Monday, January 31, 2011

Save our kids!

Have you ever wondered why we tolerate mediocrity in public education here in America? It is easily understandable why the teachers’ unions resist all efforts of accountability in our schools. It is also understandable why an entire political party’s leadership, whose source of funding and power would also endorse whatever positions are taken by those unions (see my blog posting “Why do democrats hate black children”). Given the sorry state of public education, it is no wonder that the leaders of both the unions and the democratic party send their own children to private schools while forcing the masses into poor schools taught by uneducated sometimes functionally illiterate school teachers.
So what is the reason? It seems to me to be a simple matter whose linkages run through history. When Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press in 1440, it was resisted fiercely by the Catholic Church. The church was incredibly powerful because it controlled information – having a virtual monopoly on reading and dispersion of the written word. There were hardly any bibles circulating outside the church and people would have to rely on the priest for the reading of the word and its interpretation. However, with the printing press everyone could have a copy of the bible, read it and interpret it themselves. It is no surprise that Luther’s posting of the Ninety-five Theses in 1517 was preceded by Gutenberg’s wonderful invention. Once information was the sole province of the church and its power was related to its control of information. Indeed, St. Thomas Aquinas was considered a genius because not only could he read, but he could read without moving his lips. The printing press changed all that and with widely disseminated news came the reduction in the power of the church. Luther’s publishing of his document and its wide distribution was the beginning of the Protestant Reformation which galvanized a resistance to the dogma and rituals of the church and despite brutal suppression emerged victorious with the Treaty of Westphalia in 1648. This was the democratization of religion.
A more modern example was in the computer revolution. When I was in graduate school, the most powerful person on college campuses was the head of the computing center. The computing center controlled the flow of information within the university and dictated whose work was done in what order. Now the changes in technology have made information readily available to all at a virtual cost of zero. The head of the computing center lost all his power and now that power resides in the masses. This is the democratization of information.
Where does this relate to mediocrity in education? The adopting of innovative methods in teaching, allowing people like me to teach in the public schools without getting a bogus certification having to go to some education class, allowing innovation in school organization, teacher evaluation and remuneration will raise the education levels of students. It should not be surprising that this bringing of education to the masses rather than just the children of the elites would be analogous to the Protestant Reformation or the computer revolution. Only it would be the education of those who traditionally vote democratic and would are ill served by their political party. It would give all people the tools to critically evaluate and to provide confirmation or disconfirmation of what they are taught to believe. This is the democratization of education.
A well-educated public is dangerous to all entrenched politicians but especially to those whose existence depends on the ignorance of its voters. Who said, “All governments must maintain power through consent, not coercion” and “governments have an obligation to respond to their citizens”? No, it was not one of the leaders of the Tea Party. It was Barack Obama speaking about Egypt. However, Obama has license to ignore his own statements when it comes to his healthcare legislation and the American public. Do you believe that a well-educated public and a critical press would have let this comment go by unchallenged? Not hardly.

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