December 15, 2011
“Alice came to a fork in the road. ‘Which road do I take?’ she asked.
‘Where do you want to go?’ responded the Cheshire Cat.
’I don’t know,’ Alice answered.
‘Then,’ said the Cat, ‘it doesn’t matter.”
Education has taken a nasty fall. In fact, if we do not commit to a serious dialogue with the intention of finding immediate solutions, we will never find our way back up. At the bottom of this hole are entire generations without focus or incentive. At the top of the pile are the latest young college graduates, without the necessary tools of creative and analytical thinking, nor the processes to come up with solutions and answers to the multitude of problems awaiting them. And we are working on the newest generation, insuring a continuation of more of the same. Why would we do this? How is this happening and is there anyone building a ladder to the surface? One system that is attempting to work through this conundrum is the German school system, although, even in this forward thinking system the cracks are beginning to appear.
In the U.S. people don’t like to pay taxes, even if that means their children receive an inferior education and grow up to be welfare recipients condemned to minimum wage jobs, if they can find them. Henceforth, our state-funded schools do not have adequate funds to support healthy education. Not to mention that higher education is no longer a choice, but a matter of privilege, and if you don’t have it, you borrow it. If we take a closer look at the Bank/Corporate-to-Students zero-sum game, we will find that it is a form of indentured servitude. Easy credit, and low and stagnant wages. The Banks/Corporations win by ensuring themselves a profitable return and a constant supply of worker-bees–– under educated and ill prepared to come up with alternatives to the situation. Our young people are forced into unproductive, creatively un-challenging, low-income jobs, barely able to make ends meet in order to pay back or risk failing into default.
Here in Germany, where I’m currently residing, education is public and placed strictly in the hands of each of its 16 “states.” Each state is responsible for and administers to primary, secondary, career training schools and much of higher education, and is free to create its own curricula. That means that most schools, colleges and universities are paid for with taxpayer money, with a few institutions of higher learning charging a nominal fee. Teachers are Federally-tenured and there is coordination between state and federal administrators, teaching and testing standards ensuring that education is relatively equal throughout the country. However, globalization has pretty much corporatized education, even in Germany. Corporations want school children in the work force as soon as possible in order to fill positions in a rapidly growing industrial-export economy. As a result, the system is implementing a reduction in the number of years attended below college, from 13 to 12 years. School begins at 7:30 a.m., ensuring that children can ride the bus or that parents can drop their children off at school, relieving traffic congestion for people on their way to work. Sounds somewhat sound, however many studies have recently turned up indicating that both students and teachers ability to cope with this early biorhythm has affected attention and learning. Hmmm.
Empowering teachers helps to ensure a productive and fulfilling classroom experience. The Corporatizing of education has eroded the primary teacher-to-student experience. Every child has different affinities, abilities and interests that affect the way they absorb and learn from the materials presented in any given curriculum. Adding to this are classrooms full of multi-cultural, multi-ethnic children, creating a situation, which makes it next to impossible for teachers to do their jobs and connect with students on a deeper level. In the U.S. a broad-spectrum curriculum has been imposed without acknowledging these factors, effectively devaluing the creative and critical thinking that might one day turn the tables on the corporate imperative of a “dumbed-down” work force, perfectly designed to turn a corporate profit.
Taking into consideration that not everyone will learn the same way, at the same rate, or has the desire to go to the same place with their accumulated knowledge, the biggest difference between schools in the U.S. and Germany is that of freedom of choice. The German constitution guarantees all citizens the right to fully develop their human potential, which includes the right to choose one’s occupation and to have access to the appropriate career training. It recognizes that if you are going to become a productive member of a multi-dimensional society, overlaying one educational model simply does not work. Therefore parents and students are given a choice early on. The system gives parents the possibility, based on aptitude, grades and interests by the end of the 4th grade, to select what type of secondary school the child should attend and has made this flexible as well, by allowing students to change their minds later on. This ability to choose continues by offering students based upon their interests, a dual-track job skills training program: a three year classroom instruction together with a paid internship (Berufsfachschule), as well as other options. To read more about the German education system see: The Educational System in Germany
The less money that goes towards education, the less time and resources teachers have to give students the attention and individual respect they deserve. We do not have to agree to the Bank/Corporate agenda dictating to our educational systems. If we are to climb out of the rabbit hole, and begin to take back our rights to choose our future and create our lives, we have to change teaching paradigms and instruct our children how to think creatively and problem solve with patience to persevere in the face of obstacles. A distracted and fractured mind is an all to easily malleable mind, and we’ll fast find ourselves in a complicit wonderland, wondering how we got there:
Mad Hatter: Would you like a little more tea?
Alice: Well, I haven’t had any yet, so I can’t very well take more.
March Hare: Ah, you mean you can’t very well take less. Mad Hatter: Yes. You can always take more than nothing.
Jeannie Winston Nogai
Owner / Winston Nogai Design
www.jeanniewinston.com / E: firstname.lastname@example.org