until there are safe spaces for children to learn from each other and from adults, and enough educated adults with time to commit to these kids, then schools will continue along the path they’ve already been traveling. I imagine a lot of the stories from Walk Out Walk On. When will enough blighted, struggling neighborhoods be ready to stop thinking that someone else will solve their problems and begin to build these safe spaces for young people so that we can begin to re-imagine what “school” could be on a larger scale? It’s very easy to proselytize from afar about what would be better for our kids in these neighborhoods (I, too, am sickened by the lack of passion-driven education and the amount of drill and kill they are forced to endure.), but it is another to sit back and look at the real scope.

      So, as the book states, we can ‘start anywhere.’ I wonder, where do we start? Is there one right way? Is there one right starting place? How do you change an entire system with so many interlocking pieces (poverty, violence, drug addiction, lack of resources, federal mandates, lack of role models, over-worked but loving single parents, children raising themselves….). Can we change an entire system or is it more worth it to start somewhere, understanding that ending mandatory education is only a piece in the puzzle, that may or may not fall into place?

      Posted by marybethhertz | June 14, 2012, 5:36 pm
      • I worry about waiting for the conversation – let’s just change everything we can wherever we can as quickly as we can. That ought to start a conversation or two with our kids, their parents, and our supervisors :)

        Best,
        C

        Posted by Chad Sansing | June 14, 2012, 7:47 pm
  3. My thinking align close to Chad. I do think we need to have access available to everyone, which I don’t believe is happening now. Access to quality education is not the norm.

    However, I do think that mandatory education is based on fear. No judgement in this statement. I believe we have a fear as adults that if we don’t offer the path for students that they will miss something. I am not sure they will. I don’t think the system of schooling we have now offers well rounded education. I think that well rounded education can be learned outside of school. I also think well rounded and democratic life would include an extremely different type of school, or maybe no school at all. More on that later, do see Dewey Outlines Utopia

    http://books.google.com/books?id=99ODQw2I47IC&lpg=PA136&vq=Utopia&pg=PA136&output=embed

    Personally I see way more people who have only learned how to be in school, how to be led down a path, to be fearful of risk, mistakes, and not knowing.

    That being said, I also see a fear coming from unschoolers and people who believe school is inhumane. This fear is based on the belief that one can only truly love learning if it comes from complete freedom. I don’t believe this to be true.

    What i see education evolving to is a mixture of small learning tribes that allow for structured and unstructured learning. I don’t think you need to make this learning compulsory, but we should make it part of the way of life.

    I truly believe that learning together is a compelling way to live, I don’t think it would go away just because it was not mandated.

    Actually my fear lies with schools going away because they are no longer meaningful and engaging places to learn.

    My work is to help the transition towards a more evolved and transform living and learning. I often see my positive vision of living and learning in schools and often I see it at library full of learners, or in backyards, or in small groups of children talking to elders in the community. I see it self organized classes like Skill Share, and places like the Cooperative Catalyst, and twitter. I see it in young peoples and adults doing project and passion based learning both in and outside of classrooms, I see it in the Occupy Movement and community learning programs.

    I don’t see it in classes rooms full of desks, or allotted learning times from 8am-3 monday-friday, September- June.

    I don’t think life long learning means you go to school for 15 years and then your done. I think life long learning is a way of life that does not need to be mandated, but instead must be encouraged, supported and celebrated.

    What are we really saying when we say we don’t trust you to see the meaningfulness of learning together?

    This just became a post! Thanks for starting this conversation!

    David

    Posted by dloitz | June 14, 2012, 1:17 pm
    • David, I think you have touched on something important. Fear a is a motivator and a paralyzing force at the same time. Right now, it is motivating the wrong kinds of actions in education and paralyzing those that might make changes.

