Monday, September 5, 2022

What is School For?

Today I read with interest the New York Times "Sunday Opinion" insert on the state of our country's schools post pandemic.

As a former teacher and a parent and grandparent, I am passionate about the subject of education. It might even be the subject of my next book that I finish after the one I'm working on at the moment.

The New York Times insert touched on the many troublesome concerns that pertain to the American educational scene today from critical race theory, to social mobility, to meritocracy, to hope, to wasting time and money, to making citizens, to bonding with nature, to learning to read. There were even a few thoughts and photos by teenage students and teachers and a story about parent activists. The main articles were written by variety of authors and educators and professors. 

I found the different views fascinating even though I did not always agree with everyone's analysis.

For example, the article on citizenship by Heather McGee and Victor Ray favored much more radically a curriculum that exposes in much greater detail the inequities of racism in the past. I personally am a "just the facts" person so I probably might talk about Thomas Jefferson and his contribution to the making of America today without going into the details of his personal life. I might offer going deeper into Jefferson's life as an extra-curricular subject a student could pursue on his own. On the other hand, there are many facts to learn about slavery itself, i.e. that much of it was economic from the beginning and that even Abraham Lincoln was trying to figure out a way to find a solution to the problem from a humane point of view as well as political point of view. That topic might be a good one for a class discussion.

I so want us all to get along and am willing to make compromises in America. but not at the cost of embracing the importance of education for all if we are to maintain a successful country.  

There so many disparities in points of view about the subject of education from the libertarian view that we should all be free to educate our children the way we want to those who insist we rewrite our entire history to be more inclusive. Of course, this is America and we all have a right to disagree.

Bottom line, though I think we need to have a cohesive belief in what it means to be an American and how we can best carry out this belief. To me, as the PBS travel host Rick Steves said, it means educating our children so that they can make rational decisions about what it takes to keep those beliefs. Then it's up to them to take what they have learned and make us and our country even better.

Mimi Pockross is a freelance writer and the author of three books. Currently she is working on her fourth book, a novel about immigration and assimilation.