It has become a common occurrence to see angry parents attending school board meetings in the past few years, upset about sexually explicit material or gender transition encouragement presented in the classroom.
But a recent school board meeting in California featured parents upset about something other than gender and sexuality issues for once. This time, they were concerned about high school honors classes—removed in the name of equity.
School is already too easy for students, parents told the board, one parent noting that she wanted her child to be challenged.
“My daughter, who is a sophomore, has said that it’s not working,” another parent said. “She’s been in honors the whole way and as a sophomore now, she says she’s not challenged.”
Perhaps that lack of challenge is the real goal. The equity excuse works as a nice, politically correct cover—but maybe what the powers-that-be really want is a dumbed-down society that doesn’t have enough brains to fight back against the encroaching government powers of the elite.
Since its founding, American government depended upon an educated citizenry. Individuals such as Thomas Jefferson, Neil Postman explains in his book, “Building a Bridge to the 18th Century,” believed that “the best way for citizens to protect their liberty is for them to be encouraged to be skeptical, to be suspicious of authority, and to be prepared (and unafraid) to resist propaganda.” This is done by training citizens to have “critical minds.”
Clearly, today’s classrooms—honors or otherwise—aren’t doing that training. So how do we as parents and caring adults give today’s students a solid, challenging education? Postman sets forth five ideas that are sadly foreign to today’s education system.
1. Teach Students to Ask Questions
Asking questions is “not taught in school,” Postman writes, an amazing fact because this is “the most significant intellectual skill available to human beings.” There are several possible reasons for this lack of instruction, including that teachers don’t know how to teach such a subject, nor do they or other leaders want students to understand the art of question-asking, for “they want students to be answer-givers, not question askers.”
Such a failure to ask questions hinders curiosity. It accepts the world as it is and turns the student into a passive vessel waiting to be filled, rather than an active one ready to pour into others, conjure up possibilities, and make connections. It’s time to teach students to ask questions and turn them into active, not passive, vessels.
2. Move Beyond the Grammar Stage
Many people are familiar with “grammar school,” a term synonymous with elementary school. But what many don’t realize is that grammar school is just one of three educational phases, the other two being logic and rhetoric.
We have largely forgotten these latter two phases today, but Postman recommends we revive them.
“These subjects,” he writes, “are about the relationship between language and reality; they are about the differences among kinds of statements, about the nature of propaganda, about the ways in which we search for truths.” Given that language and the meaning of words are continually changing and being used to fit whatever agendas people have these days, the time seems ripe for a resurgence in logic and rhetoric.
“Serious attempt at language study” is what Postman believes is the key to helping “the young defend themselves against propaganda in all its seductive varieties.”
3. Expose Students to Multiple Scientific Theories
Today’s scientific instruction, Postman explains, is very dogmatic and authoritarian in nature, and as such, “it is the exact opposite of scientific belief.” Because of this, Postman believes that competing scientific theories should be taught alongside each other—evolution and creation, for instance, or the theories of Ptolemy and Copernicus—causing students to weigh the evidence for each “and then explain why they think one is to be preferred over the other.”
“Good science has nothing to fear from bad science,” Postman writes, “and by our putting one next to the other, the education of our youth would be served exceedingly well.” Having lived through the COVID-19 pandemic, experiencing firsthand the results of various scientific and medical theories on the spread and behavior of infectious diseases, it seems that many of us would have been better off had our own generations learned such an approach to science.
4. A Different Kind of Tech Education
In the past 30 years or so, the demand for the latest tech equipment always seems to top educators’ lists. First, computers were absolutely necessary, then it was a tablet for every student, and a while back it was smartboards (are those even around anymore?). As someone recently commented to me, schools likely push tech instruction so that it looks like they’re doing something.
Whether that’s true or not, Postman encourages us to pursue a different kind of tech education, one that focuses not on how to use computers, but on the “psychological, social, and political effects of new technologies.”
“If we are going to make technology education part of the curriculum,” Postman writes, “its goal must be to teach students to use technology rather than to be used by it. And that means that they must know how a technology’s use affects the society in which they live, as well as their own personal lives.”
5. Incorporate Religious Instruction
This is a tricky subject because of the separation of church and state issue, Postman acknowledges. Nevertheless, there are two reasons he believes a good education provides religious instruction.
The first is that without a knowledge of religion, students experience a great lack of cultural literacy, missing out on the meaning behind many plays, artwork, and other societal references. The second is that everyone needs to wrestle with the great questions of life, namely, “Who am I?” and “Why am I here?” Postman rhetorically asks, “Is it possible to consider these questions by ignoring the answers provided by religion?”
Today’s public schools are focused on advancing equity, inclusion, and politically correct agendas. Regardless of whether your children or grandchildren attend the public schools, why not march to the beat of a different drummer and begin instilling these five alternative forms of education in them? Such an action will likely set them apart from the crowd and set them on the path to becoming tomorrow’s leaders.
This article is republished with permission from The Epoch Times.
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