BCTF Teacher Newsmagazine: Volume 24, Number 3, November/December 2011
Like lambs to the slaughter: The erosion of the cultured citizen
By Sean M. Douglas
“I have never let school interfere with my education” wrote Mark Twain as he considered his own understanding of the world; but how long before someone holds a mirror up to public education and realizes that the reflection of the students staring back is not the one they thought they would see? It is a shame to see Mr. Clemens’ (Twains’ dual persona) fears become a reality as education becomes lost within the school.
Perhaps what first needs to be asked is, what should an education look like, versus what kind of learning is currently shaping the next generation?
One can hardly deny that education has changed since, say, the days of Socrates, and it is clear that the age of texting and self-corrective technology has led to a decline in communication skills, and while the decline of such proficiency is unfortunate, it will not be “the way to a dusty death.” What is unfortunate, however, is education’s digression from culture in the classroom, for it is through the process of being cultured that all skills follow; “ay, there’s the rub!”
There is, however, a great irony in such a digression of culture, for what often brings culture to a standstill is what occurs in the school itself, the same institution that one would assume seeks to shape the hearts and minds of the future. Then again, it is the ministry whose three objectives “focus on establishing high levels of student achievement; reducing the gaps in student achievement; and ensuring high levels of public confidence in public education.” When the emphasis of education is based around statistics and external perception, it is no wonder that students are not developing a sense of personal identity, citizenship, and culture.
Perhaps schools no longer know how to effectively implement the values of culture, for now that we have become so immersed in politics, we are so overwrought with tensions that our sensitivity and our fear of being unpolitically correct has eroded culture itself. One’s ability to teach classic literature, art, music, history, philosophy, and theory, is successfully being eroded, and it is these disciplines that are necessary for students to become cultured citizens.
British Columbia Teachers’ Federation Teacher Newsmagazine, Nov-Dec 2011