Section One: Education
l A graduation ceremony is an event where the commencement speaker tells
thousands of students dressed in identical caps and gowns that individuality 个
性is the key to success.
l The primary purpose of a liberal education is to make one’s mind a pleasant
place in which to spend one’s time.
l Next in importance to freedom and justice is popular education, without
which neither freedom nor justice can be permanently maintained.
l The classroom - not the teach - is the frontier of freedom now and
l Education’ s purpose is to replace an empty mind with an open one.
l It is the purpose of education to help us become autonomous, creative,
inquiring people who have the will and intelligence to create our own destiny.
l You see, real ongoing, lifelong education doesn’t answer questions; it
l People will pay more to be entertained than educated.
l The most important function of education at any level is to develop the
personality of the individual and the significance of his life to himself and to
others. This is the basic architecture of a life; the rest is ornamentation and
decoration of the structure.
l The essence of our effort to see that every child has a chance must be to
assure each an equal opportunity, not to become equal , but to become
different to realize whatever unique potential of body, mind, and spirit he or
l A great teacher never strives to explain his vision-he simply invites you to
stand beside him and see for yourself.
l If you can read and don’t, you are an illiterate by choice.
2. Damaging Research
A study by the National Parent-Teachers Organization revealed that in the average American school, eighteen negatives are identified for every positive that is pointed out. The Wisconsin study revealed that when children enter the first grade, 80 percent of them feel pretty good about themselves, but by the time they get to the sixth grade, only 10 percent of them have good self images.
3. Education and Citizenship
An important aspect of education in the United States is the relationship between education and citizenship. Throughout its history this nation has emphasized public education as a means of transmitting democratic values, creating equality of opportunity, and preparing new generations of citizens to function in society. In
addition, the schools have been expected to help shape society itself. During the l95Os, for example, efforts to combat racial segregation focused on the schools. Later, when the Soviet Union launched the first orbiting satellite, American schools and colleges came under intense pressure and were offered many incentives to improve their science and mathematics programs so that the nation would not fall behind the Soviet Union in scientific and technological capabilities. Education is often viewed as a tool for solving social problems, especially social inequality. The schools, it is thought, can transform young people from
vastly different backgrounds into competent, upwardly mobile adults. Yet these goals seem almost impossible to attain. In recent years, in fact, public education has been at the center of numerous controversies arising from the gap between the ideal and the reality. Part of the problem is that different groups in society have different expectations. Some feel that
students need better preparation for careers in a technologically advanced society; others believe children should be taught basic job-related skills; still others believe education should not only prepare children to compete in society but also help them maintain their cultural identity (and, in the case of Hispanic children, their language). On the other hand, policymakers concerned with education emphasize the need to increase the level of student achievement and to involve parents in their children‟s education.
Some reformers and critics have called attention to the need to link formal schooling with programs designed to address social problems. Sociologist Charles Moscos, for example, is a leader in the movement to expand programs like the Peace Corps, Vista, and Outward Bound into a system of voluntary national service. National service, as Moscos defines it, would entail “the fulltime undertaking of public duties by young people whether as citizen soldiers or civilian servers-who are paid subsistence wages” and serve for at least one year, in return for
this period of service, the volunteers would receive assistance in paying for college or other educational expenses.
Advocates of national service and school-to-work programs believe that education does not have to be confined to formal schooling. In devising strategies to provide opportunities for young people to serve their society, they emphasize the educational value of citizenship experiences gained outside the classroom. At this writing there is little indication that national service will become a new educational institution in the United States, although the concept is steadily gaining support among educators and social critics.
4. The Teacher’s Role
Given the undeniable importance of classroom experience, sociologists have done a considerable amount of research on what goes on in the classroom. Often they start from the premise that, along with the influence of peers, students, experiences in the classroom are of central importance to their later development. One study examined the impact of a single first-grade teacher on her students‟ subsequent adult status. The surprising results of this study have important implications. It is evident that good teachers can make a big difference in children‟s lives, a fact that gives increased urgency to the need to improve the quality of
primary-school teaching. The reforms carried out by educational leaders like James Comer Suggest that when good teaching is combined with high levels of parental involvement the results can be even more dramatic.
