Thursday, September 27, 2012

What is changing about being a child

When I think about what is changing about being a child and an adolescent today that we must attend to, I find myself tying to figure out what is really plaguing public education.

If I had to pick just one problem, I would say there are two:
poverty and inequity
Some say that public education is the great equalizer. Some say that the antidote to poverty is education.

But what if the opposite is true?

What if public education perpetuates some of the worst injustices and inequities of our society? What if inequity and poverty are advanced, rather than stifled, by public education? What if public education is really the great divider?

These are scary questions -- nonetheless, important questions we really shouldn't run from or shrug at.

 So what are the implications of poverty and inequity?

With the shrinking of the middle class comes the inescapable truth that the social contract between education and community is being broken. While past generations found salvation in the advice get a good education and you'll get a good job the current generation of students are finding this to be a risky proposition.

As inequity and inequality increase, society and schools are likely to adopt an even more competitive mindset that encourages children and adults to see their peers as obstacles to their own success. When competition trumps collaboration, the ideology of rugged individualism tends to trump teamwork.

If we are competing, then we aren't collaborating. The ideology of competition says that everyone benefits, but when in reality competition is for the strong -- the winners continue to win on the backs of the losers.

Inequity and poverty are only destiny if we choose to ignore them. People who say poverty is no excuse are making excuses about doing nothing about poverty. Children never choose to live in poverty, but society can choose not to ignore it.

So where do we go from here?

Schools and society need to stop using excellence for the few as the driver for progress and start making equity for all our focus. Some might think by focusing more on equity that we have to focus less on excellence; this is a misconception. When we focus on equity, excellence becomes ubiquitous.

So how will we know if our education system is advancing inequity? If the affluent provide their children with a good education and a different education that is good enough for other people's children then we know something is amiss.

1 comment:

  1. The fear of rugged individualism is a distinctly middle class fear which is what holds back so many people from embracing their genius. Why do public schools create greater inequality? Because they perpetuate these values of mass society and giving up intuition for consensus.

    The idea that individualism is amoral and that teamwork is inherently good is a fallacy. Its basic premise is that we cannot trust people to do good on their own volition. Individualists aren't automatically competitive and destructive, they are just driven by an internal measure.

    Many harms are done in the name of equity. Outliers are suppressed through equity. Democracy was never meant to suppress the minority but to celebrate it. We need to allow for more divergent ways of living instead of more convergence around the idea of equity. Excellence for all is a better driver than equity for all.


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