What is the most important matter for public education? We can look at this in two ways. One, what is the primary stated purpose of education? And, two, what is the most important purpose of education in actual practice? Basically, when it comes to teaching our young people, what matters most?
This is a material world. The most important function of public education is earning money to buy stuff. If you wish to challenge this, and I hope you do, please provide evidence because I do not want to believe it, myself. I would love to change my opinion to, say, teaching young Americans to be good citizens, or making America safe for Democracy, or helping young people to become their best selves.
One of the most important stated functions of American education is preparing students to become employees. We teach them to compete in a global workforce, market, and economy. Skills required for American employers are emphasized over those seen as immaterial, music and art, for example.
Prepare for college to complete a major and get a job. Graduate high school to get a job. Complete a trade school to get a job. Obviously, we have done well because we have many more employees than available jobs.
The most important actual function of public schools is also job related. It is to provide cheap and safe day care while parents are working at their jobs. At this, America is superb. Sure, it costs some tax money, but making it easier for both parents to work provides cheaper labor which really helps business compete in the global market. Again, if you disagree, please provide evidence.
Outside of the school building, our education is even more material. What is the number one issue in our politics? Show me the money. Not only do we dwell upon material things, we stress money as the way to get stuff, as opposed to, say, growing and building what we desire. In fact, in most elections, very little matters except money.
We could generate some data to support such claims. How much TV air time is directly related to selling stuff or talking about getting money to buy stuff? You could do a little survey in your own home.
Speaking of your home, how much of your family conversations focus on material things including money? Do any of us spend as much time on other topics such as medical ethics, accepted social behavior, manners, morality of war, penal institution issues, or social justice for minorities? No, schools don’t either, especially now that national standards are being imposed by high stakes testing constraints on curriculum decisions.
Sorry to be a downer this week, but it gets worse. What could be worse than our miseducative emphasis of materialism? Our lies about energy. Here is a fact I challenge you to challenge: Energy use pollutes. That’s not the worst of it, either. Energy causes change, and change causes more change, and we have little clue what the consequences might be.
Does anybody anywhere teach that energy use is an option rather than a need? The line tends to go sort of like this: “We have to have more energy to compete in the global economy.”
At any time, do we engage in a discussion of the ethics of energy use? Do we even discuss the ethics of our material technology? Do we really discuss anything that matters?
I prescribed absolutely nothing for you to do in terms of matter and energy education except discuss. If you think that makes me a liberal, long live your rights of free speech. What I am really trying to do is preserve our planet for the grandchildren of my grandchildren’s grandchildren. In terms of matter and energy, that makes me ultraconservative.