I have a dream: that every person completes public education with the same enthusiasm and lust for learning that they entered the system with. This dream is possible through creative reorganization of existing resources and changing the system by which public education has been organized since its inception. Public education is the one thing most of us have in common and thereby weaves the fabric of our society. To heal our social ills we need a system of public education that validates, nurtures, and includes everyone.
Parents, how much do you spend on back-to-school clothes? After-school care? Is it a chore to deal with homework and provide meals? All of these can be incorporated into public education by transforming schools into intentional communities designed to nurture and engage the whole person including the family unit. Patterned along the win-win craft/journeyman system, this system of organization changes every facet of the existing win-lose business system of public education: form and function, scope and sequence. Education becomes a way of life and not just a place you must go for a given length of time, as our Founding Fathers intended. This intentional community concept is threatening to those who make money off of education, textbook publishers and administrators in particular, as the intentional communities system operates as a nonprofit and subjects such as history, geography, science, languages and mathematics are taught from the perspective of the subject matter (growing plants, tending animals, entrepreneurship for example), not in isolation nor from the political perspective. This approach actively trains the mind to think rather than passively accept without questioning.
The mind must be trained to think critically, it does not happen organically. Thomas
Jefferson declared that ignorance and self-government cancel each other and implied that an autocratic government can violate inherent liberties only if the population is ignorant. Do you think ignorance is bliss? It’s “bliss” because when you don’t know much you feel like you know everything. It is only through learning that you realize how much more there is to learn. “Ignorant bliss” renders our form of government dysfunctional, if not moot.
Jefferson created public education as the vehicle to orchestrate “an enlightened population” capable of engaging in the political process. In 1816, he wrote, “if a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and what never will be”. Despite tireless and diligent efforts by teachers and students, the constant political badgering, intense pressure, and mandated requirements of standardized testing has resulted in graduates with untrained brains and more likely to be passive and easier to mislead with “alternative facts” and ‘misinformation.”
Our Founding Fathers wanted public education to develop minds capable of critical thinking, ignite a love of learning, and build mastery of letters and numbers. However, political meddling has changed the focus of public education from students to adults, and in the process replaced the joy and teaching moments with strict accountability and mandated standardized tests. Decades of political badgering, constant scrutiny, burgeoning bureaucracy, public shaming, and the existing win-lose business system of public education have conspired to create and nurture an undercurrent ‘culture of failure’ embedded within public education, a sense of “I can’t win so why try.” I hypothesize this culture of failure is responsible for unraveling our social fabric, as evidenced by all the random violence and craziness. I propose a humanistic win-win system for public education to begin the healing our society so desperately needs.
This badgering of public education has gone on for decades, imprinting negativity. It is time to bring a win-win system of operation to our public schools. We can transform schools into intentional communities that build efficacy and confidence through interdisciplinary group learning of sustainable skills and sharing food, all without requiring additional resources. Now is the time for bold innovation!