In the context of Kristina Rizga's essay "Everything You've Heard About Failing Schools Is Wrong," write a 3-paragraph essay that analyzes the claim that standardized testing improves education.
Essay #5 Options: Capstone Essay with 5 Sources for Works Cited Due 6-6-18.
One. Support, refute, or complicate Alfie Kohn’s assertion from “Degrading to De-grading” that grading is an inferior education tool that all conscientious teachers should abandon. In other words, will students benefit from an accountability-free education? Why? Explain.
Two. Support, refute, or complicate the inferred lesson from bell hooks’ essay, “Learning in the Shadow of Race and Class” that upward mobility requires a betrayal of one’s economic class and even family. To rub shoulders with the privileged, do we have to "sell out," to conform to their snobbish ways, and in doing so, are we betraying our core values and turning our backs on our roots?
Three. In the context of Kristina Rizga’s “Everything You’ve Heard About Failing Schools Is Wrong” (253), support, refute, or complicate the assertion that standardized testing is a money-making canard sodden with incompetence, corruption, and moral bankruptcy, and therefore must be abolished.
Four. Addressing Aaron Hanlon’s “The Trigger Warning Myth” (309) and Ferentz Lafargue’s “Welcome to the ‘Real World’” (317), develop a thesis about colleges, microaggressions, and hate speech. You can also refer to Greg Lukianoff’s and Jonathan Haidt’s online Atlantic essay, “The Coddling of the American Mind.”
Five. In the context of Frank Bruni’s “Why College Rankings Are a Joke” (296) and Ben Casselman’s “Shut Up About Harvard” (301), develop a thesis about the notion that college rankings “skew the broader debate about education.”
Summarize Kohn's Arguments
“Grades tend to reduce students’ interest in the learning itself” (238).
“Grades tend to reduce students’ preference for challenge tasks” (239).
“Grades tend to reduce the quality of students’ thinking” (239).
“Grades aren’t valid, reliable, or objective” (240).
“Grades encourage cheating” (241).
“Grades spoil teachers’ relationships with students” (241).
Student Who Disagrees with Kohn
My experience as a student contradicts everything Kohn tries to say. I’ve walked into classes with absolutely no interest in the subject, but because I had a gun to my head, that is the pressure of grades pointing at my temple, I forced myself to get acquainted with the material. Contrary to Kohn, my being forced to know the material made me respect and like the subject matter far more than a situation in which I knew I would not be graded. Without the pressure of grades, I would remain ignorant of the subject, and that ignorance would perpetuate my lack of interest in the material.
Kohn’s second assertion is that grading will discourage me from embracing challenging tasks. He’s assuming that without grades, I’d be more inclined to take intellectual and creative risks. He is wrong. When I was a college student, I was lazy and was not predisposed to taking on any kind of challenge. The path of least resistance was my work ethic. Grades or not, I was an incurably lazy human being. If anything, I needed grades to prompt me off my butt and to do some actual homework.
Kohn’s third assertion is that grading will compromise my critical thinking skills. Again, I don’t think Kohn knows what he’s talking about. When I was in college, I had no critical thinking skills to lose. Grades were hardly the reason I was so ignorant. My youthful naiveté, my laziness, and my being sheltered in the suburbs had far more to do with my lack of critical thinking skills than any teacher’s grading system.
Kohn’s fourth argument is that grading is not a reliable system because the teachers can be biased, unfair, and use unreliable grading measures. I’ll admit these are possible scenarios, but in my years at high school and college, it seems that over 95% of the time, students did indeed get the grades they deserved. If there is a five percent error, that is hardly sufficient reason for dumping grades.
Kohn goes on to say that grades encourage cheating and spoil students’ relationship with teachers. Of course, a grading system is going compel students to cheat. They want to be up to par with the A students whose A performance has earned them top honors. Any system with a top and a bottom is going to have cheaters. To deny that reality is to try to create a world that does not exist. And that world is the one provided by Alfie Kohn.
