Steven Singer: Who is education for?
Pennsylvania teacher Steven Singer asks the fundamental question-exactly who should schools be serving? Reposted with permission.
Everyday we send our children to school.
In whose interest are we sending our kids to school?
Is it for businesses so that they’ll have the kinds of workers they need?
Is it so that our students’ educations will align with the demands of industry?
Or is it for the children? So they’ll become mature, intelligent adults capable of independent thought and making rational decisions?
Who, after all, is this education for?
I mean our society has jobs that need doing and people need to do those jobs or we won’t survive – but is that really the overriding, predominant impetus behind school? Survival?
Are we primarily helping the economy by subjecting our kids to the classroom? Or are we doing something to benefit THEM?
Is there a value in being educated? A value to the person who has become educated?
Does it provide any advantage to a person to know things? To be able to think about things? To be able to express oneself in writing? To be able to make calculations? To use logic and reason? To know history? To be able to read and comprehend what one’s read? To form an educated opinion on what one’s read? To know and practice the scientific method? To express one’s creativity? To do any of a hundred other things kids learn in school?
Or are we just filling the factories with button pushers to keep smoke spilling out of the chimneys?
It’s more than two decades past the millennium, and I can’t believe I still have to ask such questions.
But I do. Because nearly every day some policymaker, pundit, billionaire or other over-privileged talking head feels free to answer these questions wrong.
Five minutes alone in the dark and the answers are inescapable. But these guys (and it’s usually men) don’t have that kind of time or integrity.
It could be the CEO of the world’s largest petroleum company. Or the President of the United States. Or the Secretary of Education.
In what they say, what they do, what they promise, what they ponder in earshot of the press, they show a persistent ignorance of what education is and who it is for.
They think it’s something that can be adequately measured by standardized tests. Something that can be improved by competition. Something that is supposed to earn them money.
So they get the answer wrong. Every time.
I’m tired of telling them the truth. I’m tired of correcting them. Because they don’t care to be corrected. They have a fixed conception of the world, and understanding the truth about education might make that all come tumbling down.
“The unexamined life is not worth living.”
Socrates is purported to have said that 2,400 years ago.
It’s not exactly news.
What’s the purpose of life if you don’t think about things?
But no matter how much money they have, the plutocrats can’t afford to think about things. And they certainly can’t afford for YOU or your children to think about things.
What would happen if we all went around examining our lives? Would we still submit to being cogs in an economy designed to benefit them and not us?
Would we still show up everyday to jobs we hate for salaries incapable of paying the bills?
Would we still shop constantly to fill the aching void in our hearts, not thinking but just re-enacting the American mantra of consume, Consume, CONSUME!?
Would we still worship the rich like gods regardless of the reality – their immature actions, their crude posturing, their obvious amoral banality?
Would we still pretend that skin color determines character, that nationality determines morality, that sex determines temperament, that biology determines gender, that rationality determines politics?
Would we still vote for one of two prepackaged, preconceived, preprocessed options neither of which will actually do what we know needs done but one of which will hurt us and the other of which will hurt others more or not hurt us worse than we already are?
The answers are obvious. We all know. You don’t need me to tell you.
Just like the purpose of education.
It is the most dangerous thing in the world to the status quo.
Education, learning, thought is a cocoon. And no one knows what will come crawling out after the metamorphosis.
No one controls education. Not even the educator.
So how can we let anyone truly be educated? They might end up different – different from their parents, different from their congregations, their friends, neighbors, society.
Who is education for?
For whom would we risk all this?
Who is worth such danger, such terror, such uncertainty?
You know who.