Author Update – the Learning from Dogs author team are delighted to welcome Elliot to their ranks.
On April 1st I set the scene for the essays that I wanted to write for Learning from Dogs as follows:
I often ask myself just how effective the modern US schooling system is as a tool of education, and whether or not its costs outweigh its benefits. I hope to have at least a rough answer to this question in the final post of this series.
I intend to examine three topics:
– In what ways does the modern schooling system function as a positive tool for education?
– What costs involved in modern schooling hinder its ability as an educative tool, and even make it a negative influence on students?
– Considering the analyses put forth in the first two posts, do the costs or benefits or this system outweigh the other? On the whole, are school and education complements or antagonists?
On April 15th, I looked at the positive aspects of the American educational system. Now I look at the other side of the coin, so to speak.
While in my last post I attempted to put a positive spin on the United States education system, I must here admit that I personally tend to view it in a much more negative light. There are several reasons for this, three of which I will try to elaborate on here.
My first major concern about education in the United States is its lack of critical thinking skills, which produces students who do not know how to question the “system” for what is truly is, but rather constantly take the context of things presented as fact (the two-party political system is a perfect example of this.)
I am not necessarily arguing that the specific curriculum is being chosen to suit this purpose, though I think this argument could be made (it would, however, require quite a bit of research.)
Rather, consider the required courses – very rarely do you see courses on economics or logic. While some schools offer these as electives, they are almost never required. This is quite sad, as a sound ability to question the established authorities and the nature of the world as a whole requires a strong background in these two fields in particular.
The history of economics is a history of government policies that have failed because of their disregard for this very topic.
The economist Ludwig von Mises wrote that “the unpopularity of economics is the result of its analysis of the effects of privileges. It is impossible to invalidate the economists’ demonstration that all privileges hurt the interests of the rest of the nation or at least a great part of it.”
A second negative aspect of the American education system is what it does to the human mind. It essentially takes the mind and makes it into a factory that is able to take in information and then spit it back out. I think there is a direct relationship between the formerly mentioned lack of classes on logic and economics and this production of human beings who are essentially taught to be cogs in a machine.
Economically, the schooling system can, in this light, be seen as a massive subsidy to corporations, who are handed people already trained in how to listen then do and repeat.
Finally, I must admit that I am skeptical as to the true purpose of compulsory education. I have rarely in history seen it as a tool for true learning, as it seems to tend to rather be a system of control. I see no reason why our school system would be any different.
John Taylor Gatto, a former school teacher and avid critic of mandatory schooling, has written that the purpose of modern schooling is a combination of six different functions:
- The adaptive function – Establish a fixed reaction to authority.
- The integrating function – People taught to conform are predictable, and are easier to use in a large labor force.
- The directive function – School determines each student’s social role.The differentiating function – Children are trained as far as they need to go according to their prescribed social role
- The selective function – Tag the unfit with poor grades and disciplinary actions clearly enough that their peers will see them as unsuitable for reproduction, helping along natural selection.
- The propaedeutic function – A small fraction is quietly taught how to manage the rest.
I am not sure if I completely agree with Gatto, but he makes some interesting points. In my final article, I’ll attempt to weight the costs against the benefits, and see which comes out on top.
By Elliot Engstrom