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Where Did Education Fail Us?

by Kim Grant about a year ago in teacher
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My final reflection on the semester of my doctoral study (don't ask how it's going), was about what it meant to obtain an education

My final reflection on the semester of my doctoral study (don't ask how it's going), was about what it meant to obtain an education. In this space, I have repeatedly thought about the big difference between education and schooling. The desire to teach students a particular set of ideas and materials is the hallmark of schooling. Education is the result of this process. However, teaching does not necessarily mean that someone is learning. And, even more importantly, learning does not mean that someone is in a school where schooling is taking place.

It also raises the question: Where did education fail us

We are naturally curious as human beings. We absorb a lot of sensory information from birth about ourselves, others, and the world around us. Many of us find schooling a deterrent to this rendition of education. We are introduced to the concept of education, which is a collection of explicit and implicit knowledges that society wants to pass on to our youngest children through multiple methods. If education is a process of discovery, curiosity, and narrows down to a list of items that allow the student to participate at multiple levels of society, then how did this schooling help this country and the rest of the world?

Is education failing us specifically?

It may not be enough for us to understand the full extent of our world's problems if we believe in anti-intellectualism. This country's line of thinking requires us to believe that all systems, whether public, private, charter or otherwise, ultimately calcify the injustices our country claims to want to eliminate. These processes are taken for granted by too many people who, instead of fighting for better, push for an individualist narrative that prevents society and themselves from directly addressing the problem. Schools serve as a scale of capital. Inequity must continue to justify parents' desire that their child have more than they do. Because of the inequity, some parents couldn't afford to provide a quality education for every child.

While I am a strong believer in public schools, it is also clear to me that society and its actors can cause distrust. How is it possible that the same policymakers and politicians who have the titles and pedigrees from universities be the ones who are not responsible for the humane perils that we are witnessing? How are these same pedigreed people able to use the knowledge they have acquired to devastate whole human beings economically, spiritually and literally?

What education will help children see that there is more to life than we think? What education will allow people to question the schooling that helps or hinders them in understanding this shared humanity? How can adults show compassion to students who have watched in horror as the country to which they pledged allegiance refused to help their immediate family, friends, teachers, grocers and doctors? How is it possible for people of extraordinary wealth to create an equitable society that supports a broad population who have been taught math at a level that is truly unquantifiable in real life?

What amount of schooling is required to get an education?

There are over 13,000 school districts across the US. Each district has a different level of decentralization, ranging from teacher evaluation and curriculum to hiring and exam. There are many adults who entered the profession to make a difference, keep a job, or do both. Sociologists might tell the country that we prepare children for work in multiple ways or train them to conform to society's standards. Although we may share a common set of standards and guidelines, we are still not sure what students should be learning about the world.

We're doing all this in a country with a technocratic, neoliberal "No Child Left Behind" policy. This set of policies pushed the narrative that higher expectations are possible through more data and testing. It's almost 20 years since the law was passed. It's difficult to know if this increased academic achievement has led to a better world.

We are learning something from it, in any case. Although this may not be the story you are looking for, it is one that inspires us to do better through rage, especially for those who have died to teach us these lessons.


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Kim Grant

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