On Education

What is education?

What is its purpose?

The greatest history lesson on the history and purpose of education. Yet another example of institutionalization. John Taylor Gatto was New York City’s Teacher of the Year in 1989, 1990, and 1991. He was the New York State Teacher of the Year in 1991.

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“Education either functions as an instrument which is used to facilitate integration of the younger generation into the logic of the present system and bring about conformity or it becomes the practice of freedom, the means by which men and women deal critically and creatively with reality and discover how to participate in the transformation of their world.”

“Narration (with the teacher as narrator) leads the students to memorize mechanically the narrated content. Worse yet, it turns them into ‘containers’ into ‘receptacles’ to be filled by the teacher. The more completely she fills the receptacle, the better the teacher she is. The more MEEKLY the receptacles permit themselves to be filled, the better students they are.

“Education thus becomes the art of depositing in which the students are the depositories and the teacher is the depositor. Instead of communicating, the teacher issues communiques and makes deposits which the students patiently receive, memorize, and repeat. This is the banking concept of education in which the scope of the action allowed to the students extends to receiving, filling, and storing the deposits… In the last analysis, it is the people themselves that are filed away through the lack of creativity, transformation, and knowledge, in this (at best) misguided system.” (pp. 71-72)

“For apart from inquiry, apart from praxis, individuals cannot be truly human. Knowledge emerges only through invention and re-invention, through the restless, impatient, continuing, hopeful inquiry human beings pursue in the world, with the world, and with each other.

“In the banking system of education, knowledge is a gift bestowed by these who consider themselves knowledgeable upon those whom they consider to know nothing. Projecting an absolute ignorance onto others, a characteristic of the ideology of oppression, negates educAtion and knowledge as processes of inquiry. The teacher presents himself to his students as their necessary opposite; by considering their ignorance absolute, he justifies his own existence. The students, alienated like the slave in the Hegelian dialectic, accept their ignorance as justifying the teacher’s existence — but, unlike the slave, THEY NEVER DISCOVER THAT THEY EDUCATE THE TEACHER.” (p.72)
― Paulo FreirePedagogy of the Oppressed

“Any situation in which some men prevent others from engaging in the process of inquiry is one of violence;… to alienate humans from their own decision making is to change them into objects.”
― Paulo Freire

Since education is supposed to teach us to become contributing citizens in our communities, what sense does it make to segregate kids to educate them to live in a diverse community that often private and charter schools have become; often intentionally? This makes no sense. Our public education system gives my kids the privilege of being educated in a setting where they are the racial minority just as we are in the neighborhood where we have chosen to live. There is 85% poverty among their class mates. This is a very important education-conformityperspective for my kids socially; and I can see their depth and maturity because of it.

This is what I have thought for many years, until listening to the video clips by John Gatto above. Now I see that even though public schools are less segregated from community than private and charter schools, they still, nonetheless, segretate children from their families and loves ones and hand them over to people that do no know them, professionals, that are supposed to be able to know these children and educate them better than their families and beloved community.

But school is more than just social integration. The content of the learning is locked into regurgitating facts for a test with an end of making money and becoming a part of the machine. Education should be about learning to think, learning to learn, learning to ask questions, learning HOW to ask questions, learning how to listen to the views of others, learning to learn from everyone’s views, learning that we all see things differently, learning how to dialogue about those difference in a civil way that expands our understanding beyond ourselves, learning to live beyond ourselves, learning that everything cannot be defined and labeled, learning to embrace the great mysteries of life, and learning to honor and respect the rich diversity that makes us human; and mostly learning what a meaningful life is and how to live out a meaningful life.

For me, the ultimate purpose of education is to help me answer three essential questions:

  • Who am I? (my Identity)
  • Why am I here? (my Purpose)
  • What am I going to do about it? (my Mission)

Know any schools that teach this????