      I also do not want schools to go away. There is something to be said about a shared space for learning that is not held in your home. People want to congregate. This is why people sit in coffee shops to work instead of sitting in their house. This is why we have Edcamps and conferences. This is why community organizations need space to talk out ideas (though in the South Philly Food Co-op’s beginnings, this meant that we were huddled in someone’s row home living room). It’s not important what the space looks like or whether it has desks or tables or just a floor (my senior year of high school I attended most of my classes sitting on a floor with no desk or chairs), as long as it is equipped with the appropriate learning tools.

      What I think paralyzes a lot of people is the fear of who would children learn from? Children already learn from the people in their lives. They can learn a wide spectrum of things from their families and neighborhoods. However, they can learn to keep their neighborhood clean, or they can learn to sweep their trash into the gutter. They can learn honesty and kindness, or they can learn how to lie and steal to get what they want. They can learn to embrace diversity, or to hate those who don’t look like them. They can also learn to care for others and their neighborhood and then teach others why this is important to do. It depends on the teacher and the learner in each situation. That is the fear–the fear that things like this cannot be controlled.

      School helps calm that fear because, in its present state, it can be controlled. So how do we ensure that future generations prosper and protect the freedoms they have and care for each other (read: be good citizens) and at the same time allow young people to learn from whomever they wish wherever they can? Maybe that is the paralyzing question.

      Posted by marybethhertz | June 14, 2012, 6:32 pm
  4. I agree with Pernille, I do not think that students (elementary and secondary) should choose what they learn. Should they have input in how they learn, yes. Thisbisbthe reason for the move from teacher-centered classrooms to student-centered classrooms. Students this young don’t realize they need to be well rounded and in order to be well rounded they need to experience a multitude of classes(sociology, foreign languages, computer classes, gym, tech classes, etc.).

    When I was completing my masters degree, we talked about this specific subject and one of my comments was that students need an explaination of why they are learning what they are. The reasoning of “because I said so,” “because I had to when I was your age,” and the like, does not cut it. Students need an answer that makes sense, whether they agree with it or not.

    On the other hand, students in college getting their undergrad degree should have a choice. Now I know that some of you reading this will say that they do, but I remember taking a singing class for my undergrad and I knew I was not going to pursue singing, after all I had already chosen a major in secondary education. I think that another reason is because when you add in the factor of paying for an education the student should be paying for what they want, not the extra classes the school wants you to take. If it is a matter of credits, then there are certainly more classes within the chosen major that students can take instead of the nonsense classes.

    Posted by Jodi | June 15, 2012, 9:13 am
  5. So who should choose? And who should decide what is past down? Does this not just continue the dominance of those in power?

    Posted by dloitz | June 15, 2012, 12:47 pm
  6. Disagree. Rote learning does not make a student well-rounded. The knowledge required to be a “well rounded citizen” comes from experiencing real life, which you’re sheltered from in schools. Children who homeschool very often turn out to be self-motivated, more mature and personable with adults than their public-school counterparts, and have no trouble with college admissions. You’ll find example after example of this in the archives of Growing Without Schooling (founded by John Holt): http://www.holtgws.com/gwsarchives.html

    You’re acting like without coercion, students will simply sit around and do nothing. That’s insane. Children are experts at learning – inherently curious creatures.

    Posted by Nicholas Perez | June 15, 2012, 3:02 pm
  7. I gotta say I completely agree with Nicholas. I was public schooled through 7th grade and private prep schooled from 8-12. Even though my graduating class at my prep school was 18 people, that small school with it’s ability to give us a lot more one on one with the teachers, was still a colossal waste of my time. My time there also convinced me that I hated reading and writing. I had so many books, I hated, to read, and so many stupid essays to write, that I wanted neither when I graduated. Btw, I was a good student with good grades.

    I was in my 20’s when I read my first book for pleasure…Jane Eyre. That book would have made no sense to me at 15, but at 25 it was life changing. And it wasn’t until I was 40 that, through blogging, I realized that, not only did I like to write, I was good at it. As a result of my school experiences, my kids are homeschooled…and unschooled at that. Learning that happens when the learner is passionate about it, is NEVER forgotten.

