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Only the Educated Are Free

  • Date Submitted: 12/20/2010 07:06 PM
  • Flesch-Kincaid Score: 53.8 
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These are tough times in the world of education. It seems hard to believe that just a few short years ago a person with solid teaching credentials could get a job practically anywhere. (Or at least this was true in the part of the country where I live.) How quickly things have changed. With cities and states across the country now facing draconian budget cuts, schools are downsizing, classes are growing larger, and the demands on teachers are increasing exponentially. In spite of this, I still love teaching, although my antagonism toward schools continues to grow. (And no, this is not a contradiction). Part of my frustration is the schizophrenic nature of American education. Historically, we have never truly decided what sort of students we want to produce. Should schools concentrate on teaching people or tasks? Do we want workers or do we want citizens? Can we have both?

Mark Slouka addresses this issue in his article, “Dehumanized: When Math and Science Rule the School” (Harper’s Magazine, September, 2009). In it, he chronicles the process by which American education has been usurped by the worlds of science and commerce (especially commerce which, in our society, ultimately controls the funding of scientific research). He also raises questions about the effect such a narrow academic approach has on people’s ability to act as soulful, discerning human beings who are able to challenge the status quo and move our society toward its more democratic ideals.

Much of Slouka’s article focuses on the American tendency to equate good education with the ability to earn a lucrative income and grow the nation’s ever-expanding GDP. The study of the arts, for example, is seen not as a way to explore the potential of human creativity as much as it is to develop thinkers that industry can use to maintain our country’s dominance in the fields of business and technology. Slouka asks, “Why is every Crisis in American Education cast as an economic threat and never a civic one?...


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