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Friday, January 13, 2012

Best bet for Saturday, Jan. 14: See the magic of radio, up close and personal!

Dear Friends,

KMUZ - our new community radio station - is on the air at 88.5 FM and world-wide at www.kmuz.org!

Many of you have been following our progress and contributing in one or many ways.
Please stop by, see the studio and celebrate with us! We are located at the historic Mission Mill (1313 Mill St. SE) in Salem (on the grounds of the Willamette Heritage Center).

Saturday, January 14:
  • 10 am-4 pm - studio tours

  • 5 pm-7 pm - reception and celebration in the Dye House
    (beer, wine, treats, music and lots of thank you's)

Friday Food for Thought: On Education

Great "Museletter" by Richard Heinberg. Just an excerpt to whet your appetite:

The radicals agree with some of Dewey’s ideals—especially the desire for students to develop critical thinking abilities. However, they question whether Dewey, in trying to humanize the American public school system, was working against its original and inherent purposes. The basic idea of the public school was (and is) to apply the routines and discipline of factory work to learning, and thus to train armies of children for service in the industrial system. Dewey was trying to make the institution serve ends other than these, and was therefore bound to fail. The appeal of the conservative agenda is, and has always been, simply that its vision of the public schools’ purpose is closest to the historical reality. For educational radicals, therefore, the critique of schooling is inseparable from a critique of modern industrial, capitalist, corporatist society itself. If the factory system requires us to turn human beings into machines, then should we not question industrial production?

Along the way, radical educationists point out that children, in addition to being taught the hidden curriculum of fragmentation and routinization, are also taught an overt curriculum of lies and half-truths that make real citizenship problematic. Children are taught a Eurocentric rendition of world history, and a sanitized version of American history, both cleansed of any taint of class struggle. Without certain key bits of information it is virtually impossible to understand why the world is the way it is. For example, it is impossible to understand American history unless we begin by acknowledging that the country was founded on genocide and slavery, and that whatever freedoms we enjoy were won by ordinary people organizing themselves and demanding reforms. To regard Columbus as a hero (as is still commonly done in many grade schools) is to ignore the evidence of his own diaries, which clearly portray him as a mass murderer, thief, torturer, extortionist, and conscious initiator of what would grow to become the largest instance of genocide in world history. It is also helpful to know that other American “heroes” like John Adams (the second President) and John Jay (the first Chief Justice of the Supreme Court) opposed the very idea of democracy and believed that “those who own the country should govern it.” Of course, information like this might encourage some students to question the political and economic status quo, and that is no doubt why it is omitted. But the resulting eviscerated history curriculum is not only misleading and confusing; it is also utterly boring.

Finally, the radicals point out that if any part of the real purpose of formal schooling is to help children learn, then there are much better ways of accomplishing that goal. After recounting how compulsory schooling originated in the State of Massachusetts around 1850 amid much resistance (“the last outpost in Barnstable on Cape Cod not surrendering its children until the 1880s, when the area was seized by militia and children marched to school under guard”), Gatto tells us:

Senator Ted Kennedy’s office released a paper not too long ago claiming that prior to compulsory education the state literacy rate was ninety-eight percent, and after it the figure never exceeded ninety-one percent. Here is another curiosity to think about. The home-schooling movement has quietly grown to a size where one and a half million young people are being educated entirely by their own parents; last month the education press reported the amazing news that children schooled at home seem to be five or even ten years ahead of their formally trained peers in their ability to think.

Gatto recalls the one-room schools common to rural America in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, where children of all ages learned cooperatively, mostly teaching one another. This, according to the radicals, is an example of how learning could be facilitated. Instead of large, state-run bureaucracies, they say, we need small, local schools organized primarily by parents. Rather than being segregated by age, older children should learn responsibility by teaching younger kids. Rather than learning a state-mandated curriculum, students should pursue their spontaneous interests.

how we learn

It is in the discussion of the learning process that radical educational theory has made its most telling points. At the base of popular support for the very idea of schooling lies the assumption that schools help kids learn. If that assumption turns out to be unfounded, then the entire project is open to question. . . .