Segment Two Reflections

Segment Two Reflections

Can faith in education literally, and not merely figuratively, be considered an idol? (And could it become an idol even in the Christian school?)

I think the question was answered before it was asked with the great phrase, "where there is not faith in God, a substitute will be found." I think it is the nature of life to have fundamental beliefs. Many educators of many faith backgrounds feel called to the profession. If you are not grounded in one faith you will find another, an idol, to replace what God would have you believe. 

Stanley Hauerwas, Pro Ecclesia, Pro Texana: Schooling the heart in the heart of Texas. As you read, think about how his general claims about American society and the church’s relation to it, as well as his specific claims about the goals and shape of the university curriculum, might apply in your own school situation.
Hauerwas sets up the conundrum that all Christians face. How do each of us use the gifts and talents given to us by God in gratitude for what God has done? He gives an answer in the context of Butler, and in general which is: stand for something. I think we should stand for something. I also think that humans are each given vastly different talents and gifts. Two Christians might stand for very different ideas.  I think we have to become more comfortable with the irresolution of this problem, not less. Our personal rootedness in Christ will produce the fruit that God's Kingdom needs near us. 

With an expansive view of “moral” in mind (as the ethical environment in its multi-dimensionality), what would you say are some of the moral issues raised by the structure of schooling, with respect to the general patterns in your society, and its specific form in your own local setting? Are “disciplinary divisions” that promote fragmentation a problem at your level of schooling?

I think in America today the number one moral issue raised by the structure of schooling is access. We are not providing the best education to the most kids. In fact for most we are providing only a basic education based on increasingly watered down national standards. On top of that, the more likely you are to need a great education the less likely you are to get it.

As you read, reflect on what other societal forces are at work, along with the demands of capitalism, to subvert the commitment to equality. And, besides equality, to what other goals might (public) schools be seen to be – and ought they to be – oriented? David Tyack & Larry Cuban, Progress or regress? Tinkering to Utopia, pp. 12-39.
I think that they are quite fair if not erring a little on the harsh side in their assessment of public education. We have asked the public schools to do amazing things that we have asked of almost no other institution. Integration, parenting, test scores, citizens and job preparation all with little or no increase in funding. It is a wonder anything get done, let alone well.

In your professional context, do you have evidence to support Tyack and Cuban’s claim? Based on your experience and reading, what are some of the larger societal forces at work to militate against reform?
I think people are trusting their local schools less and less. The message we hear so often that education is so broken is hard to not apply locally. I my specific case I think the opposite true. I feel support from everyone, especially those who take the time to come in and see what is happening rather than rely purely on what they hear in the community and from their students. I think change needs to happen locally, but that the purse strings are moving further away from local, making change harder.

People seem to be less and less willing to pay for things that do not directly benefit them. This may just be a symptom of the economy, but I think it is a bigger issue. Of course this makes public education a hard sell because fully two thirds of tax payers do not get a direct benefit from it (people who do not have children, people whose children are out of the system, and those who opt out of the system).

“Many policymakers have narrowed the currency of educational success to one main measure – test scores – and reduced schooling to a means of economic competitiveness both personal and national” (p. 34). If this is as true today (!) as it was in 1995, what steps can be taken at the local level to combat this trend?
Test scores are even more important today. Because the standards are forever getting weaker as they nationalize the tests are also getting easier (no one tell the politicians). I think the solution is this simple. We know there is a better way to teach than to a test. We know that kids taught the better way will do fine on the tests. Believe this. Change and prove that it is true. Another part of this is that every politician who votes for a test needs to take the test the same day as the kids and post results of the test on the web.

Tyack and Cuban believe it is evident “that the public schools need to do a better job of teaching students to think, not just in order to (supposedly) rescue an ailing economy but to serve broad civic purposes as well” (p. 38). Why, or why not, should “teaching students to think” be central to the mission of schools?

It should be as long as schools are teaching them to use the thinking skill they have been gifted to them by God.

Terence J. Lovat & Neville D. Clement, The pedagogical imperative of values education.

Values are fundamental to excellent teaching.

H. Svi Shapiro, A parent’s dilemma: public vs. Jewish education.
I think his argument for Jewish education comes down to it having a much better chance than his local public school of creating in his daughter what values he would like to see. If I read it right this comes down to him believing that the public school is based in materialism and individualism and that does not mesh with his view of the world where he would like his daughter be concerned with the dignity of others. This is the harsh critique of public school that he was trying to avoid. He is saying what we all know, school is based in values. Currently the most common denominator in America is material goods and looking out for yourself. If you want other values you have to seek out other than public schooling.

Your responses to Shapiro’s article may differ, perhaps depending on which kind of school you work in, among other factors. But this is also a “critical social issue”, for individual students, parents, and society as a whole. What arguments would you employ in support of public policies that would address this issue (which is obviously multi-faceted)?

I think I would change the values of public education by getting rid of all national standards, all standardized tests and only allowing college and universities to accept students on interview. All of this would serve the purpose of putting the focus back on giving students experiences that form each one into what God would have each be (or in secular terms finding each student's best talents and growing them). That in turn could not avoid in part their connectedness to each other, part of what it is to be human and what is robbed of us in making each child experience exactly the same thing and have the same goals.