and action.In democratic schools, an emphasis on the needs and interests of the student is co-primary with faith in a kind of robust public thatcan be created in classrooms, as well as in the larger society. To be exclusively child-centered, to the extent that the needs of the groupare ignored or erased, is to develop a kind of fatalistic narcissism; to honor the group while ignoring the needs of the individual is todestroy any possibility of freedom. This is the meaning of community, the creation of places where people are held together becausethey are working along common lines in a common spirit with common aims. These are places of energy and excitement, unlike thesites of coercion and containment that are all-too-familiar in schools: the difference is motive, spirit, and atmosphere. These qualitiesare found when people move from being passive recipients to choosing themselves as authors, actors, builders, and makers within asocial surround.When the aim of education is the absorption of facts, learning becomes exclusively and exhaustively selﬁsh, and there is no obvioussocial motive for learning. The measure of success is always a competitive one—it is about comparing results and sorting people intowinners and losers. People are turned against one another, and every difference becomes a potential deﬁcit. Getting ahead of others isthe primary goal in such places, and mutual assistance, which can be so natural, is severely restricted or banned. On the other hand,where active work is the order of the day, helping others is not a form of charity, something that impoverishes both recipient andbenefactor. Rather a spirit of open communication, interchange and analysis becomes a commonplace. Of course in these places thereis a certain natural disorder, a certain amount of anarchy and chaos as there is in any busy workshop. But there is a deeper discipline,the discipline of getting things done and learning through life, and there is an appreciation of knowledge as an inherently publicgood—something that can be reproduced at little or no cost, and (unlike commodities), when it’s given away, no one has any less of it. In a rational society, knowledge would be shared without any reservation or restriction whatsoever.Schools serve societies—in many ways all schools are microcosms of the societies in which they’re embedded—and they are bothmirror and window onto the social reality. If one understands the schools, one can see the whole of society; if one fully grasps theintricacies of society, one will know something true about the schools. In a totalitarian society, for example, schools would be built forobedience and conformity; in a kingdom, the schools would teach fealty. But in an authentic democracy we would expect to ﬁndschools deﬁned by a spirit of cooperation, inclusion, and full participation, places that honor diversity while building unity. Schools ina democracy would resist the over-specialization of human activity—the separation of the intellectual from the manual, the head fromthe hand, the heart and the head, the creative and the functional—as a distortion. The goal of democratic schools would be the ﬂuidityof function, the variation of work and capacity, the mobilization of intelligence and creativity and initiative and work in all directions.The education we are used to is only a caricature—it is not authentically or primarily about full human development. Why, forexample, is education thought of as only kindergarten through 12th grade, or kindergarten through university? Why does educationoccur only early in life? Why is there a point in our lives when we feel we no longer need education? Why again, is there a hierarchyof teacher over student? Why are there grades and grade levels? Why is there attendance? Why is being on time so valuable? Whyindeed do we think of a productive and a service sector in our society, with education designated a service activity? Why is educationseparate from production?
Eugenics and Education
will change the way you think about curriculum and teaching, school reform, educational policy andpractice, and even the current debates concerning immigration and marriage. This is essential reading for anyone who hopes tounderstand the sorry state of our schools today, and the deep changes we must undertake to improve them. After seeing the worldthrough Ann Winﬁeld’s eyes, when you hear the terms “gifted and talented” or “at risk” you’re likely to wince. Good.
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