Joanna  Liao  

Honors  232  
Final  Paper  
 

An  Examination  of  Education’s  Components  of  Who,  What,  and  Why  
 
Introduction  
 
I   had   fun   going   to   school.   It   gave   my   curious   mind   several   opportunities   for  
adventures.   Though   I   enjoyed   school,   I   had   little   faith   in   the   system.   Society   gave   me   the  
impression   that   education   was   a   silly   profession   and   schools   were   forever   flawed.   I  
sometimes   find   it   amusing   that   I   now   am   interested   in   examining   the   exact   system   I   was  
originally  so  hesitant  about.    
 
This   particular   course   gave   me   a   wider   look   on   issues   in   education   and,   more  
importantly,   how   to   talk   about   them.   It   was   all   built   upon   one   major   question:   Who   gets  
What  and  Why?  The  Political  and  Moral  Context  of  Education  and  Schooling.    
 
With  this  larger  question  in  mind  I  shall  explore  the  following  topics:  The  “What”  in  
question,   who   gets   the   “what”,   why   do   some   have   more   than   others,   who   the   most  
important  people  in  education  should  be,  why  change  is  difficult,  and  why  the  Ideal  situation  
matters.  
 
The  “What”  In  Question  
 
Primarily   what   will   be   discussed   is   “education”.   However,   the   term   “opportunities”  
will  be  used  as  well.    
 
What  exactly  is  education?  And  how  does  this  differ  from  “school”?  Some  may  ask,  
“Is  there  a  difference?”  while  others  may  ask,  “Does  it  matter?”  There  is  a  critical  distinction  
however,  one  that  must  be  made  before  going  into  the  details  of  discussion.  
 
Education  is  learning  anytime  and  anywhere.    
 
Schooling  is  a  formal  institution  where  education  occurs.    
What  is  the  purpose  of  education  in  schools?  People  used  to  think  it  was  the  job  of  
the  school  to  keep  kids  “interested”.  Historically  there  were  phases  in  curriculum,  such  as  a  
focus  on  practical  life  skills,  letting  students  decide  what  to  study,  or  learning  a  certain  skill  
set.   I   disagree.   In   terms   of   specific   aspects   that   should   be   addressed,   I   believe   in   teaching  
students   what   they   do   not   know.   While   I   believe   children   to   be   perfectly   capable   in   learning  
whatever   is   given   to   them,   they   have   limited   knowledge   in   what   the   world   has   to   offer.  
Therefore  it  is  up  to  the  school  to  inform  students  of  these  opportunities,  and  in  the  words  
of  Roger  Soder,  for  teachers  to  teach  students.    
However,  the  purpose  is  much  larger  than  just  the  curriculum  or  the  specifics.  There  
is   a   much   larger   context   that   is   being   missed.  Education   reflects   and   propagates   the   political  
regime   it   is   in;   it   has   a   political   component,   a   political   context.   In   the   United   States   this  
means   schools   support   our   Democracy.   Roger   Soder   lays   out   several   key   conditions   for   a  
Democracy   in   his   piece   “Education   for   Democracy”.   These   include   Trust,   Knowledge   of  
Rights,  and  Recognition  of  the  Tension  Between  Freedom  and  Order,  amongst  nine  others.    
What   attention   should   be   drawn   to   is   the   condition   of   recognizing   the   difference   between   a  