“The teacher is of course an artist, but being an artist does not mean that he or she can make the profile, can shape the students. What the educator does in teaching is to make it possible for the students to become themselves.”
― Paulo FreireWe Make the Road by Walking: Conversations on Education and Social Change

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“The irony is that the university explicitly promotes authentic inquiry and genuine discourse, both non-violent ways of being in the world. Violence in the university comes not from our explicit mission but from our ‘hidden curriculum.’ Imagine a political science professor teaching a course on the values of democracy, but teaching it in a way that essentially says to students, ‘Listen to what I say, sit down, shut up, make notes on it and feed it back to me at the end of the term.’ What students are learning is not the values of democracy but the habits that keep you safe in a totalitarian society. The hidden curriculum is inculcating a completely contradictory set of values via pedagogical violence.”  http://www.aps.org/publications/apsnews/200707/backpage.cfm

“In [academic] culture, the self is not a source to be tapped but a danger to be suppressed, not a potential to be fulfilled but an obstacle to be overcome. In this culture, the pathology of speech disconnected from self is regarded, and rewarded, as a virtue.” ~ Parker Palmer, The Courage to Teach

I now understand what Nelle Morton meant when she said that one of the great tasks in our time is to “hear people to speech.” Behind their fearful silence, our students want to find their voices, speak their voices, have         their voices heard. A good teacher is one who can listen to those voices even before they are spoken—so that someday they can speak with truth and confidence. ~ Parker Palmer, The Courage to Teach

What does it mean to listen to a voice before it is spoken? It means making space for the other, being aware of the other, paying attention to the other, honoring the other. ~ Parker Palmer, The Courage to Teach

“So, you want us to stop being professors and become therapists.” No, that is not what I want. What I want is a richer, more paradoxical model of teaching and learning than binary thought allows, a model that reveals how the paradox of thinking and feeling are joined—whether we are comfortable with paradox or not. Behind the critic’s comment is a trained incapacity to see that heart and mind work as one in our students and in our selves. They cannot be treated separately, one by the professor, the other by the therapist. When a person is healthy and whole, the head and the heart are both-and, not either-or, and teaching that honors that paradox can help make us all more whole. ~ Parker Palmer, The Courage to Teach

http://www.uky.edu/~eushe2/quotations/palmer.html

“Throughout the ages sages have warned us that we can’t see what is true even when it is presented to us because that which is true isn’t what we expect or want to hear. The traditional western symbol for this is choosing Barabbas; choosing what is familiar or most likegreat minds us over what is true or sacred.

“This is as true in educational matters as it is in religious ones. Modern education is so obviously failing to solve the world’s problems, is so rightly criticised for not meeting societies’ aspirations, and is so clearly unable to prepare people for the fundamental challenges of living. To solve these problems, we seem to need educational insights that marry the most profound learning possible with the everyday; the subtle with the mundane; or to put it another way, the sacred with the secular. I feel Jiddu Krishnamurti’s insights into education are such a marriage. I feel they are radical, that they meet the challenges of living at a profound level, and they do so at a time when such insights are desperately needed. Of all the many subjects that Krishnamurti addressed in his more than seventy years of writing books and speaking in public, I believe it is Krishnamurti’s insights into education that most people will eventually feel has had the greatest effect on the world.

“From the full body of his work, we can conclude that, for Krishnamurti, education is 1.) educating the whole person (all parts of the person), 2.) educating the person as a whole (not as an assemblage of parts), and 3.) educating the person within a whole (as part of society, humanity, nature, etc.) from which it is not meaningful to extract that person. From the above it probably goes without saying, though it can not be said often enough, education is not about preparation for only a part of life (like work) but is about preparation for the whole of life and the deepest aspects of living.”  

jiddu krishnamurti and his insights into education

by Scott H. Forbes

http://www.infed.org/thinkers/et-krish.htm

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Loss of the Capacity for Thought and Surprise

“Another price we pay for living in a consumer world is that we end of purchasing experiences rather than activiely producing them. We have become spectators. In the consumer ecology, you substitute purchasing something for the experience and satisfaction of creating.

“Being a spectator — electrified, constantly distracted — means that we no longer require thoughts of our own. Instead of thinking our own thoughts, we rent or purchase the thoughts of others. Every time we  watch television, we let someone else decide what we are thinking about. Do this long enough and the mind becomes colonized. The implications for democracy are obvious.

