[In order to place the proper emphasis on an investment in education] “…we have to break through our private idea that kids belong to their parents or kids belong to their families and recognize that kids belong to whole communities.”
Thus sayeth Melissa Harris-Perry, the high and doctrinaire professor of political science at Tulane University, in a now infamous and blood-chillingly honest MSNBC promotional ad currently in television rotation.
In a way, the network just gift-wrapped a freebie to every parent and teacher that believes in educational freedom, succinctly articulating the warped, longstanding institutional mindset of many edu-crats, obsessed with their own titles and claims of superiority over parents working to raise their own children.
The utopian philosophy of the collective, communal ownership of your children has been an objective of many totalitarian philosophers through the decades. Nietzche espoused it, as did Marx and Engels, in so far as the 10th plank is merely in service to the 8th plank of The Communist Manifesto. The American progressive education reformer, John Dewey, echoed it in his education philosophy, parroted by Rosalie Gordon in her book, “What Happened to Our Schools?” (1956) when she wrote, “Children who know how to think for themselves spoil the harmony of the collective society which is coming where everyone is interdependent.”
The very real issue alluded to by Ms. Harris-Perry’s comments — namely, the community raising, or rather, shaping a child’s worldview — couldn’t be more timely! It is experiencing a full court press in American K-12 education today in the form of the Common Core curriculum standards being implemented in your child’s classroom and the federal government’s role in the forthcoming testing and curriculum. Many of these curricula are being written and released in real time; however, early textbooks already released to the Common Core standards suggest a focus on re-training schoolchildren with an emphasis on “how” to think, rather than an impartial focus on facts and figures. It’s a process that benefits the community of the future at the expense of individualized learning.
Take something as innocuous as mathematics. Indiana parents are pushing back as Common Core math standards have replaced the standard algorithm–writing math problems in a column form and working from right to left–with writing the pieces in a row from left to right in order to break them up, a process called “regrouping”. Mathematician Ze’ev Wurman protests that this unnecessarily confuses math by asking students to remember disparate problem solving processes that no longer build on themselves in the same logical manner as traditional-model arithmetic. So why teach math in such a broken, disjointed way? Put directly, for the danger that math represents to a collective, communal society. In a very fundamental way, mathematics is the study of and motivation toward order and balance in society that, in effect, prevents the insurgence of a power vacuum created by disorder. Put another way, remove order and you eventually end up with all semblance of reality or any way of processing reality at all. Nihilism is the vacuum through which brute force gains moral authority.
In history and social studies, the focus under Common Core is shifting to a contextual reading model of interpretation rather than the traditional approach of reading to comprehend the facts. The Stanford University-developed, Common Core endorsed “Reading Like A Historian Project”, calls for students to interpret source materials from a subjective standpoint with guidance from instructors. The problem is that the source materials may often be one-sided, presented as “foundational texts” for a historical period when they may be ancillary at best, and chosen for the students by the curriculum authors. The students are guided through a suggested reasoning process to arrive at conclusions about historical events with the conviction that these are their own positions determined through an objective prism. In reality, they may be undermining or elevating the authority of a source in a vacuum largely created by the authors of the curricula itself.
A few obvious questions: Who picks the source material? Are all sides of a historical event covered or are we consistently analyzing only one or two corroborating perspectives? If we train students to deconstruct historians before learning the history itself, will they ever trust any historical account? If everything in history is contextual and relative, are we building a society of the indecisive with no resources to develop a prevailing worldview? What is the danger in that and what or who does it service?
The underlying teaching methodology seems to suggest that since you can NEVER pull in enough source material to get a comprehensive picture of a historical event in order to make a value judgement, you should never make a value judgement. Are we really learning history or using history to train thought patterns? And if our children are trained “how” to think in service to the greater good of the community that owns them, one wonders how long we can hold to this “private idea that kids belong to their families” rather than the community at large? One wonders if Melissa Harris-Perry is really giving a prophetic formula for education or simply conveying the reality of what is already happening under our nose.