persuaded   audience   and   a   more   thoughtful   public.   A   political   regime   can   be   established   but  
will   not   last   very   long   if   there   are   not   people   who   will   propagate   and   support   the   system.  
This   relates   back   to   schooling   because   many   people   conclude   that   it   is   the   public   schools  
that   have   access   and   impact   on   the   most   number   of   people,   a   place   where   they   are   most  
likely   to   learn   these   Democratic   conditions   and   characteristics.   Thus   Soder   hits   the   mark  
when   he   writes,   “The   Fundamental   purpose   of   schools,   on   this   view,   is   to   teach   children  
their  moral  and  intellectual  responsibilities  for  living  and  working  in  a  democracy.”  
The  political  context  and  a  more  thoughtful  public  may  be  nice  ideas  to  contemplate.  
But  the  importance  of  this  is  critical.  Leaders  use  persuasive  rhetoric.  In  despotism  leaders  
can  persuade  with  speeches,  like  the  familiar  “this  is  for  your  benefit”  or  “your  leader  is  your  
friend”.  Or  they  persuade  by  brute  strength,  like  a  demonstration  of  tanks  and  firepower  and  
executions.   There   are   many   other   forms   of   persuasion   despotisms   partake   in.   Point   is,   the  
people  have  no  choice  but  to  give  in  and  follow  their  leaders.  They  may  believe  themselves  
to   be   content,   but   in   reality   they   simply   do   not   know   better.   They   act   as   a   persuaded  
audience  that  is  lulled  by  their  leaders’  voices.  In  school  they  are  likely  taught  to  act  as  such,  
learning   about   how   their   leaders   are   compassionate   and   kind   (or   perhaps   ruthless   and  
terrifying),   and   to   be   submissive   obedient,   and   docile.   They   will   learn   whatever   qualities   are  
fit  for  a  subject  of  that  political  context.    
Leaders   in   a   Democracy   must   use   a   different   sort   of   persuasion.   There   must   be  
relationships  built  between  the  people  and  the  leaders,  a  relationship  of  open  discussion  and  
trust.  But  this  trust  is  an  aware  trust.  What  I  mean  by  this  is  that  the  public  has  knowledge  of  
their  rights  and  knows  what  they  seek  in  a  Democracy.  Thus  when  they  listen  to  their  leaders  
they  can  observe  if  the  leader  is  talking  and  taking  them  in  a  direction  they  want  to  go.  They  
do   not   follow   blindly   without   first   critically   thinking   and   discussing   the   situation   or   their  
opinions.   This   is   why   a   more   thoughtful   public   is   critical   for   the   political   context   of   a  
Democracy.  Otherwise  the  Democracy  would  cease  to  exist  and  morph  into  something  else.  
As   a   thoughtful   public,   one   thing   to   keep   in   mind   is   that   context   matters.   Just   as   I  
wrote,  the  political  context  plays  a  large  role  in  defining  the  purpose  of  schools.  It  is  just  as  
we  define  a  problem  and  a  solution.  Depending  on  how  a  situation  is  observed  will  influence  
how   a   problem   is   identified.   Defining   the   problem   will   influence   what   the   adequate   solution  
is.   If   we   observe   the   following   issues   issues   as   a   condition   of,   say,   racial   diversity,   and   not   as  
a  problem  then  no  work  will  be  done.  If  we  identify  the  issues  as  an  economic  problem,  then  
increasing  funding  is  one  solution.  It  is  an  intricate  relationship,  one  of  many  that  must  be  
kept  in  mind  when  examining  education  and  schooling  in  today’s  society.    
 
Who  gets  How  Much  of  the  Cake?  
 
I   once   read   an   article   about   a   school   in   the   1970’s.   Located   in   St.   Louis,   Illinois   the  
school  infrastructure  was  usually  dilapidated;  the  surrounding  community  was  mostly  lower  
class.   The   students   and   staff   at   the   school   were   one-­‐hundred   percent   African   American   at  
that  time.  The  background  of  students  varied  from  poverty  to  a  select  middle  class  few,  with  
the  socioeconomic  backgrounds  reflected  in  how  they  dressed.    

 
Compare   this   to   a   school   in   a   middle   class,   close-­‐knit   community.   There   is   a   racial  
diversity  amongst  students  and  staff  though  socioeconomic  status  does  not  differ  as  much,  
meaning  students  arrive  dressed  in  weather  appropriate  clothes.  
 