Regarding the final point about our relationship with teachers, Kohn is assuming there is this great relationship that is forged without grades and that grades spoils the deal. Again, he is in error. We are not friends with the teachers. They are hired to do what they do because of their presumed expertise and authority in the subject. They are our guides and mentors, and their grading system is their way of showing us how well we are at reaching the benchmarks that are part of each class. Kohn’s assertion that these benchmarks measured by a grading system is a degradation of the student-teacher relationship has no bearing in reality and again shows that he is trying to impose an artificial world on the real one. For all these reasons, I have dismissed Kohn convincingly. Can we move on to a new topic, please? (avoid hubris in the conclusion)
Student Defense of Alfie Kohn
Alfie Kohn is trying to save education from being a terrible place of fear, elitism, and students being helpless pawns before their maniacal teachers who use grades to bully, control, and traumatize their students.
First off, everyone knows that grades are unfair. Teachers don’t really care how well you write. All they care about is that you agree with them, so you spend your time kissing up to them, trying to make your essays reflect what your instructors say in the class.
Secondly, Kohn is right that grades reduce interest. How can you focus on the subject with any interest when you’re always worried about achieving a 4.0 so that you can get into a good university? Interest is irrelevant. It’s all about the grades. And seeing some students get As while others get Cs is traumatizing for the lower students who feel stigmatized and shamed, often wearing these negative emotions for the rest of their lives. How dare we let teachers have so much power over our self-esteem. We should cut their grading power out from under them just as Alfie Kohn says we should.
Third, Kohn is so correct to point out that grading makes us students avoid challenging approaches to the subject matter. We always seek the easiest path to The Land of A. Why take risks by doing something more challenging than we have to?
Finally, what kind of relationship can I have with my teachers when I fear their power over me? Their grade determines my place in the world. One wrong move and my life as a successful banker could be diminished to a milk truck driver. It’s impossible to develop strong relationships with figures that wield so much power. Therefore, I commend Alfie Kohn for telling us to stop the insanity, cut out grades, and bring real education back to the classrooms.
Refutation of the Above Response
While I concede that there are too many teachers who want their students to regurgitate their ideas rather than think critically for themselves, the rest of the student’s defense of Alfie Kohn is a mishmash of egregious fallacies, clichés, and sloppy thinking, all of which serves to highlight Kohn’s dangerous arguments for ending grading systems as we know them.
Perhaps the biggest danger is this idea that we are hurting students’ self-esteem and subjecting them to lifelong traumas by judging them with clear benchmarks to see if they are fulfilling course requirements. The sentiment of preserving self-esteem has everything to do with the fantasy of staying home in the safety of Mother’s House and nothing to do with the reality of competing in the real world. The fantasy of preserving the Big Baby for eternity is typically an upper class one. Narcissistic, well-to-do parents who can’t accept the foibles of their “perfect” Junior want teachers who can only mutter obsequious flattery, and if their grading system in any way is less than flattering, then clearly grading, as Kohn argues, is the enemy of all: self-esteem, creativity, student interest, the buddy-buddy relationship with student and teacher.
Of course, this fantasy bears no resemblance to the real world. Imagine a jiu-jitsu instructor who elevates his students’ self-esteem by giving everyone a black belt. The tournament comes along and that instructor’s students have to spar with real black belts. I think we all know what the outcome will be.
Kohn is the instructor who’d love to give everyone a black belt, which of course is a fantasy, and a dangerous one at that.
Break Down the Assignment into Your Own Words
We're asked in the prompt to explain, perhaps in one sentence, what Kohn means when he says we must move from a grade to a learning orientation. Clearly, a grading orientation for Kohn excludes learning. We have to explain why Kohn believes this and then explain whether or not we agree with him.
Student Refutation of Kohn
Kohn has created a false opposition, between grading and learning, to propel is phony argument that grades are a plague ruining schools and minds. What Kohn and his ilk are afraid of is this big scary thing called judgment. Grades are a form of judgment, and judgments for Kohn are a very scary thing because they take a child’s fragile self-esteem, Kohn’s view, and dismantle it.
I’ve got some scary news for Kohn. Judgment is here to stay. Judgment is everywhere. Judgment is how we survive. Judgment is how we flourish. And judgment is how we measure our educational success. When we choose toothpaste or a cold cereal or a web browser, or a laptop, or a smartphone, or a boyfriend, or a girlfriend, we exercise judgment. When a university picks students from a pool of community college students, the university exercises judgment.
