Wake up America! It seems our so-called “education system” may actually be doing more harm than good. Of course, this isn’t exactly breaking news to the millions of parents now home schooling their kids. A number that’s skyrocketed, by the way, over the past two decades.
What the heck is going on? If the schools were doing their job, then why are so many parents – who tend to be smart, savvy, highly educated parents from the upper social classes – pulling their children out of public schools in droves? Unless, maybe, schools are doing their….(shhh) actual: however unstated….job all too well. Let me explain.
The problem with schools, as I see it, is that they’re rooted in an antiquated 19th century model that’s become obsolete. This outmoded idea of mass schooling sees students as passive recipients of knowledge, not active meaning makers. It rolls them along as if on a factory assembly line, changing classes when the bell rings, meekly filling in the blanks, denying them a sense of agency, purpose, and voice. Students leave school unable to articulate their own ideas and stories.
Such a model of creativity-killing education, which all the major educational thinkers from John Dewey to my dear friend Maxine Greene were against, fosters a depressed, compliant, and passive population. Which is great for would be tyrants and the manufacturers of Prozac, but very bad for ordinary people and democracy.
When you consider the myriad of problems we face as a society, from massive wealth inequality to school shootings to the nuclear threat to alienation and the withering of community—just for starters—you have to wonder: Why are our politicians and public intellectuals not connecting the dots between these crises and our broken education system? Well, hopefully they will, once they read this letter!
Oh, and BTW, the debut of my one-man show…..also titled “A Real Education”….was a spectacular success at Symposia Bookstore last week. Even though only one person showed up! We wound up having a wonderful dialogue, refreshed our hopes, shared our stories; and look, it even gave me a nice little story to share with the community.
Moving forward, I urge people to check out Richard Dreyfuss’ amazing program for civics education, which he created after studying the subject at Oxford. I’ve been working with Richard and wish him great success. Yes, the man who sank the great white shark in Jaws has now taken aim at the monster of civic illiteracy, which threatens to destroy our democracy. Go get ‘em Richard!
My wife and I are also building an alternative to our bureaucratized education system with a nonprofit TV show, “Public Voice Salon,” that combines elements of an entertaining talk show with a deeper, humanistic, soul-enriching, and intellectual aspect. We promise there are no grades and no tests! Only, we hope, lots of inspiration and transformation! What are your thoughts on what a real education for the 21st century ought to be? I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.