Friday, May 6, 2011

The Purpose of the American School System

I'm not and I am speaking of the purpose of education. Today, because of the political focus on education that has charged the American school system with negative energy bent on serving those seeking votes to secure their jobs, we are subjugated to talk of the purpose of the American school system apart from the purpose of education. When we talk of the purpose of the American school system, we are talking of our schools serving the corporate imperative, preparing students to be good citizens--which today varies according to which extreme you are enlisted to defend. When we talk of the purpose of education, we ignore the political structures and the corporate imperative, we ignore the economic status of the United States and the comparisons of state and national standardized, norm-referenced tests designed to classify every child based on a choice between A, B, C, or D. When we talk about the purpose of education, we have to talk about the human factor, the factor of one child, of one future with or without hope, for that is what education gives--HOPE!

Kids come into our schools with their minds bent and twisted by television and Facebook and video games and churches and politicians and moms and dads. I say bent and twisted as opposed to shaped because some of their minds have no discernible shape. Like a garden left unto itself, their minds have grown wild. Their minds have hundreds of bent and twisted branches all gnarled together--largely green, but with scars where one branch rubs against the other in the wind. Largely green, but faded underneath and showing signs of illness and weakness and decay. Suffering from the lack of care. Suffering from freedom that ignores responsibility. The kids come to our schools in this condition and our schools are charged by the corporate imperative to clean up those gardens, to make them all healthy and productive--to produce fruit from acidic soil and the undergrowth.

The best teachers know that they cannot serve the standardized tests. They cannot serve the corporate imperative. They serve their students. And they do this by caring first about the child. These teachers know that what they have to do is give this child the hope that he can grow straight and strong and be fruitful. People only learn when they have hope. I saw a poster that said something to the fact that wonder and awe were the foundation of learning. Yes, but hope is the foundation of wonder and awe. Without hope, one does not care to wonder and one cannot be in awe. To the hopeless, the awesome is one more reminder that he doesn't stand a chance.

The purpose of the American School System is to serve the corporate imperative. But the purpose of education is to give every child enduring hope. If a child has hope, then he will wonder and be in awe. A child with hope will have a reason to learn and want to learn. And we have never been able to stop a child from learning who wanted to learn. A child who wants to learn no longer needs his teacher, and that is the mark of a great teacher--When a child can learn without dependency on his teacher, the teacher has done his or her job well and deserves all the awards. If a child has a reason to learn, we don't have to worry about the corporate imperative, the corporate tests, measuring and comparing the status of the U.S. against any other country. When a child has a reason to learn, she will learn in spite of corporate America. She will learn in spite of No Child Left Behind. She will learn in spite of Democrats and Republicans and Tea Baggers.

Teachers have to give some attention to the expeditiously evil standardized, norm-referenced, corporate-sating tests. But I urge teachers to work first and foremost from the desire to give every child hope. Every child. Especially those who are most bent and twisted and have the least hope. Give every child hope.

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