    What I find kind of sad about this post is that the author states that without being forced to go to school she would have climbed trees all day. And she felt that doing that all day wouldn’t have helped prepare her for life like she believes school did. Also, that without school she wouldn’t have become a teacher. I can’t help wondering what if she did climb trees all day and didn’t go to school? She might very well have developed an interest in the kind of trees she was climbing, where they grow and why, what other kinds of trees would be fun to climb and where they grow, how to plant and take care of trees…etc. She might very well have ended up as an Arborist at a State (or National) Park, here in the US or abroad. She might have spent her days teaching people, who were really interested, in how to plant and care for trees. She will never know, because she was forced to go to school. A place, in which, she decided to become a teacher. As a result she now has to enforce the necessary ‘drill& kill’ on students who would, most likely, rather be climbing trees.

    Posted by Rachel | June 15, 2012, 5:18 pm
  8. As the author of this post I would like to not be personally attacked. Since I am perfectly happy with my schooling and what I went through, and also where I ended up, I don’t think it is relevant or even fair to say that it makes you sad that I didn’t get to climb trees all day. I am not against home schooling or unschooling when it is done well, just like I am not against public schooling when it is done well. I think we need to be careful with very broad statements when it comes to how our whole educational system is a massive failure, sure there are components that need to be changed, but not all schools are miserable places to be in, just as not all homeschooling environments create passionate, curiosity driven young people. I have never said, nor do I believe that without coercion students will do nothing, if you knew me, had been in my classroom, or even just read my blog, you would see how false of a statement that is.

    Posted by Pernille Ripp | June 15, 2012, 5:25 pm
  9. Why make schools mandatory? Why not make them so good that students want to be there?

    Posted by Lisa Michelle Nielsen | June 15, 2012, 6:12 pm
  10. I don’t intend to personally attack anyone, but there are a few common notions that I think need to be laid to rest:

    – “Well-rounded”. I think this is a tired buzzword and I’d love for you to elaborate on what you mean. In particular, I’d like to see an example of a person who has a non-well-roundedness problem due to a lack of schooling (and if your best example involves high-poverty life in the hood, there are other reasons for that, which schools typically do not succeed in solving).

    – The notion that independent learning curricula are less diverse than school curricula is wrong. It’s individualized, often more specialized, but ultimately far more diverse. I skipped school to learn about software development, computer hardware, audio engineering (when I interned in a recording studio), why humanitarian aid in Africa doesn’t work (when I worked with a Senegalese entrepreneur to start a skincare company), cooking (beats the cafeteria lunch), video production (helping out with music videos), mathematics and physics (when I was really into writing my own computer games), digital signal processing (when I wrote my own virtual instruments and effects). I did all of this while society said I should have been gaining a wide range of experiences in a school classroom. If you were in my position, you wouldn’t want to throw away all of those experiences either.

    I learn about the parts of history that I’m interested in – Gandhi, how we killed off the Native Americans, Buddhism, the history of electronic music, the history of mandatory schooling. Ultimately, it all adds up to something that one might describe as well-rounded.

    We disagree, but I suspect you might figure it out over the years. I’ve spoken to and read the words of too many veteran teachers who describe starting out with so much enthusiasm to share knowledge with the world, and then they become more and more jaded as they realize that the system is broken. Then they start reading John Holt. Et cetera.

    Posted by Nicholas Perez | June 15, 2012, 6:21 pm
    • Lets remember that the cooperative catalyst is a community of practice and critical friends group. I am glad Pernille hosted this conversation here. We don’t disagree enough at the Coop and often conversations like these can really challenge us to not get too comfortable in our beliefs. I think everyone’s comments bring up different points that are strong. This is a complex issue, I don’t think there is an either/or answers. I think it is one of the big questions of schooling and education and one that must continue to be debated.

