Monday, June 13, 2011


This June every student will participate in some form of graduation or more precisely gradation; to arrange in grades or gradations; establish gradation in. That's what our students have been doing for however many years they have joined in the process. They have allowed themselves to be gradated in carefully calibrated beakers. They have absorbed the most critical component of their respective curricula, they have come together and agreed to participate in the ranking game.
The curriculum itself has always been perceived as but a means to the end. The practice of the curriculum contained little of inherent value but was set up as a way and means of developing obedience and conformity. The fact that battles are fought over what constitutes a core curriculum reveals how arbitrary it really is. One side wins, gender studies or evolution theory is thrown out. Another side wins and Thackeray is exchanged for Naguib Mahfouz.
Students have moved through a nationally agreed upon process whereby it will be determined who amongst them will win the prizes that were held out as the values they have worked so hard for. Or not.

Some of those prizes are now being re-evaluated:
The next, more exclusive level of on-going formal education is being examined from a cost/benefit perspective.
At a post graduation, material level, a single family house for example, once considered to be the great storehouse of wealth (the estate) has lost its primacy in the hierarchy of "things". A broad portfolio of blue chip equities has taken a hit as has prospect of retirement in comfort. Some of the more mundane prizes, the gourmet meal, the high priced wine, the flashy car are like pins in the lane, about to be knocked off as their underlying value is challenged, or realized to be unsustainable, going the way of the lynx wrap.
At a corporate level (the employer of the winners), the ability to maintain advantage is being challenged by a whole new set of players. The prospects are not good that business as usual, the curriculum in practice, will sustain them.
At the governmental level, the power centers from which the corporation and the prize winning individuals are protected, the process of sustaining themselves seems to be cracking as the numbers of losers and their ability to coordinate swell.

Not surprisingly, given the ends are being questioned, the means are being scrutinized. It is being observed that students are being stressed out in the "Race To Nowhere" as the documentary film of that name points out. Don't expect too much from this effort. The "deal" that has been struck by the parents who screen and then discuss this film is that; I won't make the changes by myself. Only if we all agree to stop the resume inflation, cheating, achievement by any means possible, will I relent. I am not going to put my child at a competitive disadvantage by doing the right thing.

No one questions the lesson plans. More math, more science = better rocketry, more fire power, more stealth, better spying technology, these are the core elements we need to "win the future". No world language, no geo-political reality, no deep cultural studies of others, no family practice, no diet and nutrition. We can't afford art, and physical exercise is reserved for the combatants. No peace studies, no alternatives to violence, and no alternative to so-called free market economics.

Paul stopped by to check and tune up the furnace system he installed two years ago. He came up from the basement slightly ashen. "Have you been aware of a bang when the furnace cycled on?" he asked. Yes, we thought it was normal. "Well it isn't normal. What has happened is that there is a leak at the gas fitting and when the ignition comes on it burns off that excess gas. I have to replace the ignitor." What he didn't say and that I could surmise was left un-repaired the house and its contents were at risk. Paul doesn't have an advanced degree. Paul inherited the business from his dad. Paul's value to me and the society is immeasurable.

1 comment:

  1. I wish I had been more aware of this when younger, although I do recall you pointing it out to me a couple of times.

    Much better than an essentially useless diploma or some kind of super-specialized credential would have been learning how to do 2, 3 or 4 useful things proficiently.

    The system as it stands serves to teach us how to purchase and consume, rather than how to create and your furnace guy.