Kohn’s argument is so removed from reality that it seems he must live inside a bubble in which he talks only to himself or his Kool-Aid drinking believers. Grades aren’t going anywhere. Grades are a normal part of the judgment process. And Kohn’s fantasy of taking judgment out of the education process is so lunatic that he is nothing more than a provocateur and a demagogue whose flea-sized arguments will be crushed in the elephantine marketplace of real ideas.
Writing Option Simplified
Support, refute, or complicate the inferred lesson from bell hooks’ essay, “Learning in the Shadow of Race and Class” that upward mobility requires a betrayal of one’s economic class and even family.
This is an essay about class divisions based on language,
community and family loyalty,
and notions of authenticity.
This is an essay about the guilt for leaving people, including loved ones, behind.
This is an essay about guilt for "not knowing your place" and dreaming for "more than what you need" and "excess." Of course, these notions are all relative.
This is an essay about guilt for having desires of any kind, for envying what "the other people have."
This is an essay about the guilt for "playing the game" to ascend the education and economic ladder.
Related Essay: "The Cost of Balancing Academia and Racism"
One. What did Hook’s mother teacher about desire in the mother’s attempt to quell the appetite for unaffordable things?
Hooks felt belittled and learned to distrust her desires and bury them. The implicit message is that since she is of the lower classes she has to know her place and have no sense of entitlement. She must remain modest. She must be happy in life with life's bare minimum. She must be apologetic about her existence.
To have desires for anything above one's station in life is considered impolite.
We can only imagine what this would do to her psyche.
That would drive me crazy to want something and to develop this reflex to immediately say I don’t actually want it.
Hooks’ save-money mentality followed her into college where money had to be first considered above all else.
To be religious, from her family's point of view, is to be happy with one's lot, is to be modest, and to shun the idolatry of materialism.
Hooks' parents are making a faulty equivalence of materialistic idolatry and making a better life for oneself through higher education.
Anything that branches out of the tribe's rigid ways is looked upon as a threat to the moral order. Going to college is a threat to a lot of families who don't want to disrupt tradition and routine. Tribalistic conformity becomes the key to happiness. This theme is illustrated in a masterpiece short story "The Country of the Blind" by H.G. Wells.
During Hooks’ first year in college, she realizes a lot of her mother’s fears are rooted in class shame, the disgrace of not measuring up in the presence of “real classy people.” Sadly, we live in a society where the lower classes suffer an inferiority complex because they don't "measure up" to the higher classes.
Two. What happens to Bell Hooks in college?
She is isolated by the white girls who look at her in horror and disdain for being black and for being not rich. “Not only are you black; you’re not rich. Stay away from us, you pariah.” She becomes La Otra.
Like her childhood, Hooks was learning to be apologetic about her existence. "Sorry I don't fit in, rich girls. I'll try to stay out of the way."
Her existence becomes one of self-abnegation or self-erasure: “If I want things and if I feel overcome by loneliness, then too bad. I have to suffer. My existence is not worth these considerations. My needs mean nothing compared to these rich white girls.”
Bell Hooks sees the world as binary: The haves and the have-nots. Those who live in glorious gardens with grass and trees and those who live in the scorched weeds.
Bell Hooks connects with one white girl who like Hooks is financially challenged. She is a Czechoslovakian immigrant with modest means. The two of them together become Las Otras.
In 1978 when I was training at the gym, a 300-pound power lifter scrutinized me with piercing eyes and told me "there are only two kinds of people in the world, homeowners and renters." And then he spit behind his back before bench pressing 500 pounds like it was a feather.
Unlike Hooks, though, the Czech girl has contempt and envy for the rich white girls. She desires their riches and resents them for having what she lacks.
In contrast, Hooks’ religious upbringing taught her to be leery of excess, of pride, of loving riches for their own sake.
Three. What finally sets off Hooks’ rage toward the rich white girls?
When they perform their ritual of trashing someone’s room and it ends up being Hooks’ room, Hooks is enraged that these rich narcissists cannot consider that someone with modest finances cannot easily replace all the items that were ruined during the trashing.
