The eloquent James Baldwin wrote his essay "A Talk to Teachers" in 1963. An brief excerpt:
America is not the world and if America is going to become a nation, she must find a way – and this child must help her to find a way to use the tremendous potential and tremendous energy which this child represents. If this country does not find a way to use that energy, it will be destroyed by that energy.We have seen these words come true. Society needs the energy of these children in order to be sustainable and strong. A modern nation-state cannot be stable and effective by wasting its human capital. Strengthening the police state has been attempted since Baldwin's time and it has failed completely. Police and war and prisons create crime and war for jobs and destroy communities, families, and the environment.
Eleven years later, here is Baldwin discussing education, a clip put up by the utube uploader, youwhohear, who says this:
Thanks for watching! i cut out this selection, along with another, from a longer Q&A with Baldwin at UC Berkeley in 1974. The full thing can be found on youtube in two parts, but i thought a few of these clips so important, prescient and relevant that i wanted them to be more accessible.
[my own transcription/captioning is questionable]
" ... the truth is it is very hard to talk about education in this country you can hardly talk about schools without talking about cities, and the cities are in the hands of financiers ... and our children are the victims of the principles according to which the country is run ... the country is not run according to the will of its citizens [I hope] or the good of its citizens [I know that] but profit, for money, to make money .... and education is a billion dollar industry and the least important part of that industry is the child ... "
"..... we tried to educate our children ourselves, to be responsible for the teaching, the curriculum, the books ... we did that for three years in New York some years ago and the experiment succeeded .... and because it succeeded it was crashed, smashed by the board of education, by the teacher's union, and Albany ... so that is what you're up against ....."
Growth of Homeschooling
Baldwin is speaking in 1974. The historic civil rights movement and the growing power of a military-industrial complex to engage in professional war, spawned many citizen movements to change mass institutions. They worked for change within and without the system.
Many African-Americans went into the public school system and worked to achieve what they had been denied. Some educational activists forged ahead to clear a path outside the institution. Homeschooling which would begin in earnest a few years later. From Wikipedia:
Similar to Holt, the Moores embraced homeschooling after the publication of their first work, Better Late Than Early, 1975, and went on to become important homeschool advocates and consultants with the publication of books like Home Grown Kids, 1981, Homeschool Burnout, and others.
At the time, other authors published books questioning the premises and efficacy of compulsory schooling, including Deschooling Society by Ivan Illich, 1970 and No More Public School by Harold Bennet, 1972.
In 1976, Holt published Instead of Education; Ways to Help People Do Things Better. In its conclusion, he called for a "Children's Underground Railroad" to help children escape compulsory schooling. In response, Holt was contacted by families from around the U.S. to tell him that they were educating their children at home. In 1977, after corresponding with a number of these families, Holt began producing Growing Without Schooling, a magazine dedicated to home education.
In 1980, Holt said, "I want to make it clear that I don't see homeschooling as some kind of answer to badness of schools. I think that the home is the proper base for the exploration of the world which we call learning or education. Home would be the best base no matter how good the schools were."Neoliberalism and corporate dominance would tear away at the family-sustaining wage and big box stores and fast food would push the boundaries of what was defined as work adn a job. The war on drugs and teh war on crime converged in mass incarceration. And the working-class family would be shattered in the intervening years. Schools would undertake zero tolerance as accountability and testing drove profits. Public schooling, once an admired investment, made no continuing investment in services and the growing incarceration state reached into the schools as the juvenile justice system helped pipeline kids out of schools and into prisons.
I think we can now talk about how the next step which is how schools can be transformed into a social service that supports all families of all kinds. Schools could strengthen all communities and families' lives by providing services that families can choose how they use if families were given input and real choice within the system, a system that weakens families and increasingly, criminalizes families and children.
A reader wrote in, last month, to note the description of Baldwin in a piece on African writer Alain Mabanckou (whose picture is shown; Update: pic now removed).
More Baldwin is up on utube:
James Baldwin v. William F. Buckley Jr. Debate