The No Child Left Behind educational reforms came out of the womb deformed by the claim that every child in America would be on grade level by the year 2014. The willingness to embrace that claim doomed the program. It not only revealed that its backer’s most potent weapon was copious amounts of fairy dust; it also made fairly obvious, or should have made fairly obvious, the true motives of the reformers. For the politicians, it was to get elected, it gave the voters absolution for letting the education system get so bad in the first place, and it allowed both aforementioned parties to shift the blame solely upon the teachers and the schools.
The Common Core reforms are just as fundamentally flawed. This time around they have decided to turn the matter over to corporate America and came up with a program that supposedly will provide the business community with highly trained and motivated workers for decades to come.
The idea that we should educate our young with the primary focus being on the needs of the business community is a frightening thought, but not nearly as frightening as the idea that standardization is the best way to go.
The idea seems to be to take America’s hope and future and train them to be cookie cutter worker drones. If indeed this is the desired outcome, why don’t we just wait a few years until the robot factories are in full production mode?
The best evidence that this is not the way to go is the somewhat sinister idea that we have over valued the teaching of literature and need to change our focus to emphasize the importance of business skills and information gathering. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Many psychologists think that the hero quest, stories like The Odyssey or The Hobbit, serve as a model of man’s journey to achieve psychic “wholeness”. Most fiction embraces this concept in someway. The hero/heroine of the story experiences life with all its hazards and frustrations, obstacles emerge, and the hero overcomes and undergoes a transformation after which he or she can return to the community changed for the better. This is the story of life.
Literature teaches us that most people have problems, that failure does not define us, that it is okay to fail as long as you do not give up, and that healthy psychic integration is the most desired goal. Great novels are the most important tools that teachers have to explain life to confused young minds. Literary geniuses like Shakespeare and Tolstoy could and should be enlisted to help our students understand what is going on in the outer world, but, more importantly, in their inner world.
Take literature away, and we leave our kids at the mercy of business people whose sole desire is to exploit their skills, an educational community that is basically clueless about the psychic needs of youth, and a ever more frightening world where everything is cold and meaningless.
If anything, we need to teach our children how extricate themselves from the flood of information that not only destroys their ability to process information but also stunts the growth of both creativity and critical thinking.
Information overload is the real problem of both our educational system and American society in general. We are pretending that the only thing we need to do to deal with it is train our kids how to find more of it and to learn how to organize it in such a way as to be commercially valuable
The truth is that the flood of information has broken down our ability to process it, and has caused us to go to ridiculous extremes to learn how to ignore the fundamental needs of our subconscious self. In the headlong rush toward a technological utopia, we have forgotten that humans above all need to be nurtured and loved.
Our ability to observe tens of thousands of murders both real and fictional with emotional detachment and a minimum of discomfort is just the tip of the iceberg of just how broken our psyches have become. Broken enough to desire a solution to our educational woes that would fit into a microwave.
A frightful amount of America’s children, many mirroring their parents, are wounded. They reveal this everyday in their anti-social behavior, in their fashion choices, their musical tastes, and most importantly in their refusal to buy into their own education. They display it unknowingly in the 20-30 extra pounds they carry around their mid-sections, in their willingness to embrace actions that are clearly detrimental to their own well being, and in their inability to sit still long enough to read important text.
What they need is not more rigor or an increased ability to locate information. Also, they don't need all the bells and whistles that come with the advance of technology. Goethe, Einstein, Tolstoy, Freud, Maya Angelou, Marie Curie, Socrates and many of the greatest thinkers of all time seemed to have learned very well without a digital screen staring back at them. You shine this shit up however much you desire; if you are not teaching what truly needs to be taught, all you will have to show for your efforts is a whole bunch of shiny new shit and a whole bunch of kids becoming experts at Fortnite and Snapchat.
The true problem is the fact that they suffer from the same unmet psychological needs as most of the people in this country. What they really need are the tools to show them how to delay gratification, to feel that their daily struggles in the classroom are relevant, and how to survive the everyday assault on their consciousness by forces of which they are not even aware.
The school I used to teach at has one councilor for over 800 kids. This is probably about normal for the country. When you consider that most people living today could blame the majority of their problems, failures, and bad decisions on hidden forces of unmet psychological needs, it becomes fairly easy to see that this is also a big part of America’s real educational problem.
And the real question is what do we want for our children? Do we want them to learn to become the heroes of their own adventure quests, or to end up being one among millions and millions of worker bees? Do we want them to cut themselves into pieces that fit a puzzle, or do we want them to live meaningful lives?
Finding the correct answers to these questions used to be easy, maybe not so much anymore. After all, Common Core has been around for awhile.