The impact of Schooling on Education: The dearth of a Post-Modernist Culture

by on October 16th, 2005

“I have never let my schooling interfere with my education.”~Mark Twain.

A school is a collective: it contains a group of individuals, identifies them on a common premise, and contains them within a certain lifestyle arising out of the natural agreement amongst those persons in respect to a general way of life. It is thus an establishment: necessary, vital, and persevering: creating within Society a structure: examined, reasoned, possibly even redeeming; civilized, and fit for a wider emulation.

Just as there are schools of thoughts, there are schools of fish. Drawing from the same sustaining elixir: thought; swimming in its abundance, thriving in its cleanliness, the thinking school flirts, plays, ponders, and propagates just as the fish do in the waters.

The habitat may be as lukewarm as the tropical lagoon: the thoughts breezy, cascading, leisured, lilting, sun kissed, and timeless; or as tempestuous as the Atlantic currents: raging, roaring, rehashing, recreating, rebellious; rising with adversity and against it.

The schools of thought just as the schools of fish, is essentially inspired movement.

The collection of fins, transposing scales, vibrancy of movement, illuminated flesh: the school of thought thrives.

Yet, just as fish are netted and caught, their lithe bodies pierced, cut, spiced, and salted: eaten with savage savor and the dried bones thrown into a heap; schools of thought also fall prey to large predators: schooners of State Policy, with an obedient, staunch, hardnosed, fishing crew.

At that point, School of thought becomes a schooling of thinking: Regulated by the maritime statutes, common waters clauses, and bottom line thinking. The wanton and indiscriminate assault on thinking, the conversion of schools of fish into presentable fish cutlets heralds an end to the era of freemen, thinking men. Schooling.

At that point the necessity of Education becomes moot. The salvation of thought, the defender of light, the vessel of continuity, Education, becomes the antithesis to the thesis, striving, yearning, forcing, intuiting, and probing into the heart of a new synthesis.

John Dewey, the founder of Humanism and the Humanistic movement is credited as the father of Public Education, the prophet of schooling as a way of life. As he once said himself, “Luck, bad if not good, will always be with us. But it has a way of favoring the intelligent and showing its back to the stupid”.

Public Education has been a triumph over this ‘luck’. The table has been turned.

Consequently, “..despite modest improvement in the 1990s, America’s leadership in higher education has eroded; several Western European nations have emulated, pursued, and surpassed the United States in college access and college attainment >(Organisation for EconomicCo-operation and Development 2001).” pg.3

Indeed, Alan M. Weber, a leader in the Corporate scene says,

“Creativity has become the global gold standard for economic growth, and yet the United States seems intent on shooting itself not just in the foot but in the brain. …”

The reversal of luck, through systematic schooling has replaced schools of thought with schools of fish. Nibbling at dog eared textbooks, contemplating the pattern of life through a sequence of multiple choice dots, the fish strays from its native halcyon waters, and joins the urban rat in an unsustainable race. At that point the metaphor of light, of color, of fins; secede severely from the reality and vision of schools of thought. The bond once natural and profound turns fallow.

Consider a high school student’s input: Cooper Dukes, a precocious freshman at Eastern Regional High School in Southern New Jersey with a perfect grade point average was invited to a ceremony in which he were to receive an unspecified award.

Cooper rejected the award in a signed letter that he deposited to the public relations office of his school. An excerpt:

“..these grades were given to me for mechanically memorizing the differences between coccus, diplococcus, staphylococcus, and streptococcus bacteria, without imbuing within me any pervasive appreciation its subtleties. Grades granted, for writing “persuasive essays” that I knew to be substandard on topics that carried very little practical significance, and for doing wonderfully on my French tests when I cannot speak a word of the language.

“This I realized is what I am being awarded for. It may be the ambition of the school system to have their charges excel at these asinine rote tasks, but it is something that I take no pride in. For this reason, as an epitaph to my first nine years of learning and, hopefully, a prologue to newer, proper education, I decline this meaningless “award.””

My experiences with schooling are of the type similar to that of a relationship that exists in the patient and his disease. The patient is locked in a biological, psychological, and spiritual struggle against something intangible yet symptomatic. He sees unwinding in front of him the disintegration of his health. It is an intimate and epic model of perseverance: man’s uncommon attempt against the abstract: the need to cleanse; the consciousness of intrinsic contamination is as profound as it is compelling.

The compounded grunts, moans, sneeze, puke, puss of the patient emblemize the sound of war, raging deep inside him, eviscerating and heaping mayhem. The feeling is at least as intense, as visceral, and as irreconcilable, when school confronts schooling. If in this debilitating disease the sole prescription of Education becomes expensive and unaffordable, one’s in deep shit.

Millions upon thousands of our young people go unmedicated in this chronic plague. Fortunately, I was spared by my natural (or unnatural) immunity. ‘Rage, rage, against the dying of the light’ said Dylan Thomas the seminal poet.

That light burns in me today, continuing and unfazed, and stirs the waters of my soul. In the course of my schooling, I discovered, in the great and timeless books of Goethe, Kafka, Aristotle, Hermes, Maimonedes, Edward Gibbon, Patanjali, Camus, George Orwell, and Jacques Barzun an imperishable remedy against the daunting odds.

I take some comfort in the following lines by George Bernard Shaw: “Reasonable people adapt themselves to the world. Unreasonable people attempt to adapt the world to themselves. All progress, therefore, depends on unreasonable people” keeping in mind the earnest words of Kurt Hahn, “I regard it as the foremost task of education to insure the survival of these qualities: an enterprising curiosity, an undefeatable spirit, tenacity in pursuit, readiness for sensible self denial, and above all, compassion.”

“…we have come to realise that for most men the right to learn is curtailed by the obligation to attend school

Schools are designed on the assumption that there is a secret to everything in life; that the quality of life depends upon knowing that secret; that secrets can only be known in orderly successions; and that only teachers can properly reveal these secrets. An individual with a schooled mind concieves of the world as a pyramid of classified packages accessable only to those who carry the proper tags.”~ Ivan Illich.

Alexander Rai