Friday, April 15, 2016

Did Anyone Ask the Poor What Education They Wanted for their Kids?

I was reading a piece from a pro-home-schooling site recently. This particular site is strong on self-directed learning, letting the kids figure out what they are interested in and letting them get on with it: "Having a set curriculum is so last-century."

Which is fine when you are a whip-smart Jewish mom and your kids are smarter than average smart Jewish kids. And it makes sense for the folks I call the People of the Creative Self. That's why education in general has been genuflecting towards the idea of an education in creativity. Our ruling class believes in creativity and so it believes that everyone else should too.

Back in the day the ruling class had different ideas. The French revolutionaries wanted government education that dished the Jesuits. The Prussians in the Napoleonic War wanted government education that raised up soldiers and an economy that could dish the French. The Brits started out opposing the education of the poor. In the US the Boston Brahmins in the 1830s wanted a state education that would cure the Irish of their Catholicism.

But by the end of the 19th century everyone agreed that education should prepare children to be obedient factory workers, and in this they had a point because research shows that it is extremely difficult to socialize post-pubertal men to factory discipline. It takes violence, just like it did in the good old days of the slave plantation. Or, to put it more gently, it takes basic training and drill instructors.

Of course since then the ruling class has decided that its scions that don't want to take their places in the establishment should all be creative artists, and so they have adapted the west's education systems to suit.

A creative education makes sense for the People of the Creative Self. But what about the People of the Responsible Self, the ordinary job-holding middle class? I'd guess that they would be wanting more of the old-time system: start with the three Rs, and then add in other useful arts that will help in the entry to the job market and the graduation to becoming a responsible citizen.

But what about the poor, the folks I call the People of the Subordinate Self? What do they want for their children? Has anyone ever asked them?

The only thing I know about the poor and education is anecdotal. I know about oversubscribed lotteries for slots at places like the Harlem Success Academy. I know about DC Schools chancellor Michelle Rhee getting fired for trying to get the teachers to work harder. I know also that the government schools serving the poor are the worst around.

Seriously. What do the poor want for their children? Do they want a baby-sitting service? Do they want discipline and the basics? Do they want jobs for teachers? Do they want their children to climb up into the middle class? Do they want to keep their kids out of gangs?

When you ask these questions you come to realize that, in the public square, we don't have a clue what the poor want in the education of their children.

And I think that's a shame.

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