Thursday, February 23, 2012

The End of Education

Postman, Neil. The End of Education. New York. Vintage Books. 1995. Print.

Postman argues that a major component of school failure right now is the lack of narrative. He believes that schools must have a purpose, a common end goal, that they are moving towards to help give meaning to the students' and teachers' actions. He goes on to describe five possible narratives that could be put into place in American schools to help unite their communities and reinvigorate education.

For many of us, a greater purpose keeps us motivated and passionate. Postman's discussion that student/teacher apathy and boredom are a result of not having a common narrative rings true in many schools in the USA. I connected to the idea that schools need a vision. The teachers and students need to feel that what they are doing has greater meaning and purpose. Having a common narrative helps the faculty and students create a common language and starting point with which they can move forward. While his prose can be a bit tedious, Postman's ideals are worth contemplating and considering in our own practice and schools.

"[...]understand that the reason why students are demoralized, bored, and distracted is not that teachers lack interesting methods and machinery but that both students and teachers lack a narrative to provide profound meaning to their lessons," (p 51). This quote tends to follow my assertions above that we all seek to have greater purpose in what we do and a common educational narrative can provide some of us with that path. While I do feel that each individual can also have their own narrative that they are striving for, as an institution, it is important to have this guiding philosophy present.

"In the story of diversity, we do not learn of these people to advance a political agenda or to raise the level of students' self -esteem. We learn about these people for two reasons: because they demonstrate how the vitality and creativity of humanity depend on diversity, and because they have set the standards to which civilized people adhere. The law of diversity thus makes intelligent humans of us all," (81). Postman argues that specific characteristics about individuals (like race, sexuality, ethnicity, religion) do not necessarily need to be highlighted for the sake of having students connect with historical figures. Instead, in the Diversity narrative, celebrating individuals for their accomplishments help connect us all as humans. While I understand his logic, I feel that celebrating an individual's accomplishments and recognizing their unique characteristics helps students from all backgrounds connect with historical figures.

"How could youths better learn to live than by at once trying the experiment of living?" (p. 94)

"In learning about difference, we become less afraid and therefore more courageous. In learning about commonalities, we become more hopeful" (p. 110).

What would the American public want the public school narrative to be?
Should schools have different narratives and then allow for parent/student school choice?
Could classrooms have narratives? Do classroom narratives need to fit a school narrative?

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