Thursday, August 18, 2005

The Long Detour

Weinstein, James
The Long Detour: The History and Future of the American Left. 2003.
Westview press.

p. 233.
This necessity is two fold. First, profound educational reformare needed to realize the potential implicit in the pronouncement that ‘all men [meaning people] are created equal.” And, second, educational reform offers a partial solution to the problem of how to provide meaningful, creative work for the tens of millions of people being thrown out of work, or into low paying service jobs, as productivity leaps forward and employment in manufacturing inexorably declines.
There are two potential steps in this proces. First, to finance all public schools at the level of those now most well-financed. This would improve the quality of education and provide jobs for thousands of new teachers- and also architects, artisrts, musicians, coaches, maintenance workers, counselors, groundkeepers, and many others. Such an upgrade would entail expansion of curricula to a level already existing at many elite private schools and suburban public schools. …..
Improving our schools, however, is not simply a matter of infrastructure, faculty ratios, and extracurricular activities. Americans instinctively understand that education for all is a prerequisite for equality and a functioning democracy. Yes, as John Dewey wrote a hundred years ago, our schools, while claiming to prepare future members of an egalitarian social ordeer, arae more often institutions in which ‘the conditions of the social spirit are eminently wanting.”

In today’s schools, Dewey’s nightmare is more often the rule than the exception. Advocates of minimalist, or essentialists, education have imposed standardized tests disigned to encourage a stifling uniformity of achievement and minimal intellectual development. In many schools education has been narrowed down to teaching only for the test. Still, Dewey’s proposed methods and his vision of education and its purposes offer the best hope for democracy to triumph over the spirit of elitist individualism and the hierarchy of wealth that increasingly characterize our society.
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