Thursday, March 09, 2006

Education History

Education History:

"by Patrick Farenga (Copyright 2006, all rights reserved.)

One can view the history of education as an ongoing struggle between those who feel education is something to be done for someone and those who feel it is something people do for themselves. Educationists love to point out that their job is draw forth the latent talents of their students, to push and expose them to ideas and experiences they feel are necessary for children to know. Educationists find the origin of the English word “educate” in the Latin word, educere, meaning “to draw forth.” Our English word, educe, has the meaning “to make something latent develop or appear” according to Word’s on-line dictionary, so it is not surprising that educationists find their justification for pulling out students’ potential in that word. Indeed the political idea of “universal compulsory schooling” and the pedagogical concept of “making students learn what we think they ought to learn” are rooted in the educational concept of “drawing out,” even by force of law. This model of education is all about doing something to someone � whether they want it or not."

Though America is a democratic republic where “the pursuit of life, liberty, and happiness” are paramount, we school our children in a most undemocratic manner. Just over 150 years ago, America created compulsory school laws “for people’s own good” and these laws and educational customs have become so rooted in our culture that most citizens think they were ordained in our Constitution. However I think the political, spiritual, and ethical histories and reasons against universal compulsory schooling deserve a fresh look by we in the twenty-first century.

The root of education is nourishment from parent to child. Educationists will readily admit that children who do poorly in their classes probably come from a poor home environment where the parents are clueless about what their children are doing in schools, or they will blame communities that don’t support education. Yet rather than deal directly with the root issue of why homes and communities are not nourishing places for children to grow up in, educationists clamor for more school hours, as if mastery of state education standards can replace a lack of adequate housing, basic health care, and a living wage so parents can have time at home with their children rather than having to work more than 40 hours per week just to meet rent and expenses.

If we can keep the original meaning of education foremost in our minds when we discuss it, instead of focusing on more laws and techniques to draw forth what we expect from students, we can learn how to work with young people to create new solutions to the problems of growing up today. ■ P.F.


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