Monday, August 29, 2011

Hippie News & Stuff: School Daze

Hey, Hippies Like they say in the Islands, "SHAKA! Bra..."

When I started my doctoral studies in education in the mid-'80s, I encountered a LOT of statistical information, and one datum in particular struck and stuck: More than 65% of variance in students' scores on standardized tests is accounted for, statistically, by only ONE variable--the Socio-Economic Status of the family. For most kids, "success" in school is more directly predicted by, and more closely correlated with, the family ZIP Code than any individual students' IQ scores. I do not believe things have changed so much, especially since the testing industry has so successfully colonized the classroom--a precursor, I believe, for the eventual (inside 15 years) privatization of ALL schooling.

Almost 40 years ago, Jonathan Kozol wrote that those who proclaim the USer schools to be failures do not really understand the purpose of schooling. Schools, Kozol said, are ferociously good at what they are designed to do which is (paraphrasing here): ensuring as far as possible that as few children as possible escape the socio-economic niches for which they were born. Another scholar of the period, Joel Spring, regarded schools as "sorting machines," which separated students into (life-long, nearly inviolable) tracks according to the students' potential usefulness to the elites.

From such perspectives, it is NOT a stretch to suggest that the purpose of schooling is to compile a retroactive record for the purpose, at least in no small part, of rationalizing and supporting decisions that were made about those students before they EVER crossed the school-house threshold.

On a related point: For many politicians, schooling FOR THE PURPOSE OF PRE-EMPLOYMENT TRAINING--which, despite noble rhetoric to the contrary,has been the operating raisson d'etre of the whole enterprise since Nixon--schooling FOR THE PURPOSE OF PRE-EMPLOYMENT TRAINING is going to become less and less relevant.

If there aren't any jobs, the argument will go, why do we need schools to train workers? CorpoRats are not EXPANDING their hiring universes. Automation is NOT going to be less ubiquitous. So the "public" school is probably going to become culturally expendable, an inefficiency which the CorpoRats no longer need support. And education will again revert to being a luxury and perquisite of the rich.

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