Because the role of the teacher is to change the learner in some way, the teacher-student relationship is an important part of education. Sociologists have pointed out that this relationship is asymmetrical or unbalanced, with the teacher being in a position of authority and the student having little choice but to passively absorb the information provided by the teacher. In other words, in conventional classrooms them is little opportunity for the student to become actively involved in the learning process. On the other hand, students often develop strategies for undercutting the teacher’s authority: mentally withdrawing, interrupting, and the like. Hence, much current research assumes that students and teachers influence each other instead of assuming that the influence is always in a single direction.
5. Educational Philosophy
For the past fifty years our schools have operated on the theories of John Dewey (1895-1952) , an American educator and writer. Dewey believed that the school‟s job was to enhance the natural development of the growing child, rather than to pour information, for which the child had no context, into him or her. In the Dewey system, the child becomes the active agent in his own education, rather than a passive receptacle for facts.
Consequently, American schools are very enthusiastic about teaching “life skills”-logical thinking, analysis, creative problem-solving. The actual content of the lessons is secondary to the process, which is supposed to train the child to be able to handle whatever life may present, including all the unknowns of the future. Students and teachers both regard pure memorization as uncreative and
In addition to “life skills”, schools are assigned to solve the ever-growing stock of social
problems. Racism, teenage pregnancy, alcoholism, drug use, reckless driving, and suicide are just a few of the modem problems that have appeared on the school curriculum.
This all contributes to a high degree of social awareness in American youngsters.
6. Student Life
To the students, the most notable difference between elementary school and the higher level, is that in junior high they start “changing classes”. This means that rather than
spending the day in one classroom, they switch classrooms to meet their different teachers. This gives them three or four minutes between classes in the hallways, where a great deal of the important social action of high school traditionally takes place. Students have lockers in these hallways, around which they congregate.
Society in general does not take the business of studying very seriously. Schoolchildren have a great deal of free time, which they are encouraged to fill with extracurricular activities - sports, clubs, cheerleading, scouts - supposed to inculcate such qualities as leadership, sportsmanship, ability to organize, etc. Those who don‟ t become engaged in such activities or have after-school jobs have plenty of opportunity to “hang out”, listen to teenage music ,
and watch television.
Compared to other nations, American students do not have much homework. Studies also show that American parents have lower expectations for their children‟s success in school than other nationalities do. (Historically, there has not been much correlation between American school success and success in later life) “He‟s just not a scholar”, the American parents might say, content that their son is on the swim team and doesn‟t take drugs, (Some
of the young do choose to study hard, for reasons of their own, such as determining that the road to riches lies through Harvard Business School. )
What American schools do effectively teach is the competitive method. In innumerable ways children are pitted against each other. whether in classroom discussion, spelling bees, reading groups, or tests. Every classroom is expected to produce a scattering of A’s and F’s ( teachers often grade A=excellent; B=good; C=average; D= poor; and F=failed). A teacher who gives all A’s looks too soft - so
students are aware that they are competing for the limited number of top marks.
Foreign students sometimes don‟t understand that copying from other people‟ s papers or from books is considered wrong and taken seriously. Here, it is important to show that you have done your own work and are displaying your own knowledge. It is more important than helping your friends to pass, whom we think do not deserve to pass unless they can provide their own answers. Group effort goes against the competitive grain, and American students do not study together as many Asians do. Many Asians in this country consider their group study habits a large contributor to their school success.
7. Adult Education
After complaining about many aspects of American life, a 40-yearold woman from Hong Kong concluded, “But where else could someone my age go back to school and get a degree in social work? Here you can change your whole life, start a new business, do what you really want to do.”
So at least to this person, school requirements weren‟t inhibiting. And to millions of others, adult education is the path to a new career, or if not to a new Career, to a new outlook. Schools generally encourage the older person who wants to Start a new, and besides regular classes, schedule evening classes in special programs. Today there are so many people of retirement age in college that it is no longer remarkable. .