      I have read John Holt and Summerhill and much of the unschooling literature. It was my dream to open an Sudbury Valley school. I understand the unschooling point of view. However I do think some unschoolers are not always comfortable talking about issues of access, social justice and codes of powers. Often I feel when promoting unschooling and passion based education, we forget to move beyond our own narrow box. This is not a judgement.

      I do vision a world where learning outside and inside a school valued and celebrate in the same way. I do vision a world in which schools look completely different and some the same. I think amazing things happen both with a group and by one self. I do believe in synergy, and guides and some structures. I hope that we can create an world where schooling would not be mandatory and would be built on a foundation of discussion and relationship. The relationship will allow for an open and honest discussion about WHAT and WHY we educate our children and ourselves.

      Please remember to discuss the issues and question brought up in this post .

      David

      Posted by dloitz | June 15, 2012, 7:18 pm
      • Yes, perhaps I’m coming off as being a bit too dogmatic.

        I actually didn’t know what the unschooling movement was until fairly recently. I’m not the type to suggest that everyone adopt my philosophy, but there are some situations that I’ve personally experienced that make this a somewhat emotional social justice and youth rights issue for me. Rather than homeschooling, I skipped compulsory schooling to educate myself. Every possible attack on my decision followed, from prescription medications that made me sick to legal threats and talk of having me taken away from my family and put in a foster home. I enjoyed showing up for the classes that interested me, but ultimately the compulsory aspect is what made me decide to drop out.

        In Japan, the suicide of overworked and bullied schoolchildren is a major problem. In Germany, families who want to educate their own children instead of sending them to school will probably have to flee the country. You’re probably aware of this already.

        While I agree that a wide range of basic skills is preferable over a lack of basic skills, I don’t think this is something that can occur through compulsion. I don’t think that the time commitment of public schooling is preferable over the time commitment of volunteer work, internships, apprenticeships, etc.

        I welcome those who offer an opposing viewpoint, but it’s important to avoid discrediting the drive, knowledgeability, and career success of those who learn on their own terms. The word ‘mandatory’ is a powerful one, which I think requires a powerful and detailed justification when applied to the entire population of a large country or state.

        Posted by Nicholas Perez | June 15, 2012, 8:27 pm
  11. I honestly don’t see how their can be disagreement.

    In a free and democratic society, why would we make schooling (which often means compliance and going against what you know is best) mandatory? I am pro choice for Americans. If someone disagrees and thinks mandatory school is peachy, that is fine. Let them, or their kids go to school, but why force others to do the same? Live and let live. In a democratic society why on earth do we believe we have the right to impose our beliefs upon every citizen in the nation?

    Posted by Lisa Michelle Nielsen | June 15, 2012, 8:31 pm
    • Well said, Lisa! We cannot cling to the idea that each and every citizen is entitled to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness if we also adhere to the mandatory lifestyle imposed by compulsory education. The two are mutually exclusive.

      Posted by Amie W. | June 18, 2012, 1:50 pm
  12. Pernille, you expressed an opinion, and others formed opinions about your opinion. If you didn’t want to hear people’s opinions about your opinion, maybe you should have thought twice about posting it in public. If someone here wants to feel sad that you couldn’t climb trees as much as you wanted — they have that RIGHT. And your original post, which is shot full of punctuation and grammar errors, proves that force-feeding you language arts did not result in your learning it — which kind of makes the point of the non-schoolers. Some people love to learn. I was/am one of them. What I learned, I learned well, which is why my post here will NOT be shot full of punctuation and grammar errors. I was, however, unmotivated to learn history, and therefore I did NOT learn history. I’m horrible at names and dates; I thought it the biggest waste of time and still feel that way. I love READING about history but I refuse to MEMORIZE irrelevant details.

