[Marxism] good essay on education
markalause at gmail.com
Sun Jul 10 12:47:19 MDT 2011
I've been involved for 35 years now in college teaching, and essays on
education always leave me cringing. I find discussions about education
reform about as relevant to radicalism as discussions about the reform of
the military or the budget process. Radicalism in any academic field is as
likely as not to be like radicalism on a football field . . . you have to
wear the same uniform and play be the same rules and stand little chance of
doing anything that means anything once the game's over and people leave the
stadium . . . .
Education is, by its every nature, is an individual process. That is, it
varies from person to person and even from time to time with the same
person. In terms of generalization, we know one thing with absolutely
certainty. The best single way to improve learning is to learn how to
engage the individuals and cultivate their natural curiosity about the
world. This is done better as the teacher-to-student ratio improves.
Every major education reform I've encountered has been about finding ways to
get around and ignore this obvious reality. Institutions raise the cap on
survey classes from 30 to 300 students . . . obviously as part of what these
institutions always do to cut costs by speedups, etc. And they use the
savings to invent "reforms" to pretend that teachers can do things to be
more effective . . . if only they use more audio-visual, or write across the
curriculum, use the internet, or (better yet) make an arrangement with
businesses to get the kiddies laptops and get rid of those pesky librarians
and wasteful library fees. So long as the same people with the same
concerns are running things, the best intentions will be refined into
something other than what was intended.
Serious change requires different priorities, new concerns, and these things
aren't about theories of learning but about power.
On Sun, Jul 10, 2011 at 12:15 PM, Louis Proyect <lnp3 at panix.com> wrote:
> Rule #1: YOU MUST clip all extraneous text when replying to a message.
> On 7/10/11 11:52 AM, mckenna193 at aol.com wrote:
>> As Gramsci noted, we have to make these fights count. As a gracious
>> editor, John Bellamy Foster should invite Henry to write a piece for
>> Monthly Review.
> Good luck with that. Foster is about as gracious as a scorpion.
> More to the point, MR has never really covered education in any kind of
> depth so it is a good thing that this issue appeared. (There is an MR book
> on the problem of adjunct professors, but that is a bit different from the
> big debate about public school "reform").
> Yes, Giroux might have been slighted but I am sure he will get over that.
> Most tenured professors have pretty thick skins. It goes with the territory.
> Furthermore, I doubt that Foster has really delved into this literature in
> any kind of depth even though his article is excellent. (And that takes into
> account his wife's struggle as a teacher.)
> Foster is rather good at bracketing out literature that is not of immediate
> relevance to his scholarly pursuits. I would bet $100 that he has never read
> a book on Iran in his life based on his foolish decision not to publish an
> important article by a radical critic of the Islamic Republic in the
> magazine. (My guess is that if it had been submitted to MRZine, it would
> have been burned).
> For all I know, Foster might answer "respected restaurant critic" when
> queried "Who is Henry Giroux".
> I should add that this field generates a puzzling amount of acrimony. I am
> not sure if Peter McClaren is still subbed to Marxmail but he is about as
> respected an authority as Giroux who he has collaborated with in the past.
> I know for a fact that McClaren views Bill Ayers, one of the contributors
> to the issue, as a real jerk for having written a hostile review of one of
> his books. I am not familiar with the controversy but I think Ayers is a
> jerk from the get-go.
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