8. Moral Relativism in America
Improving American education requires not doing new things but doing (and remembering) some good old things. At the time of our nation‟s founding, Thomas Jefferson listed the requirements
for a sound education in the Report of the Commissioners for the University of Virginia. In this landmark statement on American education, Jefferson wrote of the importance of education and writing, and of reading, history, and geography. But he also emphasized the need “to instruct the mass of our citizens in these, their rights, interests, and duties, as men and citizens.” Jefferson believed education should aim at the improvement of both one‟s “morals” and “faculties.” That has been the dominant view of the aims of American education for over two centuries. But a number of changes, most of them unsound, have diverted schools from
these great pursuits. And the story of the loss of the school‟s original moral mission explains a great deal.
Starting in the early seventies, “values clarification” programs started turning up in schools all over America, According to this philosophy, the schools were not to take part in their time - honored task of transmitting sound moral values; rather, they were to allow the child to “clarify” his own values (which adults, including parents, had no “right” to criticize). The “values clarification” movement didn’t
clarify values; it clarified wants and desires. This form of moral relativism said , in effect , that no set of values was right or wrong; everybody had an equal right to his own values; and all values were subjective, relative, personal. This destructive view took hold with a vengeance.
In 1985 The New York Times published an article quoting New York area educators, in slavish devotion to this new view, proclaiming that “they deliberately avoid trying to tell students what is ethically right and wrong”, The article told of one counseling session involving fifteen high school juniors and seniors. In the course of that session a student concluded that a fellow student had been foolish to return one thousand dollars she found in a purse at school. According to the article, when the youngsters asked the counselor‟s opinion,
“He told them he believed the girl had done the right thing, but that, of course, he would not try to force his values on them. „If I come from the position of what is right and what is wrong,‟ he explained, „ then I‟m not their Counselor.‟”
Once upon a time, a counselor offered counsel, and he knew that an adult does not form character in the young by taking a stance of neutrality toward questions of right and wrong or by merely offering “choices” or “options”.
In response to the belief that adults and educators should teach children sound morals, one can expect from some quarters indignant objections (I‟ve heard one version of it expressed countless times over the years): “Who are you to say what‟s moral and what‟s important?” or “Whose standards and judgments do we use?”
The correct response, it seems to me, is, are we really ready to do away with standards and judgments? Is anyone going to argue seriously that a life of cheating and swindling is as worthy as a life of honest, hard work? Is anyone (with the exception of some literature professors at our elite universities) going to argue seriously the intellectual corollary, that a Marvel comic book is as good as Macbeth?
Unless we are willing to embrace some pretty silly positions, we’ve got to admit the
need for moral and intellectual standards. The problem is that some people tend to
regard anyone who would pronounce a definitive judgment as an unsophisticated Philistine or a closed-minded “elitist” trying to impose his view on everyone else.
The truth of the real world is that without standards and judgments, there can be no progress. Unless we are prepared to say irrational things - that nothing can be proven more valuable than anything else or that everything is equally worthless - we must ask the normative question. It may come as a surprise to those who feel that to
be “progressive” is to be value - neutral. But as Matthew Arnold said, “the world is forwarded by having its attention fixed on the best things.” And if the world can‟t decide what the best
things are, at least to some degree, then it follows that progress, and character, are in trouble. We shouldn‟t be reluctant to declare that some thing & -some lives, books, ideas, and values
-are better than others. It is the responsibility of the schools to teach these better things.
At one time, we weren‟t so reluctant to teach them. In the mid-nineteenth century, a
diverse, widespread group of crusaders began to work for the public support of what was then called the “common school”, the forerunner of the public school. They were to be charged
with the mission of moral and civic training, training that planted its roots in shared values. The advocates of the common school felt that the nation could fulfill its destiny only if every new generation was taught these values together in a common institution.
The leaders of the common school movement were mainly citizens who were prominent in their communities - businessmen, ministers, local civic and government officials. These people saw the schools as upholders of standards of individual morality and small incubators of civic and personal virtue; the founders of the public schools had faith that public education could teach good moral and civic character from a common ground of American values.
But in the past quarter century or so, some of the so - called experts became experts of value neutrality, and moral education was increasingly left in their hands. The commonsense view of parents and the public, that schools should reinforce rather than undermine the values of home, family, and country, was increasingly rejected.