The rich girls’ lack of empathy and their failure of imagination stirs Hooks’ deep loathing for them.
Adding to her contempt is Hooks’ refusal to want to be white like them and to aspire to behave like a vain privileged white girl.
Her contempt for these immature white girls compels Hooks to go to a real college, Stanford, which will test her parents’ class anxieties. Her parents will hide behind religion and say that Stanford, which is in California, is sinful.
Four. What does the essay teach us about education?
To succeed in education, we have to break the bonds with our class identity and this can be excruciating if our class identity is tied up with our parental identity.
Time and time again, we read of college students who don’t succeed until they break from their parents’ and communities’ class influences and this break is often seen as a betrayal and it results in guilt. But it is necessary.
Five. What cynical worldview does Hooks observe at Stanford?
Her white roommate, a poor girl from Orange County, believes in the religion of privilege: “Cheating was worth it. She believed the world the privileged had created was all unfair—all one big cheat; to get ahead, one had to play the game. To her, I was truly an innocent, a lamb being led to the slaughter.”
Hooks isn't prepared to play the game because playing the game means selling one's soul to the devil.
For Hooks' roommate however the only devil to worry about is being poor.
Six. What does Hooks conclude about the manner in which students must adapt to college?
Hooks writes: "Slowly, I began to understand fully that there was no place in academe for folks from working-class backgrounds who did not wish to leave the past behind. That was the price of the ticket. Poor students would be welcome at the best institutions of higher learning only if they were willing to surrender memory, to forget the past and claim the assimilated present as the only worthwhile and meaningful reality."
In other words to assimilate into the privileged, educated class, we have to embrace their language, attitude, demeanor, characteristics, body language; in other words, we have to die to our former self, disavow our past, and become a new person born in a world of privilege.
This new privilege becomes evident in the way we speak, write, and affect our body language. We develop a certain superciliousness and hauteur (uppity, proud, self-regarding expression that says, "I'm all that").
Hooks is tormented by the above fact not only because it's true, with all of its questionable moral implications, but because Hooks went through the process herself even as she questioned it. She became an "upper class intellectual."
At best when we transform from working class to privileged educated class, she writes, someone like her will suffer contradictions, having a remnant of her past identity and a new identity based on privilege.
Support, refute, or complicate the inferred lesson from bell hooks’ essay, “Learning in the Shadow of Race and Class” that upward mobility requires a betrayal of one’s economic class and even family.
Bell Hooks convincingly shows in her personal narrative that climbing the education ladder entails a sort of betrayal of one's working class roots evidenced by _________________, _________________, ______________, and __________________.
Sample Support of Hooks
What some might call a "betrayal" in Bell Hooks' narrative is no betrayal at all. Rather, Bell Hooks takes on the arduous journey toward reasonable self-preservation and self-interest evidenced by her responsibility to be true to her intellect, her responsibility to nurture a career that matches well with her strengths, and her responsibility to steer away from those who are content with small-town tribalistic stagnation so that she can spread her wings and fly.
Sample Essay Response That Agrees with Bell Hooks
College should be a place that champions the humanitarian spirit, embracing the struggle of those who suffer under the weight of the elites, the privileged class. However, as Bell Hooks convincingly argues, college perpetuates class and sometimes racial elitism, tacitly scorning the working-class while adulating the privileged elites evidenced by the professor’s indoctrination of the students to act and be privileged, the pressures to disown one’s working-class family and community, and the rich students’ contempt for the poorer students.
Sample Essay Response That Disagrees with Bell Hooks
While I sympathize with Bell Hooks and would defend her against anyone, teacher, student, or otherwise, who would discriminate against her on the basis of her race or economic class, I find that her condemnation of the elitism she identifies at college to be misguided. The role of the college should be to teach students to lift themselves up from their lower class and into a more privileged class. That’s the point of going to college, to go from a lower station to a higher station in life. Secondly, having these ambitions doesn’t make us anti-humanitarian or contemptuous of the lower classes. We simply want to work toward a place of more privilege. That’s normal human nature that addresses the Darwinian, often brutal realities we face in this world. Bell Hooks has the luxury as someone who makes hundreds of thousand of dollars a year to decry the privileged class, but she needs to face the fact that she belongs to that privileged class and she worked hard to get there. Finally, Bell Hooks does a disservice if she doesn’t tell students from the working class the hard truth about succeeding at college, which is that to be successful we must disavow ourselves of our tribalistic past, even if it means separating ourselves from our working-class parents and community, even if our abandoning that family and community, as Bell Hooks herself did, gives us shame and guilt, because that separation is essential for becoming reborn as an empowered member of the privileged class who is now in a position to help our family in ways we never were before.
