New preface: Much of the problem with schools and the kind of education they offer students has to do with a lack of focus and concern for individuals and individual thought. That class size has been debated for so many years and the fact class sizes have risen as a result of school funding policy, reflects a critical problem with schools and the conception of education that allows for class sizes beyond 15 to exist. No human be sensitive to the needs, come to understand what is on the minds of those in the classroom when there are so many individuals in a single classroom. But American schools, most, do require teachers to teach to numbers of students exceeding 20, to often, 30 or more. To teach, then, has to be about telling everyone in the classroom the same thing and expecting that everyone will be able to repeat what everyone has been told, little room, little time to hear out how students are thinking about what they have been told, to critique, to say what they have come to understand by thinking about the material being taught. I make the case in many posts in the various places I post, that such teaching is exactly the kind of teaching that prepares students to accept the autocratic and authoritarian, a kind of teaching that is about listening and not about thinking even about what one has been told. The article below speaks again to this problem.
Ramble concerning the “logic” of “class size doesn’t really matter.” March 2, 2013
I just heard that our state superintendent of schools (Nevada), once of the George W. Bush Institute, commented today that smaller class size is not an issue, that what we need are quality teachers. I have to say that such a notion coming from our schools’ chief should not surprise as this is pure and unadulterated garbage rhetoric of the type that has forever come from those who want cheap education, not just education on the cheap, but cheap education of the type that is more likely to ruin good minds than help them grow. And growing strong intellects, helping the people of a democracy acquire the skills, knowledge, and disposition that allow them to talk back to fools in positions of authority, is exactly what those of Mr. Guthrie’s kind do not want and for reasons already implied in this sentence.
Anyone dedicated to helping build schools that celebrate the power of the individual mind, interested in building a citizenry that is thoughtful and resistant to foolishness and the policies of fools knows that no one can do what is necessary to help students grow their minds if all that a teacher can do is hand out worksheets from curriculum packages developed by mass marketers rather than qualified curriculum developers, the latter always coming in the form of truly qualified teacher. Good teachers, to be good, have to be incredibly smart and they have to be able to share their smarts with those they teach. They teach students to think (not how to think) by demonstrating thoughtfulness. When the Guthries of the world make statements concerning the irrelevance of class size, they show either ignorance of what constitutes meaningful learning for people in a free society or they fear the consequences for themselves and those like them if the society were to be populated with people aware of the power of their own intellects, people resistant to the idiotic ploys of those who hold power without holding the real credentials for properly dealing with power in a free and democratic society.
Please do note that I use terms such as fool and idiot here in ways that just might earn me criticism for lack of politeness. But what has been allowed to happen in our society and in our schools, in the society as a result of what has happened in the schools, is beyond wrong and even beyond criminal. What has come about as a result of the policies written and supported by people such as Mr. Guthrie, Mr. Bush, Mr. Rod Page, the creators of No Child Left Behind and those who supported it out of either wrong headed understanding of proper education for a democratic society, or malicious intend to kill off that that is essential to effective democracy, an informed and thoughtful citizenry (there is money to be made by doing this—a quick refresher on modern American economic manipulations would be helpful here), is an educational system that prepares students to blindly purchase goods that are not necessarily good goods, not good for health, happiness, well-being), politicians and ideas amongst these items for incredibly high prices (including loss of real citizenship, home foreclosure, decay of vital infrastructure, environmental degradation, and the like). This is beyond tragic and, because of the severity of the consequences, those who are fools need to be identified as such so the power they hold can be redistributed.
By the way, I heard an economist say today that there need not be redistribution of wealth but, rather, more sensible pre-distribution of wealth. I think I know what he means and, perhaps what we need, really need, is education that helps people rebuild society so that sensible pre-distribution can be the way we operate, people working to earn a decent wage that allows them to live a decent life in a very wealthy society that, by the way, really can afford good teachers and afford those good teachers an environment in which they can use their smarts to help others grow smarter. Our worry should not be about what we cannot afford; it should be about what we cannot afford to do without and, if we are the people of a democracy, we cannot afford to be without people so well educated as to be able to engage in informed deliberation about the things affecting the society that is theirs. Such a society would not tolerate power in the hands of fools and idiots and such a society would not be sold on stupid promises or on the absolute permanence of things that action based upon good thought could definitely begin to change.
Two very good programs kind of related to this ramble:
http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b01qw93v titled “Vulgar Keynesianism,” and http://www.onthemedia.org/2013/feb/22/problem-with-saying-everyone-is-the-problem/?utm_source=local&utm_media=treatment&utm_campaign=daMost&utm_content=damostviewed titled “The Problem with Saying Everyone is the Problem.”