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 expr