There are those today still who claim we are now too diverse a nation, that we consist of too many competing convictions and interests to instill common values. They are wrong. Of course we are a diverse people. We have always been a diverse people. And as Madison wrote in Federalist No. 10, the competing, balancing interests of a diverse people can help ensure
the survival of liberty. But there are values that all American citizens share and that we should want all American students to know and to make their own: honesty, fairness, self - discipline, fidelity to task, friends, and family, personal responsibility, love of country, and belief in the principles of liberty, equality, and the freedom to practice one‟s faith. The explicit teaching of these values is the legacy of the common school, and it is a legacy to which we must return.
9. Schools Should Teach Values
People often say, “Yes, we should teach these values, but how do we teach them?” This
question deserves a candid response, one that isn‟t given often enough. It is by exposing our children to good character and inviting its imitation that we will transmit to them a moral foundation. This happens when teachers and principals, by their words and actions, embody sound convictions.
As Oxford‟s Mary Warnock has written, “You cannot teach morality without being committed to morality yourself l and you cannot be committed to morality yourself without holding that some things are right and others wrong.” The theologian Martin Buber wrote that the educator is distinguished from all other influences “by his will to take part in the stamping of character and by his consciousness that he represents in the eyes of the growing person a certain selection of what is, the selection of what is ??right‟, of what should be.” It is in this will, Buber says, in this clear standing for something, that the “vocation as an educator finds its fundamental expression.”
There is no escaping the fact that young people need as examples principals and teachers who know the difference between right and wrong, good and bad, and who themselves exemplify high moral purpose.
As Education Secretary, I visited a class at Waterbury Elementary School in Waterbury, Vermont, and asked the students, “Is this a good school?” They answered, “Yes, this is a good school.” I asked them, “Why?” Among other things, one eight-year-old said, “The principal Mr.
Riegel, makes good rules and everybody obeys them.” So I said, “Give me an example.” And
another answered, “You can‟t climb on the pipes in the bathroom. We don‟t climb on the pipes and the principal doesn‟t either.”
This example is probably too simple to please a lot of people who want to make the topic of moral education difficult, but there is something profound in the answer of those children, something educators should pay more attention to. You can’t expect children to take
messages about rules or morality seriously unless they see adults taking those rules seriously in their day-to-day affairs. Certain things must be said, certain limits laid down, and certain examples set. Them is no other way.
We should also do a better job at curriculum selection. The research shows that most “values education” exercises and separate courses in “moral reasoning” tend not to affect children‟s behavior; if anything, they may leave children morally adrift. Where to turn? I believe our literature and our history are a rich quarry of moral literacy. We should mine that quarry. Children should have at their disposal a stock of examples illustrating what we believe to be right and wrong, good and bad - examples illustrating what is morally right and wrong can indeed be known and that there is a difference.
What kind of stories, historical events, and famous lives am I talking about? If we want our children to know about honesty, we should teach them about Abe Lincoln walking three miles to return six cents and, conversely, about Aesop‟s shepherd boy who cried wolf If we want
them to know about courage, we should teach them about Joan of Arc, Horatius at the bridge, and Harriet Tubman and the Underground Railroad. If we want them to know about persistence in the face of adversity, they should know about the voyages of Columbus, and the character of Washington during the Revolution and Lincoln during the Civil War. And our youngest should be told about the Little Engine That Could. If we want them to know about respect for the law, they should understand why Socrates told Crito: “No, I must submit to
the decree of Athens.” If we want our children to respect the rights of others, they should read the Declaration of Independence, the Bill of Rights, the Gettysburg Address, and Martin Luther King, jr.‟s “Letter from Birmingham jail.” From the Bible they should know about Ruth‟s loyalty to Naomi, Joseph‟s forgiveness of his brothers, Jonathan‟s friendship with David, the Good Samaritan‟s kindness toward a stranger, and David‟s cleverness and courage in facing Goliath.
These are only a few of the hundreds of examples we can call on. And we need not get into issues like nuclear war, abortion, creationism, or euthanasia. This may come as a disappointment to some people, but the fact is that the formation of character in young people is educationally a task different from, and prior to, the discussion of the great, difficult controversies of the day. First things first. We should teach values the same way we teach other things: one step at a time. We should not use the fact that there are many difficult and controversial moral questions as an argument against basic instruction in the subject. After all, we do not argue against teaching physics because laser physics is difficult, against