Response That Refutes the Above
The refutation of Bell Hooks under the claim that we must sell our souls to the devil in order to be successful is a grotesque absurdity misinformed by the blind ambition of class privilege, a convenient worship of Darwinian self-centeredness, and a failure to acknowledge that we can enjoy the joining the privileged ranks without disavowing our past identity, family, and community.
Response to the Above Refutation
I never claimed we should sell our soul to the devil and engage in Darwinian self-centeredness. My argument, contrary to the one misconstrued above, is that to embrace the new life of college, its ideas, its knowledge, its new identity, and yes the privileges that come with higher learning, we must go through the excruciating process of dying to our old self, the very self that was raised in our working-class homes and communities and that this process of dying and being reborn again is the very process that Bell Hooks admits to going through in order to become the success she is today.
Paragraph 1: Write about someone you know who succeeded or failed to ascend one social class to another with the help of higher education. 250 words.
Paragraph 2: Summarize bell hooks' essay. 250 words
Paragraph 3: Thesis: Support or refute the idea that educational and social ascent requires a sort of betrayal of one's working-class roots and give 4 reasons to support your thesis. 150 words. 650 words for subtotal.
Paragraphs 4-7: 150 each for 600 words. 1,250 subtotal.
Paragraph 8: Counterargument-rebuttal. 150 words. 1,400 subtotal.
Paragraph 9: Conclusion 100 words. 1,500 total.
Essay Prompt for John Gatto's "Against School"
In the context of John Taylor Gatto’s “Against School,” support, refute, or complicate the argument that American education is more about protecting private business interests, maintaining class bias, and asserting mass control than it is about promoting real empowerment such as critical thinking, independence, and freedom.
Paragraph 1: Summarize "Against School."250 words.
Paragraph 2: Write about an experience in which you felt school betrayed all its promises of critical thinking, independence, and freedom and instead proved to be a controlling business or glorified baby-sitting service. Or if you disagree with Gatto, write about your amazing school experience. 250 words.
Paragraph 3: Your thesis should address the above. 150 words.
Paragraphs 4-7 are your supporting paragraphs. 150 words for 4 paragraphs is 600; 1,150 subtotal.
Paragraph 8: Counterargument-rebuttal. 150 words. 1,300 (two counterargument paragraphs would give you 1,550 words total)
Paragraph 9: Conclusion 100 words for 1,400
Developing Your Thesis
A thesis statement is one sentence that articulates the central idea of your essay.
A thesis statement is one sentence that tells readers your position or argument.
A thesis statement often outlines your essay’s body paragraphs with mapping components.
A thesis statement is born out of your assigned topic.
A thesis statement can never be merely a statement of your topic. Rather, it must be the point you are making about your topic.
Standardized testing is part of the No Child Left Behind program.
Argumentative Thesis Statement
Standardized testing is a sham that we need to replace with more reliable measures of student learning outcomes.
Standardized testing is a sham that we need to replace with more reliable measures of student learning outcomes because the evidence shows that _______________, ___________________, ________________, and _________________.
In high numbers, upper class educated Anglos are not vaccinating their children from measles and other diseases.
Cause and Effect Thesis Statement
Many upper class educated Anglos are not vaccinating their children because their pride, paranoia, and pseudo-science have intoxicated them into embracing all the myths de jour of the anti-vaccine movement.
Argumentative Thesis Statement
There should be harsh penalties incurred against parents who don’t vaccinate their children because ________________, ________________, _______________, and _______________________.
Topic Is Not a Thesis
Unlike other first-world countries, the United States spends close to 18 percent of its GDP on healthcare while other countries spend closer to 10 percent.
