The challenge of school
Most thoughtful people would agree that the purpose of any nation’s schools is to prepare its young people to be productive members of their society. Of THAT nation’s society. Thus, while Japanese students may learn Chinese as a second language, they are not being prepared to become members of Chinese society.
Naturally, the more authoritarian the society is, the easier it is to prescribe a particular curriculum to fit that authority’s needs. Nazi Germany and Stalin-era Russia come to mind.
It is also true that the more homogeneous society is, the easier it is to prepare all students at the same speed. Using Japan as an example again, more than 90% of their students all come from the same culture, language, and mindset. Thus, teachers can present the same classroom materials to everyone at the same speed.
Of course, American society is anything but authoritarian or homogenous. We are the product of scores of different cultures, languages, and belief systems. And yet, over the years we have done a pretty good job of transforming most of the students into productive Americans, with a unified sense of what our country was about and what their place in it was.…
Starting about 60 years ago, schools became the proving ground for each new social experiment that came down the pike. After the Russians beat us to space with Sputnik, there was a rush to beef up the math and science curriculum, which was a good thing. But: does anybody remember the “new math”? Then that went away, only to be replaced by “common core“ math.
These days, schools are called on to shoulder many other responsibilities previous generations left to parents or the church. Teachers now must instruct the students in “character“ since apparently no place else will the kids learn right from wrong. The schools are now restaurants as well, providing breakfast and lunch often for free for every child. Does anybody still cook at home?
Now there are those who would have our children pay for the misdeeds of their elders. They would have us abandon the American story as a racist falsehood. They would pit one culture against another, suggest one skin color is inferior simply by accident of birth. This new authoritarian regime would ban all other modes of thought.
No. Not here. We will not be likened to Nazi Germany or Stalinist Russia. We will teach our children to think for themselves, to recognize the mistakes our country has made, learn from them, and never forget. There must be more good than bad in our society, or millions of people from elsewhere wouldn’t risk their lives trying to get here.
I was proud to work in our local school system for more than 20 years. We do a good job preparing our kids to become productive Americans. Other places could learn a thing or two from our example.
The challenge of school