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Different Premises, Different Proposals

Posted By: Allen Lambert on June 13, 2011
A critique of Cookson implies a proposal of different premises and propositions which produce a different design.

First, why should the nation-state be the primary focus, form, and level of social organization? Is it not the nation-state which engages in massive war and sending millions of youth to kill, get killed, or return home with disabilities (psych and physical) “for reasons of state”, in some “national interest” (as established by certain special [elite?] interests and ideologies)? It is the nation-state which mobilizes and subordinates everyone and everything to its wars and other debacles. Nazi Germany, Stalinist Soviet Union, Maoist China, Saddam’s Iraq, Kim Il-sung’s No. Korea, etc., are but the largest recent examples of the worst in state nationalism. Even the U.S. engages in ruination (environmental, economic, cultural – at home as well as abroad) thru its wars. Why promote a unified, monolithic, monopolistic, monocultural nation-state? And use gov’t schools to create conformity by socializing to a particular set of views and values?

Any “dangerous edge” we might be approaching is not a function of failed schooling, but of the “best and brightest” screwing up at the level of federal gov’t – housing bubble, banking and Wall St. messes, public debt, unsustainable level of public spending, mismanaging Washington, D.C., Depression and Recession, etc., in addition to their wars. Who would want that kind of flawed, one-size-fits-all governance imposed in education and on our children?

“... lose our shared educational commons ...”? We had one? Whose? And according to whom and what measures? Not according to my ancestral and philosophical and religious heritage.

“... live in a society where race and class enclosures will divide us and set us on the path to becoming a country where economic and social power rests in the hands of the already privileged.” Since when did those not exist? Since when did the “privileged” who have dominated federal gov’t not act in furtherance of selected political economic interests and ideologies and to engage in wars and ruination? What would make human nature and its attendant social structures change? Certainly not “democracy”.

“... we have forgotten the basic constituency of public schools: the fifty million children they serve ....” WHO has “forgotten”? In my experience in education (5 decades as student, teacher, school board member, etc.) there is more attention to “the kids” and schooling and its processes and outcomes than ever before. There is more concern, more talk (philosophical, practical, policy, public, private), more money, and more variety of efforts.

“Millions are homeless, hungry” and live in “poverty”– but why blame public schooling or expect it to cure the disease which is a function of the larger social structure and culture? It is those who receive the most and most prestigious education who think they know what is best for everyone else and who have the most power to impose it on everyone. Why give them more power and centralized control over the lives of others?

Why talk about “rights” without reciprocal “obligations” and appropriate personal behavior? While Divinity or custom or law may establish a “right” to access to a certain minimum of formal education, they cannot endow a “ right” to graduate (“complete high school”), be successful, or achieve equality – because these depend on individual performance.

And so on. I could similarly reply to every paragraph of Cookston, but this should be sufficient to illustrate that the debate is far from settled and fundamental differences in views and values exist and will continue to do so. A national imposition will function mostly to reduce diversity and dissent. Hardly what good education, including critical thinking, should be about.

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 Different Premises, Different Proposals by Allen Lambert on June 13, 2011
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