Pam Gill 1997 Published in: Technocracy Digest, 1st quarter 1997, No. 323
Compulsory education in the United States arose to fit the requirements of the industrial age. The demands of this age differed from those of the primitive, agrarian age that existed at the birth of our nation.
Bells in past ages were used by churches to call the community together. In industrial-age schools, they are rung to simulate the factory floor. In the pioneering schools built to accommodate the new age, classes began and ended at precise times. Gone is looking at the sun to get an idea of the time of day. The teacher’s watchful dispersion of tardies takes the place of the company punch clock. Students have been warned a few million times “If you do `that’ on the job, your pay will be docked and you might well lose your job.” So, in the classroom you are learning behavior patterns for employment.
The employment situation now being as baffling as it is, these admonitions are confusing, to say the least. What employment? What jobs? Ask the millions who must rely on government hand-outs for all their sustenance.
Once, class schedules were arranged so that, in summer, young people could help with the farm chores. This was a requirement in the past primitive agrarian age. Ironically, we are still honoring this calendar in most school districts, although the number of students contributing to the harvest is infinitesimal. The number of students detasseling corn is nil; technology has taken over and most of the work involved is totally automatic.
Putting schools on a year-round schedule is far too little and far too late. Requirements of modern times mandate that we stop living in the past. It is interesting — and disheartening — to think how long it has taken for human beings to look objectively at our situation and say, “Oh, I guess we don’t need to do this anymore.”
Urban schools face tough times; problems abound. But urbans are not alone; in many places, rural schools face identical problems. Drug use is pervasive. The Boston Globe, in their June 24, 1996 article, “In Deep South, Crack Has Gone Country” reported how the drug problem is national in scope and stated:
“The pushers are on the streets, the crack houses, the school yards, the church yard. They’re anywhere they can make a dollar.”
“Crack has gone country. The quick hit drug that has been the scourge of the nation’s cities is now pervasive in the rural areas of the Deep South, where bored and jobless young people have turned to crack for excitement.”
More complications: as more new teachers gravitate to cities, jobs go begging in many rural schools. “The depth of this problem was reported in the Washington post,” July 6, 1996 article “Schools in Rural Areas Face Tough Task of Keeping Teachers.” To quote the article:
“The predicament is unfolding in rural and small-town public schools across the nation: More than ever, they are struggling to recruit teachers to replace retiring veterans, or to persuade others from leaving for growing and better-paying suburban schools.”
Be that as it may — and the situation is serious — but it is not all fun and games for teachers. In the San FranciscoSchool District — like many others — teachers compete for scarce positions. In some school districts — certainly including San Francisco’s — the ground is shifting quickly, and unpredictably, for teachers and students. In the business community, management has raised havoc with people’s jobs with their downsizing and out sizing. School administrations are raising havoc with teachers in general, with their reconstitution, magnet academies, restructuring. Some administrators refer to their job reduction as “the reinvention of education.”
The problems with our schools are manifold. Teachers are probably the only bright spot in our messy situation. They spend hours preparing for individual classes. Teachers are known for buying supplies for their classes. Many a student has eaten a meal bought by a teacher.
The rewards for teachers practically don’t exist. They have to contend with students who come to class with little or no desire to learn. They have to contend with a small percent of the class who are disruptive. It is not unusual for 25 percent of the time to be taken up disciplining these students. But that doesn’t make the rest of the time class learning time. After disruptions of this nature, it takes time to get the rest of the students back in the mode to learn.
There is more! Overcrowding, truancy, poor skills, poor medical care, violence, drugs, lack of motivation, depression, racism, child abuse, poverty.
Violence? The Associated Press titles a June 12, 1996 article “Grisly Data On Killings At Schools.” In it they state:
“More than 50 killings or suicides occur each year at or near U.S. schools, according to the first systematic study of violent school-related deaths.
“Most deaths are in urban areas, involve handguns and teenagers, and are the result of `interpersonal conflicts,’ according to the study by the national center for Disease Control and Prevention that examined deaths from July 1, 1992, through June 30, 1994. Almost a third of the deaths were gang-related.
“We think of schools as safe havens, 170 said James Mercy, director of the CDC’s Division of Violence Prevention. “These deaths fly in the face of that sentiment.””
The truancy problem is huge. In July of this year, President Clinton allocated $20 million to combat this problem. The first part of July of this year, the San Francisco Chronicle devoted a large segment of one paper to this subject. Truancy officers complain that they pick up a student, return the student to school, and next day they find the same student not at school. They are frustrated and don’t have an answer.
Teachers are ambivalent on the truancy problem. The truancy students are often the trouble-makers in class. A teacher wants to teach. A teacher has spent hours preparing a class program. A teacher wants students who want to learn; that makes the hours of class preparation worthwhile. A teacher is torn between wanting truancy students and not wanting them. In today’s society, there is no easy answer.
I hear this from a teacher: As a teacher it makes me tired to have to itemize the problems, and I think most people who aren’t teachers could itemize the problems about as well as I. It is true that, as a teacher, I have a clearer idea than a non-teacher of what it means to teach Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations to a class in which half the students cannot and/or will not read a short chapter on their own and comprehend what it is saying … a class in which a third of the students are absent a day a week, and a fourth of them, twice a week, and three of them wander in a couple of times a month. Then there are students moving, dropping in and out of classes. (“Kids, Schools, Suffer from Revolving Door,” American Educator, spring ’96, p.36-39). The number of classroom disruptions would shock and unnerve non-teachers, just as it does teachers.
For a solution, we don’t need to reinvent education. We know from research and experience tons of strategies that work. But we insist on over-working and under-supporting teachers (not just financially, but, also, practically; teachers don’t have thorough and appropriate help.)
For a solution, we need to institute a new system. We need a whole new day and age. We need a day and age that fits into our scientific, modern, technological lifestyle. Our socio-economic structure, our “Price System,” is totally out of sync with modern times. Certainly school problems are a strong indication of that point. A whole new system? Politics and politicians don’t fit into such a system. Look anywhere you want and you will not find a whole new system. That is to say, you won’t find one unless you investigate Technocracy’s concepts.
Technocracy’s Technological Social Design is a whole new system. When in place, humankind will reach a pinnacle: for the first time in human history, society will have a social structure worth the dignity of the human species.
When we arrive at this day, teachers can look back in horror at our schools and their schedules. We will see these days as something akin to the nineteenth century practice of sending kids down coal mines and into textile factories. We’ll say, “How could we have been so barbaric!”