Reforming Education

The educational system in America (and probably to an extent in many other countries as well) has one major problem: it’s not primarily about education.

Here’s the process: a student sits in a seat in front of a teacher. The teacher describes the assignment. The primary responsibility of the student is to *follow the assignment*.

Here’s an analogy: let’s say you tell someone to go to a store and buy a gallon of milk. Your range of grades, from A to F, may be determined by several factors: the time it takes him to do this, the price he paid for the milk, the resources he used on the way, or others.

The entire range of grades is framed by a very narrow procedure: the necessity of getting the milk. Let’s say that instead of getting the milk the student decides that helping a cat out of a tree is more important. He may even give the milk to the cat instead of returning it. What grade does he get?

From experience I’ll tell you: usually either a C or a D. Not following instructions is considered the biggest problem by those who call themselves educators. It would be an F if not for the benefits of helping cats and giving them milk. Educators aren’t heartless.

Take a look at the comparison between two students: one who blindly follows instructions and one who thinks for himself: since the first student doesn’t need to put any energy into thinking he can maximize his efficiency in obtaining the milk, thus maximizing his grade. EVEN IF the other student carries out his assignment he does so while considering the world and it’s many possibilities, thus lowering his efficiency with respect to a pre-determined goal. Furthermore, the first student gets to put that assignment behind him and move on to maximizing his efficiency with respect to the next assignment. The latter student gets to explain to the teacher why he’s being a “troublemaker”. Teachers hate troublemakers far more than they hate stupidity or ignorance. You see, stupidity and ignorance can be *fixed*. Troublemakers don’t want to be fixed… they want to fix education. You might say “wait a second, only Authoritarian institutions want to fix and prevent being fixed”. Yep, you might be onto something there.

By making grades largely about obedience, we find the primary purpose and result of the educational system: obedience training. Students are not being educated (except within a narrow range), they are being taught to obey authority.

Successful students wear blinders they don’t even realize exist… education goes on long enough that most of these people are unable to take off those blinders for the rest of their lives, making them tools of the state or any other institution of power. Many of these people are even happy… blindness can certainly lead to that. What you don’t see you don’t need to think about and deal with.

The more aware among the blind can be exploited even more easily: while the blind are ignorant of the worldview and motivations of the “troublemakers” the half-blind who understand they are slaves to the power system turn their hatred upon the troublemakers who remind them of their own awareness. The troublemakers, since they are available for attack, become blamed for the consciousness of the weak half-blinds. In turn this only fuels the self-hatred of the half-blinds since they recognize that the only true enemy for them is the power system itself which they deem themselves too weak to face.

I give a sad smile when I see idealistic troublemakers who think all it takes is opening people’s eyes and everything will be great. That’s merely the *beginning* of a very long, difficult, and exciting road. Only after the war that results from those who hate their own consciousness and those they blame for it will possible greatness ensue.

The blinds get small pleasure from “success” where they define success as frantically following orders and define pleasure by a master’s pat on the head. The “troublemakers” get pleasure from the fight itself, the continual struggle for their own creative existence. They see every pat on the head for its condescension.

A start to reforming education is fairly simple: every troublemaker has to justify what he’s doing, every obeyer has to justify what he’s doing, and every teacher has to justify what he’s doing. For example, when an obeyer hands in an assignment, he has to include *why* he followed the assignment and didn’t act as a troublemaker. Likewise when a troublemaker hands in an assignment he has to include *why* he didn’t follow the assignment and act as an obeyer. Likewise, when a teacher assigns something he has to include WHY he is assigning it. Any of these things can be challenged and debated by any party involved.

In terms of grades I’m not sure. Chomsky seems to think they should be abolished. I’m not convinced of that. However, any grade for any assignment should include the quality of his argument for why he followed or did not follow the assignment.

You might think it’s a lot to ask a 1st grader to make such arguments, but you think that partly because Authoritarian systems have taught 1st graders not to make such arguments. Of course a child’s natural development will be taken into consideration with respect to what he is capable of doing. From personal experience I can say in 4th grade I was ready to make such arguments, and would have in a culture more conducive to it.

2 Responses to “Reforming Education”

  1. Maggie Says:

    John Taylor Gatto – look him up! You can read “The Underground History of American Education” online for free 🙂 Bless…

  2. briankoontz Says:

    That looks good – thanks for the link.

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