Cause and Effect Thesis Statement
The United States is resigned to spending 18 percent of its GDP on healthcare because __________________, __________________, _________________, and _______________________.
Argumentative Thesis Statement
The United States needs to get its healthcare GDP down to about 10 percent because _______________, _______________, ______________, and ___________________.
The manner in which John Gatto would respond to teachers committing plagiarism in the classroom is a writing topic.
Reading "How We Learn," we see that plagiarism is not all kinds of imitation, but imitation characterized by ____________, _____________, _____________, and _______________.
Cause and Effect Thesis
Reading "How We Learn," we can imagine John Gatto being outraged by the link between teaching hypocrisy and student boredom when we analyze ________________, __________________, ______________, and ___________________.
A strong case can be made that John Gatto, when faced with the hypocrisy mentioned in Toor's essay, would use this hypocrisy as ammunition to support his thesis evidenced by _______________, _______________, ________________, and ___________________.
As The Geography of Bliss teaches us however implicitly, it is imperative that we embrace strong moral cultural norms to create happiness evidenced by _________________, __________________, ________________, and ____________________.
Your Essay Must Have a Thesis Statement That Is the Engine of Your Essay's Body Paragraphs
A thesis statement is an assertion that can be demonstrated with logic, reasoning, and examples.
We read in US & World News Report that, "Among millennials ages 25 to 32, earnings for college-degree holders are $17,500 greater than for those with high school diplomas only, a new study finds."
The above is not a thesis; it is a fact. We could use such a fact or study to support a thesis.
A thesis from the above would look like this:
While college costs are punitive and oppressive, especially to those with modest financial means, going to college for most people is worth its steep investment when we consider gains in lifetime income, networking with diverse populations, developing literacy, and creating a legacy of higher income for future generations.
Thesis statements or claims go under four different categories:
One. Claims about solutions or policies: The claim argues for a certain solution or policy change:
America's War on Drugs should be abolished and replaced with drug rehab.
Two. Claims of cause and effect: These claims argue that a person, thing, policy or event caused another event or thing to occur.
Social media has turned our generation into a bunch of narcissistic solipsists with limited attention spans, an inflated sense of self-importance, and a shrinking degree of empathy.
Three. Claims of value: These claims argue how important something is on the Importance Scale and determine its proportion to other things.
Global warming poses a far greater threat to our safety than does terrorism.
Four. Claims of definition. These claims argue that we must re-define a common and inaccurate assumption.
In America the notion of "self-esteem," so commonly taught in schools, is in reality a cult of narcissism. While real self-esteem teaches self-confidence, discipline, and accountability, the fake American brand of self-esteem is about celebrating the low expectations of mediocrity, and this results in narcissism, vanity, and sloth.
John Taylor Gatto accurately diagnoses the corruption of school by pointing out that it is not designed to educate us to be our better selves; rather, public education is about indoctrinating us to be malleable slaves to mediocrity and conformity evidenced by _____________, _____________, _____________, and ______________.
“Against School” by John Taylor Gatto (271)
Here is the essay online.
One. In the essay’s opening, we see that boredom is not a benign condition. Rather, boredom is a malignancy. This becomes clear when we see that boredom is a synonym for all sorts of horrible things. Give a list of things boredom stands for.
Resentment or mutual loathing (everyone blames everyone else for the problems at school)
Recurring cycles of futility, which brings up Einstein’s definition of insanity
Lethargy, the fatigue and enervation from being mired in a problem with no apparent solution for so long
Dysfunction, settling into the idea that “this is how it is” and “nothing can be done,” so I’ll just “ride this out.”
Two. Who does Gatto blame?
All of us. We are all responsible, according to Gatto’s grandfather, to entertain and amuse ourselves.
We have all been responsible for the apathy and tolerance to brain-dead mediocrity.
Three. For Gatto, what is the difference between education and forced schooling?
He argues that “mass compulsory schooling” is not associated with success if we look at history.
The goals of “mass compulsory schooling” were defined, we read during 1905 and 1915 and they focused on the following:
One. To make good people.
Two. To make good citizens.
Three. To make each person his or her personal best.
