Our culture has taken tens of thousands of years of biological and cultural momentum and brought them to a screeching halt, with the decision that we can just go ahead and change things so kids will not grow up, not become sexual, not desire to be treated as full food producing, child creating, intoxicant imbibing parts of the tribe, as was the pattern up until a few minutes ago, on the humanity timeline, and we are upset about changes in morals, in drug and alcohol use, in rebellion?
We have to face the fact that our current educational system is an experiment that was wholly adopted, which was originally created about 100 or less years ago to create good soldiers and factory workers. The summer break was created to allow children to help on the farm, and because, without air conditioning, it was too hot to learn.
Now, if we started integrating young people of 14 and older into the real world, it might lead to massive unemployment. But maybe not. Maybe we could create a conservation corps, like my father entered during the great depression, for teens, so they can actually experience work and more of responsibilities of adulthood. Maybe, as a way to lessen unemployment, we could extend school even further, and have kids, starting at ten or twelve, spend part of the day, week or year engaged in some kind of productive work, preferably outdoors, doing something to help the environment or community.
It would be an experiment, and why not. The experiment we seem to have committed our children to is no great wonder, with 5-8 percent of boys being drugged with Ritalin or other stimulants so they will behave themselves in classrooms. Maybe we should take those boys and and the smaller percentage of girls and put them in different learning environments that tap their strengths-- places like The Hunter School, where, using Thom Hartmann's model, they treat kids diagnosed with ADHD more like hunters than farmers.
It's hard to imagine how far Rick Santorum's head must be up his butt for him to write, in his new book, that mothers should stay home and not work, so they can care for their children. HELLO, there are over 20 million stepfamilies in the US. There are millions of kids who don't live with fathers at all.
We must face the reality that the old ways are gone. The old nuclear family, with kids helping on the family farm, was sacrificed on the altar of corporate and military service, putting kids in school until they are ready for work or enlistment. It's ironic that the sanctimonious right wing religious extremists, who whine and moan self righteously about moral values and family, support the family destroying entities-- corporations, big military and the wars that justify them. But perhaps we also have their churches to blame. It takes docile sheep to fill churches where people mindlessly listen to theofascist leaders who preach the rapture and welcome armageddon, and schools like we have produce just that.
In Slaying the Dragon, Stephenson suggests that it is normal for kids to rebel, to try out their freedom-- that it is healthy-- as long as opportunities for healthy avenues and outlets are provided.
It is frightening to think that if the extreme Christian right gets their way, we won't even have public schools any more. We will devolve down (not back, because this will be a new, worse invention, unless you count monasteries and convents, where the goal is to break the ego and will of monks and Nuns so they subjugate their lives to the God and the church. Read Karen Armstrong's The Spiral Staircase ) to religious schools that teach creation science, abstention as the proper way to deal with sex until marriage (even though, when marriage came before sex, the average age for marriage was well under 20.)
While we progressives are envisioning a new and better world, let's really take a look at education and see how we can re-invent it so it taps the diversity and strengths of our kids, offering them ways to face the multiple challenges of coming of age in a society that is still one big experiment, with all the traditional moorings loosed. It is insane to try to tie down kids to moorings that represent docks that are now under one years of water over the dam, as the religious right is trying to do. We must take a few steps back from our current educational model and include in our assessment all the kids in jail for drug use, all the kids being put on drugs because they are energetic and creative, all the autistic and aspergers kids who have disconnected from the world, all the kids who live vicariously through video games and tens of thousands of hours of television immersion.
Just as we have swallowed the koolaid, accepting language framing that works against us from the start, which George Lakoff talks about, we have to re-evaluate our educational system and assume that it needs fixing, that in this 21st century world, the school model that was developed based on the Henry Ford metaphor of mass production is no longer the best approach-- that it's pretty damn antiquated and, frankly, bad.
The right wing and corporations have perniciously, predatorily worked to take over so many areas of our nation's commons, converting them so they are either privatized or made so they are more beneficial for corporations and not humans. They got to our educational system so long ago that we have ignored the damage it is doing, with the exception of a handful of people, like John Taylor Gatto author of Dumbing Us Down:
The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling.
We have a long laundry list of segments of the commons we must take back from the onslaugh of the corporate and right wing anti-human juggernaut. We must add education and the school system to the need to take back or re-regulate the media, health care and all kinds of insurance, energy, the environment, water resources, access to the airwaves and free broadband, the work environment, food quality and so much more.
We must always be alert to the reality that we tend to become accustomed to the way things are, to assume that's the way they've always been and the way they will stay. The first step is to become conscious-- to become aware. That is the challenge that we face-- doing what is necessary to raise the consciousness of enough people so they can see what the marriage of the religious right and the military corporate axis is doing to our children and families. Waking up is a phrase that should be a regular part of the progressive's political lexicon. We have to start looking EVERYWHERE to wake up to some of the ways our world has been modified to make it better for corporations, at the expense of what's good for humans and families.