“Over time, we lose the competence to have a new thought and with it the experience of adventure or surprise. My wish for safety in the world, yielding sovereignty to my boss, living to another’s way, affects my capacity to be open to an experience or thought that I have not had before. How often do you hear people comment on what a unique experience it is to have time to think?

“This is true even in places of higher learning. A professor friend was having lunch with his dean. The dean said that he had been reading the anonymous neildegrassen on educationstudent feedback forms about the professor and noticed one thing different about the student evaluations this professor had received. When asked what was unique about the professor’s course, the dean said, the students answered that they had engaged in ‘thinking’. None of the other faculty member evaluations said that.

“The dean leaned forward, looked around to make sure no one was listening, and asked, ‘How do you get them to think?’ Thought, even higher education, has becoem the exception, a rarity.

“What are the students doing if they are not thinking? Consuming. If you are a professor in a college classroom, you are in a room not of learners but of young people just sitting there as total consumers. They do not show up to learn; they show up for a resume that will get them a good enough job to pay off their jiddu-krishnamurti-on-intelligence-and-education2educational debt and prvide enough extra for a good consumer life.

“Instead of valuing education, they are consumers interested in information. Information. Information is the booby prize in education. The culture of the university is no longer a place for education; it is a terminal to pass through in order to get somewhere. It is a high-level vocational education. It is a credential. It has replaced the creation of learning with the consumption of instruction.”

The Abundant Community by John McKnight and Peter Block

“What is the true function of an educator? What is education? Why are we educated? Are we educated at all? Because you pass a few examinations, have a job, competing, struggling, brutalizing ambition, is that education? What is an educator? Is he one who prepares the student for a job, merely for a job, for technical achievement in order to earn a livelihood? That is all we know at present. There are vast schools, universities where you prepare the youth, boy Jiddu-Krishnamurtioneducationor girl, to have a job, to have technical knowledge so that he or she can have a livelihood. Is that alone the function of a true educator? There must be something more than that, because it is too mechanical. So you say that the educator must be an example. You agree with that? You will have to follow the truth of the matter, to go into it. When you go into it you will see the truth of it, namely, no example is necessary.” – Krishnamurti, J. Krishnamurti The Collected Works Volume VIII

“You may be a sociologist, an anthropologist or a scientist, with your specialized mind working away at a fragment of the whole field of life. You are filled with knowledge and words, with capable explanations and rationalizations. And perhaps in the future the computer will be able to do all this infinitely better than you can. So education may have a different meaning altogether – not merely transferring what is printed on a page to your brain. Education may mean opening the doors of perception on to the vast movement of life. It may mean learning how to live happily, freely, without hate and confusion, but in beatitude. Modern education is blinding us; we learn to fight each other more and more, to compete, to struggle with each other. Right education is surely finding a different way of life, setting the mind free from its own conditioning. And perhaps then there can be love which in its action will bring about true relationship between man and man.”

J. Krishnamurti Five Conversations 5th Conversation TheCollected Works Volume XIII

“A school is a place where one learns about the totality, the wholeness of life. Academic excellence is absolutely necessary, but a school includes much more than that. It is a place where both the teacher and the student explore, not only the outer world, the world of knowledge, but also their own thinking, their own behavior.” Krishnamurti

“This is the function of all education. We need to bring about a good society in which all human beings can live happily in peace, without violence, with security. As a student you are responsible for this.” Krishnamurti

“To learn not only from books and teachers, but to study and learn about yourself – this is basic education.” Krishnamurti

What is Education? (Debra El Ramey)

 “Whatever an education is, it should make you a unique individual, not a conformist; it should furnish you with an original spirit with which to tackle the big challenges; it should allow you to find values which will be your road map through life; it should make you spiritually rich, a person who loves whatever you are doing, wherever you are, whomever you are with; it should teach you what is important, how to live and how to die.”

Critical pedagogue

Ira Shor defines critical pedagogy as:

“Habits of thought, reading, writing, and speaking which go beneath surface meaning, first impressions, dominant myths, official pronouncements, traditional clichés, received wisdom, and mere opinions, to understand the deep meaning, root causes, social context, ideology, and personal consequences of any action, event, object, process, organization, experience, text, subject matter, policy, mass media, or discourse.” (Empowering Education, 129)
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