    The current public school system, especially under NCLB rules, attempts to coerce learning onto kids who may march to a different drummer. But because of the standards and the testing, and the emphasis on standards and testing, most kids will never have a chance to hear the right “drum” for them because they are so busy each school day being spoon-fed a uniform bowl of mush that the state has decreed is the only mush they are allowed to be fed, and that they must be fed it, and they must eat it all, and they must excrete it in the form of uniform little balls of dung because if all the balls of dung are not alike then they were not fed the mush correctly and punishment must begin — not of the children, but of the school who attempted to feed mush to a child who is at his core a carnivore with no interest in eating mush.

    Yes, some kids thrive and few died from their public education but it certainly is NOT the only way to raise a happy, well-adjusted, self-sufficient, and, to use your own term “well-rounded” adult. Because we’re not raising children; we are raising ADULTS. And there should be flexibility in how those adults are turned out because, after all, this is a FREE country and it is impossible to exercise your right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness when your life is controlled by the government, your liberty is curtailed by truancy laws, and you cannot pursue happiness because the rigid syllabus laid out by the government did not allow you to learn that the thing your heart truly desired even existed because it wasn’t part of the lesson plan.

    Posted by Debra Speakes | June 18, 2012, 3:09 pm
    • Hi Debra,
      Or perhaps my many punctuation errors and grammar errors have to do with the fact that English is my second language. I have never said that all children have to go through public education to be successful, however, if you would like to think that to make your own point, please go ahead. I for one will not be attacking people over their opinion but do appreciate the discussion it generates. It is great to question and it is ok to disagree. Some times people tend to forget that.

      Pernille

      Posted by Pernille Ripp | June 18, 2012, 3:14 pm
      • Okay . . . if English is your second language, were you educated in the United States? I was under the impression this post of yours to which I was referred was about schooling in the United States where there is a lot of controversy right now about the No Child Left Behind act that has forced public schools into a rigid lesson plan with too much emphasis on test scores and little room for individuality or originality. My apologies if you are referring to education in another country. The title of your article suggests that you believe it’s okay to force education onto children, regardless of their ability or desires or long-term goals. My point is that the FORCE does not always result in LEARNING, thus my comments about grammar and punctuation — if it was forced on someone who didn’t like grammar and they did not learn it, and I learned it well because my interests lay in that direction so I WANTED to learn it, what is the benefit of forcing it?

        Posted by Debra Speakes | June 18, 2012, 3:31 pm
        • I was college educated in the United States and I am a public school teacher here. However, let’s not kid ourselves, your comment about my grammar and punctuation was not to point out flaws in the public school system but rather to point out flaws in me and my post.

          What I find sad is that in this endless debate of public versus home school, we seem to think that there has to be two sides, whereas it might just be that both sides provide an excellent education in some instances, and both sides sometimes fail. Even homeschooling a child is forcing them into an education. And I agree, force does not always result in learning, however, putting children through an education should be mandatory, whether it be public or not. I choose to fight and create a worthwhile education for my students within the system because I believe we can change the system, particularly since all children are expected to be educated in some capacity. I refuse to say that public schools are the only way, just as I refuse to say that home schooling is the only way, I wish others could be as nuanced. I wonder if you even read the original post that this debate sprang from or if that even would matter.

          Posted by Pernille Ripp | June 18, 2012, 5:29 pm
  13. Oh, I read it all right. This is what I read and reacted to: “I think students should be expected to take certain classes simply because education is what rounds us out at human beings.”

    Really?

    There is a lot more than forced education that rounds us out AS human beings. People were rounded out as human beings long before it occurred to anyone to set up schools and lessons and force children into a uniform body of knowledge. LIVING rounds us out as human beings. Being exposed to different ideas, experiences, cultures, employment opportunities, activities, challenges, points of view, and even religious differences round us out as human beings. Force does not enter into the equation, and can actually work against it by setting up resistance.

    Maybe you might have said “education HELPS to round us out” or “education is ONE OF THE THINGS that rounds us out as human beings” and I wouldn’t have argued with you at all, but saying “education IS WHAT rounds us out” implies that all the other things in our lives don’t contribute to that very desirable end result.

