by Seth Godin
If you missed Part 7, click HERE.
8. Is school a civic enterprise?
At the heart of Horace Mann’s push for public schooling for all was a simple notion: we build a better society when our peers are educated. Democracy was pretty new, and the notion of putting that much power into the hands of the uneducated masses was frightening enough to lead to the push for universal schooling.
Being surrounded by educated people makes democracy stronger, and it benefits our entire society. In the words of John Dewey, “Democracy cannot flourish where the chief influences in selecting subject matter of instruction are utilitarian ends narrowly conceived for the masses, and, for the higher education of the few, the traditions of a specialized cultivated class. The notion that the “essentials” of elementary education are the three R’s mechanically treated, is based upon ignorance of the essentials needed for realization of democratic ideals.”
It’s easy to see how this concept manifests itself. There are more doctors, scientists, enlightened businesses, and engaged teachers in a society that values education. Sure, education is expensive, but living in a world of ignorance is even more expensive.
For a long time, there was an overlap between the education that the professions rewarded and the education that we might imagine an educated person would benefit from. Tied up in both paths is the notion that memorizing large amounts of information was essential. In a world where access to data was always limited, the ability to remember what you were taught, without fresh access to all the data, was a critical success factor.
The question I’d ask every administrator and school board is, “Does the curriculum you teach now make our society stronger?”
To be continued …
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