This   juxtaposition   of   schools   is   not   uncommon.   Looking   across   America,   or   even  
across  a  town,  schools  can  vary  drastically.  This  is  a  prime  introduction  to  the  fact  that  not  
everyone  gets  one  hundred  percent  of  the  same  thing;  in  this  case  that  “thing”  is  education.    
Not   much   has   changed   in   many   aspects   over   the   years   of   schooling.   Often   times  
people  claim  that  issues,  particularly  when  resources  are  involved,  come  back  to  the  money  
and  being  able  to  afford  the  cost.  Many  times  in  schools  funding  is  a  large  issue.  A  dichotomy  
between   funding   in   upper   class   schools   and   those   primarily   serving   lower   class   students   can  
be   observed,   particularly   when   the   PTA   fundraisers   and   donations   are   taken   into   account.  
Stated  blatantly,  the  rich  often  have  more  opportunities  and  access  to  education.  The  poor  
have  very  little  offered  to  them.  There’s  often  times  a  lack  of  support,  with  the  underlying  
theme  that  these  students  are  not  good  enough  to  succeed.  This  paired  with  the  larger  lack  
of  a  payoff  offers  little  motivation  to  these  students  for  the  few  opportunities  they  have.    
 
This  does  not  sound  equal.  And  it  is  not.  However,  equality  is  a  key  term  to  define,  as  
is  equity.  The  urge  to  charge  in  the  name  of  equal  education  for  all  children  is  noble,  though  
definitions  do  cause  us  to  pause  and  think  about  what  action  we  are  exactly  calling  for.    
First,   equality:   as   Deborah   Stone   says   through   her   chocolate   cake   analogy,   equality  
has  many  different  levels  and  forms.  Essentially  it  is  having  the  same  as  everyone  else.  For  
instance,  equal  access  to  school  would  mean  everyone  has  the  opportunity  to  go  to  school.  
On  the  other  hand  it  could  be  equal  partition  based  on  rank;  for  instance,  the  student  that  
has  been  in  school  for  four  years  gets  more  one-­‐on-­‐one  attention  than  a  student  with  one  
year  of  school.  With  all  these  twists  on  the  term,  sometimes  it  is  not  best  to  begin  claiming  
equality   for   all   before   thinking   about   the   implications   and   potential   detrimental  
consequences.    
Then  there  is  equity:  this  is  more  along  the  lines  of  having  different  things  but  with  
equal  significance  for  separate  people.  For  instance,  food  to  a  hungry  person  may  have  the  
same  value  as  a  shower  to  someone  who  has  been  working  in  the  mud  all  day.  It  also  seeks  
to   give   those   without   certain   skills   or   those   who   are   at   a   disadvantage   an   opportunity   to  
minimize  that  disadvantage  and  have  more  of  an  equal  chance.  For  instance,  a  high  school  
drop  out  may  not  know  how  to  write  a  resume  or  cover  letter,  so  they  take  classes  to  know  
how  to  do  this,  giving  them  the  knowledge  that  their  competitors  have.    
There  are  large  inequalities  and  inequities  and  all  around  lack  of  balance  for  different  
students  in  schools.  But  why  is  this  so?    
 
Why  do  Some  have  More  than  Others?  
 
Throughout   history   there   has   been   a   consistent   trend   in   beliefs   that   not   everyone  
should  learn  everything,  for  a  variety  of  reasons.  Charles  Murray  wrote  about  how  too  many  
people  were  attending  college  and  were  not  equipped  with  the  skills  or  intelligence  to  deal  
with  the  rigor  of  college.  Burton  Clark  discussed  the  “cooling  out”  function  of  schools  to  help  
students  bring  down  their  own  expectations  to  realize  they  are  “better  suited”  for  something  
else.   This   relates   back   to   Murray’s   idea   that   people   were   not   ready   to   handle   college.  

Hofstadter  describes  the  Life  Adjustment  period  where  people  discussing  schooling  reform  
believed   sixty   percent   of   students   were   uneducable.   Then   there   are   quotes   from   the  
Enlightenment   Period,   where   people   discussed   giving   everyone   education   but   only   the  
amount  they  needed  for  their  occupation;  any  more  and  they  might  rebel.    
The  general  sentiment  behind  these  beliefs  has  persisted  to  this  day.  It  may  or  may  
not   have   become   an   unconscious   course   of   action.   But   why   are   the   gaps   still   present   and  
why  do  we  not  like  to  talk  about  it?  Following  are  some  major  factors.      
 
