Monday, August 26, 2013

Education is an Oxymoron (Polemic) by Edwin Young

When I was a 11th to 12th grader in high school, I was studying sunspots, writing about the history of Mormonism, interviewing the County Judge and Sheriff and touring the county jail, skipping school to sit in on a famous courtroom trial, touring the ghetto side of town on foot, hitch-hiking even at night all over south Texas, making friends with people from all races, making friends with lonely outcast kids, protecting vulnerable kids from bullies, leading a cub scout pack, leading my church's Sunday evening youth group, occasionally preaching the Sunday morning sermon, running experiments on raising chickens, picking cotton and cutting maize heads with migrant workers and poor blacks,  etc., etc., and at the same time I was making Ds and Cs and graduating in the bottom 10% of my class.  

My 'education' was extra-curricular.  Classes in school were mainly exercises in memorization.  I either went to sleep or daydreamed.  Now, I can see clearly that official education was anti-intellectual. I can also see that it was designed, from teacher training in universities to writers of approved textbooks, to serve the interests of corporations, designed to prevent thinking.  

Around age 35, while in Pennsylvania and making friends with Quakers, I learned that there were Quaker schools that did not use a grading system and books to study were decided upon during conferences with teachers- in other words, a using self-guided and individualized method of instruction.  

I also learned that graduates from this school were eagerly sought after by major universities.  I am not proposing that public education is a corporate conspiracy.  No, rather I am seeing a long history and tradition in American education that actually originated with that inestimable, well-meaning genius, Thomas Jefferson.  What he set in motion was as natural for his day as growing vegetables and raising cattle.  He was a paragon of the elite establishment while not being as much of an elitist as his collegial fellow co-founders of our new republic.  

However, what has been needed, for quite some time, is a critical appraisal of the myopic, randomly evolving, civilizations and, in this case, particularly the educational aspects of civilizations.

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