For Gatto and H.L. Mencken who Gatto quotes, education is a form of indoctrination in which we brainwash students to fit with the system, be mediocre, and conform into the same type of safe person. This conformity is to the model of the mindless consumer who is obedient to marketing and advertising in order to insure a robust economy.
From Gatto's essay:
Mass schooling of a compulsory nature really got its teeth into the United States between 1905 and 1915, though it was conceived of much earlier and pushed for throughout most of the nineteenth century. The reason given for this enormous upheaval of family life and cultural traditions was, roughly speaking, threefold:
1) To make good people.
2) To make good citizens.
3) To make each person his or her personal best.
These goals are still trotted out today on a regular basis, and most of us accept them in one form or another as a decent definition of public education's mission, however short schools actually fall in achieving them. But we are dead wrong. Compounding our error is the fact that the national literature holds numerous and surprisingly consistent statements of compulsory schooling's true purpose. We have, for example, the great H. L. Mencken, who wrote in The American Mercury for April 1924 that the aim of public education is not
to fill the young of the species with knowledge and awaken their intelligence. . . . Nothing could be further from the truth. The aim.. . is simply to reduce as many individuals as possible to the same safe level, to breed and train a standardized citizenry, to put down dissent and originality. That is its aim in the United States . . . and that is its aim everywhere else.
We further read that schools base their operations on indoctrination, not critical thinking.
Obedience to authority, conformity to norms, learning the “correct” social role, labeling the students according to perceived rank (tag the “unfit”; promote the desirables), pass on elite power to younger generation of the elite and to hell with the rest of them (276).
In contrast, a teacher serves his students well if he gives them critical thinking skills:
Learn how to think for yourself by establishing informed or considered opinions, not habitual or peer-driven ones.
Learn how to read critically.
Learn the difference between causation and correlation.
Identify logical fallacies.
Grow and flourish as you become an adult and independent thinker.
Four. What are the functions of school?
Inglis breaks down the purpose - the actual purpose - of modem schooling into six basic functions, any one of which is enough to curl the hair of those innocent enough to believe the three traditional goals listed earlier:
1) The adjustive or adaptive function. Schools are to establish fixed habits of reaction to authority. This, of course, precludes critical judgment completely. It also pretty much destroys the idea that useful or interesting material should be taught, because you can't test for reflexive obedience until you know whether you can make kids learn, and do, foolish and boring things.
2) The integrating function. This might well be called "the conformity function," because its intention is to make children as alike as possible. People who conform are predictable, and this is of great use to those who wish to harness and manipulate a large labor force.
3) The diagnostic and directive function. School is meant to determine each student's proper social role. This is done by logging evidence mathematically and anecdotally on cumulative records. As in "your permanent record." Yes, you do have one.
4) The differentiating function. Once their social role has been "diagnosed," children are to be sorted by role and trained only so far as their destination in the social machine merits - and not one step further. So much for making kids their personal best.
5) The selective function. This refers not to human choice at all but to Darwin's theory of natural selection as applied to what he called "the favored races." In short, the idea is to help things along by consciously attempting to improve the breeding stock. Schools are meant to tag the unfit - with poor grades, remedial placement, and other punishments - clearly enough that their peers will accept them as inferior and effectively bar them from the reproductive sweepstakes. That's what all those little humiliations from first grade onward were intended to do: wash the dirt down the drain.
6) The propaedeutic function. The societal system implied by these rules will require an elite group of caretakers. To that end, a small fraction of the kids will quietly be taught how to manage this continuing project, how to watch over and control a population deliberately dumbed down and declawed in order that government might proceed unchallenged and corporations might never want for obedient labor.
That, unfortunately, is the purpose of mandatory public education in this country. And lest you take Inglis for an isolated crank with a rather too cynical take on the educational enterprise, you should know that he was hardly alone in championing these ideas. Conant himself, building on the ideas of Horace Mann and others, campaigned tirelessly for an American school system designed along the same lines. Men like George Peabody, who funded the cause of mandatory schooling throughout the South, surely understood that the Prussian system was useful in creating not only a harmless electorate and a servile labor force but also a virtual herd of mindless consumers. In time a great number of industrial titans came to recognize the enormous profits to be had by cultivating and tending just such a herd via public education, among them Andrew Carnegie and John D. Rockefeller.