Students  are  split  by  socioeconomic  and  class  statuses.  These  divisions  are  typically  
not  intentional  or  deliberately  put  into  action  by  one  person.  However,  it  is  a  sort  of  forced  
self-­‐segregation   that   occurs,   with   lower   income   families   having   limited   options   and   then  
moving   to   the   cheaper   housing   neighborhoods   where   often   times   families   are   also   in   the  
same  class.  Meanwhile  wealthy  families  stay  in  their  suburban  neighborhoods  on  the  other  
side   of   town.   This   means   a   separation   of   resources   and   opportunities.   For   instance,   look  
back  to  the  PTA  fundraising  example.  As  the  saying  goes,  the  rich  get  richer  and  the  poor  get  
poorer.  
 
This   relates   to   the   larger   context   of   culture   as   a   propagating   factor   in   which   students  
receive   what.   If   this   way   of   viewing   different   socioeconomic   classes   becomes   a   defining  
factor  in  how  they  are  treated,  and  if  no  action  is  taken  to  level  the  playing  field  for  different  
classes   then   the   culture   will   take   on   the   attitude   of   the   system.   Once   the   culture   is  
established   it   sets   a   precedent   for   the   community   and   the   generations   to   come,   leaving  
them  in  the  same  position  as  before.    
 
Above  all  I  believe  that  race  is  one  of  the  most  crucial  factors.  Often  times  there  are  
accompanying   racial   demographics   that   go   with   socioeconomic   class.   Typically   it   is   observed  
that   most   living   in   the   lower-­‐income   neighborhoods   are   minorities:   African   Americans,  
Latinos,   so   on.   Of   course   this   is   not   true   for   all   people   of   these   demographics.   There   are  
always   exceptions   to   each   situation.   Or,   in   the   case   of   John   Ogbu’s   writing,   there   can   be  
interesting   distinctions   between   entire   groups.   Examine   his   concept   of   voluntary   and  
involuntary   minorities.   Involuntary   minorities   have   moved   against   their   will;   for   instance,  
African  Americans  and  the  slavery  trade  or  Native  Americans  and  reservations.  Meanwhile  
the   voluntary   minorities   typically   came   to   America   seeking   a   better   life.   This   attitude  
brought   to   the   United   States   influences   how   they   operate   in   society   and   how   they   adapt.  
What  is  intriguing  to  note  here  from  Ogbu’s  text  is  how  an  African  American  student  born  
and  raised  in  the  States  will  be  less  likely  to  graduate  high  school  or  to  put  effort  into  school  
and  education  while  an  immigrant  from,  say,  the  Middle  East  who  chose  to  come  over  may  
work   hard   and   overcome   adversities   and   go   on   to   college   and   to   become   a   citizen   operating  
in   the   everyday   life   of   Democracy.   So   it   not   only   comes   to   skin-­‐color,   but   to   the  
accompanying  culture,  history,  and  also  payoff.    
 
The   question   that   must   be   asked   is   do   we   want   this   current   situation   to   continue?    
Do   we   want   to   limit   the   number   of   students   with   the   opportunity   to   learn,   and   for   this  
current  system  of  inequality  to  stay?  
 
No.   I   know   that   this   is   not   how   the   system   should   be.   Children   should   not   be   at   a  
disadvantage   simply   because   of   their   skin   color   or   socioeconomic   factors,   or   on   the   other  

end,  have  an  unfair  advantage.  This  is  not  the  system  we  want.  How  do  we  start  looking  at  
the  situation  then?  How  might  we  make  a  change?    
One   of   the   questions   we   must   first   ask   is   who   knows   how   to   “do”   school.   What   does  
this  strange  phrase  mean?  Essentially  it  is  a  question  of  who  is  going  to  “succeed”  in  school  
and  how  that  performance  capability  is  determined.  By  determining  how  children  learn  and  
the  context   of   their   learning,   it   can   influence   the   manner   of   going   about   the   solution  to   gain  
more  equality  in  education.    
 
Annette   Lareau   ultimately   says   that   there   are   two   different   ways   children   are   raised,  
dependent  upon  socioeconomic  background.  Children  in  middle-­‐  to  upper-­‐class  families  are  
generally  taught  to  be  leaders.  Children  from  a  lower  socioeconomic  background  are  taught  
to   obey   and   respect   authority,   making   them   much   stronger   followers.   But   since   these   are  
ways  that  children  are  raised,  in  the  context  of  who  knows  how  to  do  school  it  is  ultimately  
predetermined.    
 