    Sure, I’ll agree that the more one knows, the better off and more well-rounded one will be. But people learn things in many ways, and I would be willing to bet that we learn things better when we can approach the subject on our own terms, and not by force. I know I do. The one thing I was FORCED to learn that I didn’t want to learn, had no interest in, and which had no relevance to me was a calculus class I had to take as part of my accounting degree. And I will tell you that while I scraped a C in that class by the skin of my teeth (I graduated with a 3.8 GPA on a 4 point scale, so there were only maybe 2 other C’s on my transcript), the moment I put my pencil down after the final it was like I hit a delete key in my brain and erased the entire semester. I HATED that class — and with my insatiable love of learning I can honestly say it was the only class I ever took that I hated. But it demonstrates the point that someone being forced to learn is not going to retain much unless there is an immediate relevance to them of the material. So what’s the point of force? Kids naturally love to learn. But there are other ways for them to learn than by having it crammed down their throats by force.

    Posted by Debra Speakes | June 18, 2012, 7:18 pm
    • A quick reminder that we pay special attention to tone here at the Coöp – all of our readers, bloggers, and lurkers are considered treasured parts of our community, so we expect one another to treat each other as such. We have a very low threshold for trolling, but a very high appreciation of being challenged. I would invite you, Debra, to read around broadly in the comments on several posts to get a feel for our norms in communicating with one another. I think “…there are other ways for them to learn than by having it crammed down their throats by force” is a great response that contributes to our ongoing debate about the role of schools in learning and education. I think “Oh, I read it all right,” is unnecessarily combative. I hope you will stick with us and offer us much more of your thinking, Debra. I do, however, delete uncivil comments without remorse once I have had the chance to explain my position as moderator. We are here for the ideas and the camaraderie of working through problems together; we are not here to score rhetorical points off one another. I would rather lose phrases like, “Of, I read it all right,” than the entirety of your comments.

      And, if it means anything, as moderator I am unconcerned with grammatical errors that don’t take too much away from a Coöp author’s meaning. I am proud that we err on the side of giving voice to a diverse corps of thinkers.

      All the best,
      C

      Posted by Chad Sansing | June 21, 2012, 12:06 pm
  14. I gave long thought to your post because it is tightly packed with all sorts of goodies.

    While growing up, those of us here likely had instilled in us a deep and abiding reverence toward education. Having steeped in a culture where the goodness of education was and is touted as self-evident and where individual hard-work and perseverance is to be a pathway to success, I fear that “we the educated” largely ignore that many youths are completely screwed, firmly fixed in place by iterations of class status and culture that have been passed down over the generations.

    Notwithstanding the education myth’s strength and allure, education seems neither a ticket to success nor even a pathway to earning liveable wages these days (one need only look about to see a large number of unemployed, yet degreed, individuals). Instead, it seems to act as a buffer that both mediates and maintains lines of familial class status passed from parents-to-children, and the progeny seldom cross those lines – some do “beat the odds”, but most will remain within their confines.

    Perhaps mandatory education is not cruel and unusual punishment, but for youths who see the writing on the wall and wonder why they should comply with mandates (Anyon & Greene, 2007; Bettis, 1996; Taylor, 2002) an education that involves a one-size-fits-all standardized curricula may constitute unusually cruel treatment.

    Anyon, J., & Greene, K. (2007). No Child Left Behind as an anti-poverty measure. Teacher Education Quarterly, 34(2), 157-162.
    Bettis, P. J. (1996). Urban students, liminality, and the postindustrial context. Sociology of Education, 69(2), 105-125.
    Taylor, A. (2002). I honestly can’t see the point: Youth negotiation of the ideology of school completion. Journal of Education Policy, 17(5), 511-529. doi:10.1080/02680930210158294

    Best,
    Brent

    Posted by Brent Snavely | August 8, 2012, 12:36 pm

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