My contribution to the Educational Perspectives discussion board this week.



Sharing some homework with you...

This week’s reading made it hard for me to not focus on Chapter 7’s historic analysis of the role of women in America’s education system, as a woman, mother, teacher and feminist. Maybe I’m just being cynical, but sadly, times don’t seem to have changed that drastically. Yes, there are more men in the classrooms. Yes, women have had suffragettes and the women’s movement. But no, women are not being paid equally. And no, many, many women wanting to balance family and work find it almost impossible to find that balance outside of careers besides teaching. (Just search online for statistics on women in the workplace, maternity leave, salary discrepancies, etc. and you will have all the proof in the world that I am correct if you haven’t experienced situations firsthand in your own life, whether it is you, a spouse, family member or friend.) Spring confirms the blatant imbalance in salary that continues today was the foundation of women coming into the workplace. Low paid teachers made the push to create academic systems across the nation an affordable solution to pushing the causes of school supporters. One main cause was creating a well-behaved, morally sound society. “Those involved with teacher training were interested in producing not moral crusaders who would engage in open public conflict over moral and social issues but teachers who would limit their moral campaigns to shaping student character. In other words, teacher education did not encourage or train teachers to confront directly the products of “weak moral character,” such as corrupt political structures, economic injustice, or actual criminal activities. As we push for more standardized learning practices in this day and age, this is a modern way of detracting young voices from joining alliances with those vocal about tackling those issues. You will see this in student newspapers still being censored for pointing out grievances the students may have against administrators and teachers. Also, the fact I’ve witnessed some of the more vocal and outspoken teachers fired or pushed out of positions. For example, I know drama coach empowered students by letting them know they could initiate a town hall meeting and request the presence of directors and principles. He didn’t last long at the organization.
But what is fascinating to me that the moral compass that teachers were building and still are building in students was based on strengthening the compassion and heart children have towards society. The Pestalozzian method, based on nurturing and mothering children to foster moral instruction was in a big contrast to previous methods focused on recitations and corporal discipline (p. 147).
This foundation, I believe, made the quality of the education students receiving it much higher and productive. The problems still lay in the disturbing fact that it was based on sexist and racist foundations. Women were to teach the compassion and heart. Mean were to teach the reason and leadership. This education still excluded, blacks Native Americans and others considered minorities at the time. What was so clear and so profound to me was that the system they were setting up seemed truly reasonable and plausible. Its strength as a foundation for America’s school system is obvious since most of us can see how we still stand by the same principles set more than centuries ago. The real problem is that the patriarchal society from the beginning still continued to divide and conquer the American people by sex, class, and race in order to maintain the privileges of the upper class white man. The bureaucratic model Spring breaks down for us on page 149 is the same model we follow today. The fact we rarely challenge these precepts means we are still allowing the system to be a divisive measure not allowing many of our society to fairly move ahead in the system. Last week I stated that I was in support of measures like the No Child Left Behind Act designed to pull our struggling schools and students ahead to meet national standards. But Ms. Hasseler made a very important point. Certain schools are still being rewarded and certain schools are still failing because the Act doesn’t tackle the inequities in the foundation this nation has set for our school system. Does this invalidate its ability to truly succeed? Can this Act really lift our nation’s current academic failings out of crisis mode? (I base this on facts that our students are underperforming compared to children of other nations.) My argument is that until our current bureaucratic system is seen as an inefficient cog denying funds to our neediest of populations, then we can’t fully succeed as a nation. We will continue to succeed as a classist, sexist and racist society just fine, but taking the next step will be a bigger challenge. That means educating ourselves and re-inventing ourselves to stop replaying our history over and over. That not only takes democratic bottom level grass roots movements but also republican trickle down policies from the top. With a nation full of crisis on so many levels, I’m not sure this is something I see our nation focusing on anytime soon. I fail to see the heart and moral compass of the American people in general, so patriotic and proud, ready to actually really feel truly compassionate and moved by such an issue as the current state of education in this country to do something as a mass of people, as a society, about it.

Reference:
Spring, J., (2001). The American School 1642-2000 (5th ed.). New York: McGraw Hill Higher Education.

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