Ray  Rist  examined  how  teacher  presuppositions  influence  treatment  of  students  over  
a   period   of   three   years   at   the   Attucks   school   in   St.   Louis.   The   school   is   the   one   described  
earlier,   from   the   1970’s   with   a   one-­‐hundred   percent   African   American   student   and   staff  
population.  The  classroom  he  examined  had  a  socioeconomic  mix  of  students,  with  a  range  
of  appearances.  Ultimately  what  occurred  was  the  teacher  briefly  observed  the  children  and  
based  on  what  she  saw  in  addition  to  the  student  background  files  she  split  the  class  into  3  
tables:   Those   highly   likely   to   succeed,   those   maybe   to   succeed,   and   those   destined   to   fail.  
The  teacher  he  examined  was  from  a  middle  class  background,  so  how  she  viewed  success  
drastically  influenced  her  treatment  of  students  to  prefer  those  who  acted  or  dressed  closest  
to   a   middle   class   child.   In   this   case   only   the   well-­‐groomed,   most   “civilized”   children   were  
deemed   as   likely   successful,   and   the   majority   of   resources   and   attention   were   granted   to  
them.    
 
Then   there   is   John   Ogbu.   He   talks   about   how   there   are   conflicting   cultures   in   the  
minority   –   specifically   African   American   –   community.   While   some   students   do   study   hard  
and  try  to  achieve  in  school,  this  conflicts  with  the  more  typical  culture  of  African  American  
students.   Studious,   high-­‐achieving   students   at   schools   like   the   Attucks   school   may   be  
shunned  by  their  peers  for  their  choices  to  succeed.  The  cultural  conflict  is  only  part  of  the  
story.  There  is  also  the  issue  of  a  lack  of  payoff.  If  there  are  no  physical  jobs  then  there  are  
no  success  stories.  If  there  are  no  success  stories  then  there  is  no  motivation,  no  change  and  
no  more  hope  than  before.  What  was  missing  in  Ogbu’s  time  and  is  still  missing  today?  Jobs.  
Thus   payoff   is   a   prominent   issue.   Race,   tied   to   payoff   and   culture,   influences   who   will   do  
school  well.    
These  factors  are  all  quite  controversial,  causing  many  people  to  shy  away  from  deep  
discussions.   Often   times   there   is   also   fear   of   disturbing   the   status   quo,   a   fear   of   change.  
Turbulence  is  something  few  enjoy  in  their  life,  so  typically  life  goes  on  day  after  day  without  
any  talk.  Yet  there  is  a  difference  between  observing  the  inequality,  acknowledging  it,  and  
then  trying  to  determine  the  underlying  causes.  What  I  did  here,  and  what  the  public  needs  
to   begin   doing,   is   to   dig   deeper   into   these   subjects   and   then   have   open   and   honest   civil  
discussions.   Circling   back   to   the   conditions   of   Democracy,   one   of   the   conditions   is   for   free  

and   open   inquiry   and   respect   for   civil   discourse.   Having   these   discussions   is   a   right   and   a  
duty  of  a  Democratic  thoughtful  public.    
 
The  Most  Important  People  in  Education    
If  race  and  payoff  and  teacher  treatment  are  some  reasons  for  inequality,  how  can  
we   ensure   that   all   students   are   getting   an   education   in   school?   Especially   when   there   are   so  
many   people   who   believe   that   some   students   are   inherently   less   superior   –   whether   that   be  
in  success  or  intelligence  –  than  others.  
One  potential  force  of  change  is  in  teachers.    
If  the  primary  role  of  the  school  is  to  provide  knowledge  of  Democratic  character  and  
responsibilities  to  students  then  what  is  the  role  of  the  teacher?    
 
