As concerns education, its purpose as presently envisaged is to enable persons to be "productive" within the context of industrial society.
~Thomas Berry, The Great Work~
Warning: This article is blasphemous. How can a former professor of history and psychology write an article with this title? Is the author simply a disgruntled doomer who has become hopelessly cynical?
First, let me begin by expressing my gratitude for four years of solid university education. I'm equally grateful for advanced degrees in history and counseling. I'm grateful for help from my parents and being able to live in an economy where I could work, pay my bills, and actually save money for tuition. I attended college at a particularly exciting time in history, also majoring in that subject as an undergraduate, my minor being, so to speak, student activism.
Secondly, I'm grateful for the years I served as an adjunct professor and the responsiveness of many of my students to the myriad ways I illuminated them about the Long Emergency and taught them how to prepare. I know firsthand that I made a difference in many lives.
I completed my last semester of teaching in the summer of 2009, and as I drove across the United States to my new home in Boulder, Colorado, I knew unequivocally that I could not return to a traditional classroom and maintain any semblance of sanity. (No worries because there weren't any teaching jobs available anyway.) In fact, the deterioration I saw in institutional policies and students' abilities and motivation with respect to learning within just the span of three years
were jaw-dropping. The end result, I was certain, would be a society approximating that portrayed in the movie "Idiocracy", and so it may well be as public education continues to unravel and increasingly become a direct pipeline to prison.
As I have collaborated with colleagues over the past decade, their stories are virtually carbon copies of mine: Students whose basic reading, writing, and math skills are abysmal, even if they graduated in the top one percent of their high school class; no interest in learning for the sake of learning; willingness to do whatever it takes, including constructing elaborate, blatant cheating schemes, in order to get the grade they want; an unwillingness to take responsibility for their education and making the grades they want-and even an absence of any sense of how to do so. All of this with no clue about why a college education could be useful other than to secure a professional position. Some cherish other vapid reasons for attending college such as the one a colleague recently shared with me. When she asked one of her students why she was attending college, the student replied with, "I want to be able to know where to look things up so I can find answers." As we all know, no one needs to attend college in order to learn that particular skill.
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