As Christians learn that they are not so much “educated” to become good Christians as they are “formed” so did the educational system of the past “form” good citizens rather than simply educate youth. This was a public/private collaboration between the school and the family. School provided the “Three R’s”; readin’, ‘ritin’, and ‘rithmetic and not much more. The family provided the moral and ethical foundation for good citizenship, they “formed” the good citizen. Why? Because the family felt a moral and ethical obligation to produce good citizens. The civic “honor” of the family demanded it.
The “greatest” generation is a perfect example of this partnership. Men and women with mostly an eighth grade education defeated two dictatorships and became the world’s primary superpower. How did they do that with such a “meager” educational experience? They had a well developed sense of moral and ethical certitude. Their parents had insisted on it.
Unfortunately, modern parents are too busy with this that and the other thing, don’t have the same cultural imperative or simply lack the requisite skills to impart those same values to their own children. Perhaps becoming the “best” has made us lazy. Whatever the reason today’s children are not taught through a public/private collaboration that “forms” them to become good citizens. Rather they are “formed” through the needs of private business for worker bees. This has manifested an educational system that has been given the tacit task, through parental abrogation of duty, of making their sweet young ones into complete citizens without their own input. Educational systems nearly always fail at this task. It is not what education is meant to do. Failing that, the system is capable of turning out good, pliant and unquestioning workers with little conscience or ethics in their stead.
Without the checks and balances of a moral education in the home or with the imbalance of one with a marked agenda, these kids are thrown into the workplace with technical skills but little critical thinking abilities. They are easy to pressure and manipulate and they think nothing of eagerly participating in the cruel and unethical tactics of modern corporate culture. They backstab and step on their associates with ease. They push ahead for profit at any cost without compunction.
Perhaps we should just stop financing this type of “education” altogether. We can just vote away any and all public funds for education. It is certainly not serving the republic. Let corporations fund education if they want to create a specifically skilled but mindless workforce. The homeschooling crowd is onto something. Unfortunately most of them are into forwarding their own personal agendas as well. After all, who but ideologues have the time and energy to educate their own kids.
There is a segment of conservative thought that is deathly afraid of alleged “ultra liberal” bias in higher education. They claim that super liberal professors pressure students to see things their way. College students are not dumb. They play along with the liberal profs, knowing that the realities of life are much different from that which they have been told. They are already aware of the dog eat dog nature of the world from the caustic text messaging and judgmental stares of high school. Not much in the way of liberal thought can pierce that veil of ignorance. Only the truly empathic remain liberal in the face of these “cold, hard facts”. They accept that they will never be effective cogs in the machine of private enterprise.
So to change education maybe we need to change who benefits from it. Educational processes need to stop serving business alone and start serving society once again. And the way to do that is to return to the sharing of responsibilities of the past. Parents need to reacquire the civic pride they once cherished and become responsible for “forming” their children to become quality citizens. Quality citizens are the engine that drives democracy.
Our slavish devotion to commerce is a strong and vicious circle to break but we must place our efforts there instead of spinning our wheels on adequate funding formulas, class sizes and mainstreaming. It is a monumental task but one that must be done.
Are you ready to go back to the future?