I   believe   one   of   the   most   important   qualities   is   to   hold   a   positive   view   of   human  
nature.   By   holding   such   a   view   teachers   are   more   likely   to   teach   to   their   best   efforts   and  
have  faith  in  their  students.  This  would  be  unlike  the  teachers  at  Attucks,  who  believed  along  
the  lines  of  Lareau  and  figured  that  if  a  student  looked  poor  he  or  she  was  inherently  at  a  
disadvantage.   Teachers   should   also   be   supportive,   regardless   of   their   preconceptions   or   a  
student’s   background.   Teachers   should   also   recognize   the   several   relationships   that   are  
involved  in  schooling.  They  are  just  one  point  in  an  intricate  web  of  relationships,  and  that  
should   be   recognized   and   embraced.   These   relationships   are   ones   that   will   not   disappear.  
For   instance,   no   matter   how   hard   someone   tries   they   will   not   single-­‐handedly   be   able   to  
thwart   the   presence   of   the   State   in   their   classrooms.   By   recognizing   the   tension   between  
each   group   teachers   can   build   and   use   those   relationships   to   their   advantage   and   to   do  
work.  
 
On  paper  being  a  teacher  sounds  challenging,  requiring  dedication,  persistence,  and  
patience;   and   it   is   and   requires   those   traits.   Yet   society   does   not   view   teaching   as   a   job   with  
particularly  high  rank.  Some  view  it  as  a  joke,  a  backup  job  while  teachers  continue  to  take  
their   work   very   seriously.   When   I   was   young   I   thought   as   many   people   do   and   believed  
education  was  a  simple  occupation;  though  now  I  realize  I  am  mistaken.  I  am  now  beginning  
to  come  to  the  conclusion  that  teachers  should  be  in  the  power  positions.  It  all  comes  back  
to   the   context   that   teachers   are   in,   and   just   as   schooling   has   a   context   in   politics   does  
teaching  have  a  context  in  morals.    
 
Before  we  continue  discussing  moral  context,  the  power  behind  definitions  must  be  
emphasized.  How  we  define  ourselves  defines  how  we  talk  and  how  people  perceive  us.  So  
there  is  a  large  power  in  definitions.  This  is  relevant  to  the  discussion  of  how  teachers  define  
themselves,   and   in   turn,   how   “teachers   act   in   relation   to   others”.   What   is   a   teacher,   what   is  
the  purpose  of  a  teacher?  These  questions  are  answered  by  defining.  Is  a  teacher  a  lackey,  
someone  who  teaches  you  what  you  want  to  know?  Or  someone  more  like  a  doctor  and  less  
like  a  plumber  in  terms  of  status?  These  statements  have  large  implications  that  vary  from  
what  a  teacher’s  meaning  ought  to  be:  a  moral  agent.    
 
 As   moral   agents   teachers   are   the   example   of   Democratic   character   and   conditions  
for   the   government.   If   the   primary   purpose   of   schools   is   to   provide   knowledge   about  
Democratic   principles   and   characteristics,   then   teachers   should   be   a   prime   reflection   of  
those   very   qualities.   They   have   a   moral   relationship   with   the   student,   and   several   other  

aspects   such   as   the   parents,   the   community,   and   the   State.   It   is   more   than   a   moral  
relationship,   but   grows   to   be   a   moral   obligation.   The   teacher   has   an   obligation   to   the  
students,  to  teach  what  they  know  is  important.    
 
Teaching  is  built  upon  a  moral  context.  Morals  tie  it  all  together.  Teaching  is  not  just  
about  skill  or  knowledge  alone.  Without  morals  there  would  be  no  identity,  and  without  an  
identity   there   would   be   no   definition.   By   acting   with   this   purpose   and   believing   the  
importance   in   this   role,   teachers   become   the   ultimate   agents   and   power   positions.   The  
prestige   that  many   teacher   “professional”  movements  seek  will   naturally   emerge   with   this  
definition.   How   teachers   define   their   purpose   and   role   influences   how   they   speak   and   act   in  
relation   to   others,   conveying   who   they   are   to   other   people.   This   is   a   very   powerful   set   of  
connections.  But  more  importantly,  it  is  how  powerful  the  position  of  a  teacher  could  and  
should  be.    
 
