make our public institutions truly public

“The Public” Disappears | Firedoglake  I have a previous post about this word public.  And like other issues, where public means half-public, what we need are full services that are truly public for the first time.  From this FDL post:
In America today, “success” is measured in terms of distance from others. The public is nothing more than what the successful leave behind. They seek insulated, isolated homes in gated communities. They send their kids to exclusive private schools. They have to go out, so they soundproof their opaque-windowed cars. In most cities, only the unwashed and untouchable use public transportation. 
Distance – economic, geographical, political – can provide dangerous illusions of total self-sufficiency. No matter that the fruit eaten by the wealthy escapees is picked by people they’ve worked all their lives to stay away from. No matter that the men and women who fight their wars could not get past the guards at the gates to visit them in their homes.
The great distance of powerful citizens from the masses of other citizens is exactly what causes the majority of political arguments as insulated factions play power politics.  These factions, left and right, are fundamentally misinformed, not in the factual sense, but in their basic grasp of the reality itself: the weight that life has and that has to be experienced.  No town hall meeting is a substitute for knowing firsthand the issues and problems.  Successful organisms of all kinds have, what in the body is called good circulation, ways of keeping in touch with all levels of information including what can only be seen and touched and experienced.

Public Schools: from Local Resource to Degree Manufacture
In the public schools, it is the child who is completely unknown to remote curricular planners and downtown administrators who seek to enact a programmed sequence of intensive training exercises upon our children for 12+ years.  If human beings  could be manufactured like widgets, it would be a plan.  But the 20th century brought the birth and growth of psychology, cognitive science, neuroscience, and evolutionary biology, to name but a few, and these sciences all argue against the neo-feudal mass manufacturing literacy and numeracy for so very many years.

And in truth, to offer schooling for a few years and teach everyone to read and calculate and write is a very much more limited goal than to expand that same model to be a complete assembly line for high-tech problem solving and sophisticated development of the intellect and skills, however you define them.  Expanding that model after WWII through high school was problematic and our struggles with education reform today are not unlike other struggles with overgrown sectors:  the financial and military sectors come to mind.

Degrees Are Mission Creep
The mission creep for schools has been tremendous: from the provision of literacy and numeracy skills to the provision of supposed job-training.  We have never built a plan or way to make schools job training centers and cries that we need more hard work on literacy and numeracy skills are a sign that people do not understand what schools were setup to do and what they were not.  Since agricultural jobs dissolved into factories and now factories have moved elsewhere, the job plan thing is clearly broken.

At the same time, the country has clearly benefited from providing schools and having a literate population and regressive attempts to end schooling or privatize the schools are illogical and uninformed.  Providing no public educational services would hurt our local and national economies and it is outside of what most societies have done.  Even primitive societies spent time learning and teaching and working with their children and each other.  Learning is a natural thing for human beings and the US has a long tradition of people working to learn skills they need.  Most of the computer programmers were self-taught until recently.  Homeschoolers are proof that families will seek out many opportunities for their children.  So would all families if they had real choices and control and input.

  • Public domain.
  • Digital ID: (b&w film copy neg.) cph 3a27177
  • Reproduction Number: LC-USZ62-26377 (b&w film copy neg.)
  • Repository: Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA
Choice?  Really?
And privatization is also wrong on other levels:  charters schools are not much of a choice if choice is what you're after.  They have the very same pedagogy, the grades, the manufacturing setup, and more problems.  That's not a real choice.  And these schools do not have a job training plan other than to rely on the vast college industry, unchecked in cost and of increasingly unclear value, private industry (declining all the time), and the continued income-boosting effects of winnowing wheat and chaff kids out with grades and tests. (Grading was always a socially clueless practice but when school was shorter and most jobs didn't rely on schooling, the brutality of grading as a means of sorting children in a compulsory system was far less in real-life impact.  Not true today.)

The US led the way with compulsory schooling in the 20th century but moving ahead in the 21st will mean facing the fact that many other nations have schooling in place.  These nations are doing some of it better.  Large countries like the US will inevitably face system design issues because our model in the US is flawed.  India may want the economic bump up literacy and numeracy provide but they are also putting in place a lobby and sector that will not easily be changed.  And maintaining the quality, in a system that size, of Finland or Singapore or even France, well, good luck with that.  Smaller countries may be better able to monitor and administer a compulsory system but they too would see improvements (especially in conservation of resources)  from decentralization and individuation of services.

Mass coerced schooling had its day: learning centers that provide families with the flexibility and options they need are the way forward. They would be truly public for the first time.

Background Posts
make public schools truly public
education (aka mass schooling) is not the answer to wage inequality
think twice India:  learn from mistakes made in the US
theft of education crimes
creeping institutionalization

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