Friday, April 10, 2015

Where Did You Go to School?

A question that seems so simple and without any taint of negative intent is often heard at many social gatherings. The question, simply put, is, "And where did you go to school?" Charming entree into a conversation that may range far and wide and forge comfortable connections that are the oil of society. School can be mighty in our social life, our professional life and our intellectual life. It has incredible power.

Today, in many parts of the United States, indeed in many parts of the world, children who want to go to school will find it not just unavailable but unsafe. Youngsters, especially girls, may avoid even the mention of the wish for an education and the simple question is simple no more. To be among the intellectual class, too, is to be targeted for extinction. After all, bearers of knowledge are potential creators of hot beds of ideas that can be ruinous for the plans of some. Protect ignorance at all costs would appear to be their mantra.

If all of this sounds a bit off-kilter, perhaps it's because we fail to see that education, which can both free and demand, is not such a simple matter. Consider the many contexts in which you think of education and you could find yourself coming up against a wall you never noticed existed in your perception of the world. Education is dangerous, isn't it? For some, it's absolutely tantamount to tyranny or can foster spiritual rebellion that must be quelled at all costs. Should education be permitted, it can only take its first breath in the air of acceptable distortion of that which has existed so that it meets the needs of some and not the many.

Entire societies of people have been deprived of the most basic education in order to keep them subservient. Teachers were driven into hiding where they nurtured those who would come to learn to read and write in secret. The spark of intellect would remain a small ember despite the cruelty that oppressors rained down on them.

Currently, in the United States, we are hearing of teachers dropping out of the profession they wanted to love and aspired to. Why? Because it is mired in bureaucracy and stilted in its approach to education. It's no longer education, but drill sessions to meet test requirements. I can recall when admission tests for colleges suddenly realized that multiple-choice tests weren't really the best gauge of educational potential and intellectual gifts. But the entrenched school boards with their 19th Century mind sets can't even see what they're doing. Lock stepping the same old educational roe doesn't provide education; it provides little of anything except perhaps a step up to higher political office.

In the United States, some have siphoned funds off from education sufficiently to leave it a bare bones fund that may seem like education but, in fact, may be a poison in disguise. How is it a poison? When you fail to provide all that is needed to insure that education is something wondrous, interesting, gripping, and to be looked forward to each day, you begin the mental dulling equivalent of a daily small dose of arsenic.  Eventually, the deed is done. The child hates school, turns from it and is easy prey for the "teachings" of others.

Failure to fund adequate schooling for all means running the risk of becoming not just a nation of the ill-informed, but an unstable one.  Burning books may have gone out of style, but limiting library access can be seen as a subtle form of intellectual starvation. Limiting the topics of books to be provided on even a generous budget can also serve the same purpose. Many books do not a scholar make.

Across the developing world (yes, we're still developing), UNESCO has found that many children have no schools to attend. A recent BBC article carried a headline indicating that projections on education wouldn't be met. It stated there are "58 million children without access to primary school and 100 million who do not complete a primary education." You know what the result of this paucity of education means for those countries and for the world. 

But, aside from this no-go zone of the educational wilderness, let's get back to the initial, innocent question of where you got your schooling.  It's a brand, you see, and the brand is pushed mightily because it has a certain cache that will provide just what is needed. Well, it seems that bozos and plagiarists graduate from those schools, too, dear friends.

Does it really matter what the name of the school was or more that you had instructors or professors who inspired you? Does it matter that you were home schooled by parents who wanted to spare you the dulling experience of the local schools and couldn't afford the more tony ones? Don't you, the end product, matter more? No, not to some who are still held tightly in the clutches of that "school name is everything" embrace. Caged minds can benefit no one, not even the caged.

So, where did you go to school? Let's talk about that.