What   if   we   had   teachers   similar   to   technicians?   Technicians   typically   work   on  
whatever  they  are  called  to  fix,  or  do  practical  work.  If  a  teacher  acted  as  such  it  might  look  
like  someone  who  simply  reads  from  the  textbook  and  encourages  memorization,  someone  
who   is   decent   enough   but   might   not   have   the   moral   character   to   cut   it   as   a   moral   agent.  
Education   might   then   look   like   a   patched   up   system   that   runs   as   a   machine,   with   young  
children  going  in  and  young  adults  coming  out  with  knowledge  packed  into  their  minds  but  
not   much   otherwise.   They   would   not   have   a   sense   of   identity   nor   know   how   they   were  
supposed   to   use   that   knowledge   to   participate   in   the   Democracy.   Eventually   the   political  
system   might   shift   into   something   else,   running   on   a   persuaded   audience.   This   should   be  
avoided.  
 
Given  the  role  of  the  teacher,  does  this  change  how  we  choose  and  assess  teachers?  I  
am  not  all  too  familiar  with  current  requirements  for  becoming  a  teacher.  However,  when  
looking   at   the   design   of   the   system   an   important   question   to   ask   oneself   is   what   qualities   in  
a   teacher   are   inherent   and   which   ones   can   be   taught.   Qualities   such   as   how   to   arrange   a  
classroom,  how  to  write  a  set  of  curriculum,  or  how  they  manage  a  classroom  full  of  children  
are   traits   and   skills   that   can   be   taught   to   teachers.   But   other   traits   such   as   patience,   a   moral  
compass,   and   enthusiasm   should   be   intrinsic   to   the   teacher.   A   teacher’s   morals   influence  
their   character,   and   their   character   (to   be   a   moral   agent)   should   reflect   that   of   a   prime  
citizen.  Therefore  this  is  a  useful  distinction  to  use  when  looking  at  how  to  choose  and  assess  
teachers.    
 
Changing  the  structure  and  admitting  requirements  for  teaching  schools,  particularly  
asking   the   question   of   what   traits   must   the   applicant   possess,   is   a   useful   and   beneficial  
change  to  the  system.  But  above  all  teachers  and  the  public  must  carefully  examine  what  it  
means   to   be   a   teacher   and   what   this   entails.   It   is   not   a   simple   lecturing   position.   There   is   an  
unbelievable   amount   of   depth   and   a   numerous   number   of   implications   for   a   teacher   that  
should  not  be  taken  lightly.    
 
Change:  Why  is  it  difficult?  
If   there   is   so   much   inequality   in   the   system   why   has   it   not   changed?   There   are   a  
variety   of   reasons,   more   than   I   could   discuss   here.   Included   is   the   school   day   structure.  
Sometimes   reforms   seek   to   scrap   the   entire   school   structure   and   rebuild   it.   However,   the  

school   year   is   actually   a   solidly   integrated   part   to   the   system,   for   reasons   such   as   families  
moving   in   the   summertime   and   being   able   to   start   at   a   new   school   the   same   time,   or   for  
property  values.    
There  is  also  the  issue  of  evaluations  impacting  curriculum  in  schools.  Evaluations  are  
a   quick   and   quantitative   way   to   observe   if   a   student,   teacher,   school   or   district   is   meeting  
certain   requirements.   However,   in   the   case   of   standardized   tests   and   the   like   these  
evaluations  ultimately  dictate  what  is  taught  and  redefines  values  to  form  around  the  test.  
With  testing  and  evaluations  occurring,  it  can  be  difficult  to  enact  change,  particularly  if  that  
change  opposes  the  evaluations.    
Overall   there   are   a   large   number   of   factors   that   link   together   and   link   to   other  
aspects  of  the  system,  which  makes  it  difficult  to  make  any  drastic  changes.    
 
