Concurrent with my entering the class room the bi-partisan No Child Left Behind (NCLB) was adopted. It soon became clear that education for working and middle class students was becoming more skills oriented with lessened creativity and minimal independent thought. The new education reform was based on standards and accountability for standardized testing results. This new theory of good pedagogy ignored the advice educators like Dewey and Herbart and adopted what Alfie Kohn mockingly dubbed the “longer stronger meaner” theory of education. This kind of pedagogy diminishes thought and creativity. It implies that thinking is for the children of wealthy people in private schools who are the natural leaders of society. The other students have utilitarian purposes but thinking undermines that value. It is all driven by an ancient and evil ideology that posits it is OK to use lesser human beings for the purposes of social elites.
El Puente founder, Frances Lucerna, has a similar observation:
“In the public schools now it’s basically all about standardized testing, and mechanical literacy. This is resulting in dumbing down, watering down, the experience that young people have in school. It is equivalent to telling students that they are not to go deep within themselves and think in complex ways about things, but that they need to go back to memorizing and stuffing their heads with knowledge that has nothing to do with their experience and their world. This is not by accident: there is a reason that this is happening, why it’s happening in public schools and not in private schools and other places. This is an education for followers, not for leaders. And that’s why I think a movement for change has to arise, and the arts are fundamental in this.” (Muses Go to School, Page 58)
In 1973 David Rockefeller’s Trilateral Commission produced “The Crisis of Democracy” a report in which they indicate that too much education for common people is a threat to democracy. On page 115 on the report they conclude, “The vulnerability of democratic government in the United States thus comes not primarily from external threats, though such threats are real, nor from internal subversion from the left or the right, although both possibilities could exist, but rather from the internal dynamics of democracy itself in a highly educated, mobilized, and participant society.” In other words, don’t teach common people to think, to have philosophy, or develop their own ideas – the elites of society will take care of that. It is not in the interest of the upper class to have too much education – too much democracy.
“…the devilish nature of authority fears the awakening of the people. To those in power who forget to serve the people and instead exploit them, wielding authority for self-serving ends, the presence of individuals who discern their true insidious nature and are determined to take a stand against them is a hindrance and inconvenience. That’s why the powerful do everything they can to crush them.” (July 2014, Living Buddhism)
Another struggle for rights that shines eternally in history is the American Revolution. Thomas Jefferson penned these famous lines:
“When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness…”
In our country, over the past more than two centuries there have been many advances in human rights, but the ugly side of human nature that wants to use others for personal purposes has not been conquered. It has merely transformed to forms which use less obvious and possibly more insidious methodology.
In the 1930’s the philosopher historian Arnold Toynbee observed in his masterpiece, A Study of History, “The bread of universal education is no sooner cast upon the waters than a shoal of sharks arises from the depths and devours the children’s bread under the educator’s very eyes.” In his deep study of more than three-thousand years of human history, Toynbee saw this pattern repeat.
Toynbee also saw a pattern that gave him pause about the future of our civilization. He wrote:
“We must ask whether, as we look back over the ground we have traversed, we can discern any master tendency at work, and we do in fact unmistakably decry a tendency towards standardization and uniformity: a tendency which is correlative and opposite of the tendency towards differentiation and diversity which we have found to be the mark of the growth stage of civilizations.” (A study of History page 555)
As I read the words of great men of character and think about my own observations, I am convinced this is a time of opportunity and peril. We must fight against the arrogance of elitism which looks down on common people as mere pawns and considers their own good fortune a matter of birth right or superiority....
A witch’s brew of arrogance, greed and elitism is poisoning public education in America.
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