The  Ideal  Situation  
John  Dewey  once  wrote:  “What  the  best  and  wisest  parent  wants  for  his  own  child,  
that   must   the   community   want   for   all   of   its   children.   Any   other   ideal   for   our   schools   is  
narrow  and  unlovely;  acted  upon,  it  destroys  our  democracy.”  
 Simply   because   someone   may   not   have   children   in   the   school   system   does   not  
relieve  them  of  being  concerned  about  the  status  of  schools  and  education.  It  is  everyone’s  
responsibility,  to  desire  the  best  and  provide  for  all  children.  Indeed  the  qualification  “best  
and   wisest”   regarding   parents   is   quite   ambiguous.   Yet   the   point   here   is   that   the   larger  
community  should  care.  If  the  community  is  to  ensure  that  the  political  context  is  sustained,  
and   if   the   primary   purpose   of   schools   is   to   teach   students   Democratic   conditions   and  
characteristics,  and  it  is  the  purpose  of  teachers  to  be  moral  agents,  then  it  should  concern  
all   people   residing   in   the   Democracy   to   provide   students   with   this   education.   Just   as   George  
Counts   writes,   if   Dewey’s   words   are   “properly   interpreted”   then   all   the   citizens   of  
Democracy  should  be  in  “sympathetic  and  complete  accord”.    
Unfortunately   in   reality   people   are   more   concerned   with   their   own   children’s  
education.  I  am  not  shaming  parents  for  being  concerned  and  trying  to  get  the  best  for  their  
children.  In  cases  such  as  when  changes  are  suggested  that  might  force  others  to  care  about  
the  students  who  do  not  have  access  to  as  many  resources  –  for  instance,  taking  PTA  funds  
from   a   wealthier   school   and   giving   it   to   a   school   with   less   outside   funds   –   people   become  
riled   and   defensive.   They   ask   why   their   hard   earned   money   should   be   given   to   another  
school  when  they  specifically  gave  it  to  their  children’s  school;  and  they  do  hold  a  perfectly  
valid  point.    
Yet   just   as   Dewey   disagrees,   George   Counts   disagrees   as   well.   At   some   point   the   talk  
becomes   empty   words   instead   of   preface   for   action,   and   in   terms   of   actually   enacting  
change   and   caring   about   all   students   Counts   bluntly   accuses   parents   and   communities   for  
their   facades.   He   calls   parents   out   on   their   “wish   to   guard   their   offspring”   from   certain  
aspects   of   society,   sheltering   them   within   the   social   class.   He   believes   the   financial  
objections  are  a  lousy  excuse  for  not  enacting  change  for  equality  and  that  children  in  the  
lower   class   are   perfectly   capable   of   learning   the   same   as   their   wealthier   peers.   These   are  
excuses,  to  relieve  the  community  from  having  to  think  about  the  children,  and  excuses  to  
propagate  the  cycle  for  prevention  of  education  of  these  children.    

The   persisting   dichotomy   between   which   students   get   what   is   astounding.   Dewey’s  
belief   is   not   seen   universally   in   society,   which   is   unfortunate.   However,   in   the   wise   words   of  
Spencer  Welch,  even  if  the  ideal  may  not  be  attainable  it  does  not  mean  that  there  should  
not  be  the  best  efforts  to  try  and  achieve  the  ideal.  Just  as  I  discussed  in  “Why  do  some  have  
more   than   others”,   it   is   the   right   and   duty   of   the   public   to   have   these   discussions.   Even   if  
nothing   drastic   can   occur,   just   talking   about   the   issues   raises   awareness,   and   in   turn   can  
further  strengthen  the  ideal  of  a  more  thoughtful  public.  Enacted  change  might  not  be  the  
solution,   and   there   might   never   be   a   solution   to   solve   all   the   problems.   However   just   by  
striving  for  the  ideal  is  work  in  a  positive  direction,  an  improvement  over  doing  absolutely  
nothing.      
 
Conclusion  
 
I  have  now  examined  (1)  what  education  is,  (2)  who  gets  what  sort  of  education,  (3)  
why  some  students  get  more,  (4)  why  teachers  should  be  the  most  important  in  education,  
(5)  Why  changes  to  the  current  system  can  be  unproductive  and  (6)  why  thinking  about  the  
ideal  situation  is  important.  Here  I  have  examined  only  a  handful  of  topics;  the  grand  scheme  
of  education  is  much  larger  than  nine  pages  of  paper.  What  we  can  do  as  members  of  the  
Democracy  is  take  on  our  duty  as  citizens  and  act  to  create  an  improved  system.