Peace in Education
Statas Quo since the 1920s and Need for Change in the 2020s
Educational leaders have an obligation to implement tools for societal change. The public school system was conceived and developed in the 1920s as an industrial nation’s answer to poverty and the decreasing labor pool. With Child Labor laws, policymakers took the children off the street to institutionalize them into society to build the working class. This had efficacy for the times when child labor, immigration, and the Great Depression were the cultural climate in the United States. Now, this institutionalized way of education is embedded in our culture as public and free education for the poor and working-class and a pathway to college. However, we are still an industrial nation turning out a technology-based working class. The number of teen suicides is increasing 10-fold, attention deficit has become an accepted handicap, anxiety attacks among teens and young adults is now a common phenomenon. Schools are not serving students. Student graduates are serving the corporate needs. Change must happen at the school level for society to change “…because school leaders working from a strong moral imperative foundation are the sine qua non of societal development.” (Fullan, The Moral Imperative. 2003)
Amidst our current pandemic crisis and school closings for Spring 2020 semester, we have an education crisis at hand. I would say, covid 19 has become the tipping point for school reform. Some college students are quitting, online courses do not suit their learning styles, some high school and elementary students are flourishing because online classes facilitate their learning styles. Parents have now had a full experience of their student-children at home for some six weeks and some may see first had the exasperated teachers’ dilemmas of wanting to educate their children who have a mass attention deficit disorder due to excessive access of technology and social media. What once was what kept their children quiet and occupied in the back seat of the car, now has their children caught in an addictive pattern of behavior. Computer Technology and social media, like any other tool discovered and introduced into societies, has the potential to advance and destroy. What are we as parents supposed to do now that our children may not want to go back to a school building or they may not have one to go back to?
I am talking about changing to a peaceful society, from a patriarchal status quo of the divide, conquer, and the survival of the fittest. The educational leaders’ call to action is to help change the context of society—“Change the context, and you change behavior.”(Fullan) Educational leaders must vision and implement new beliefs that can be practical, useful, and nurtured as the norm. It is clear among the educational leadership and visionaries that in our diverse, multicultural, and global community, they must include and nurture global citizenship and character education. (Goodlad, The Tipping Point. 2002). Goodlad states, “The trouble is that the school reform enterprise has been prescribing the wrong medicines for quite some time.” Academic achievement must be equally taught and nurtured alongside personal and social development.
From The Global Achievement Gap, by Tony Wagner, required reading for my Master’s in Educational Leadership study at California State University Los Angeles, the discussion surrounds what they consider to be a “moral imperative” of a crisis in education right now. The overwhelming concern is that high school students in the United States are not college ready to compete on a global scale. Business leaders, policymakers, and educators are calling schools to provide “challenging and rigorous education for all students and that every student in the United States should take the kind of college-preparatory curriculum that only some of our students have the opportunity to take.” They point to the Seven Survival Skills in college and professional careers as the litmus test for an education that is preparing students for the 21st century. The seven points include the inquiries: can they think critically, solve problems, work collaboratively, take initiative, communicate effectively, access and analyze information, be curious and imaginative? These are all highly effective skills and traits, however, there is a critical piece missing in this public education hierarchy of learning. The policymakers and educators are consumed with the idea that what is needed to bridge the achievement gap is more rigor in Advanced Placement courses and college-level math, science, and computer technology. The trend now in public schools across the country is an online curriculum. Schools are now providing laptops and Chromebooks to all students in lieu of textbooks. Curriculum, course work, and state testing is primarily online. Schools offer students full online courses to make up for what they cannot offer. Students are saturated with more and more technology and “rigorous” academic requirements. But what about the human factor?
What about the question of who am I and how do I want to show up in the world and contribute to my surroundings and an ever-increasing global community? How do I balance myself physically, mentally, emotionally, socially, and spiritually? Health is defined by these 5 factors and one additional─occupational health, meaning one’s life work as a contributing factor to one’s choice of profession, job satisfaction, career ambitions, and personal performance. This last part of health is the primary focus for educators and policymakers when making national curriculum standards for our youth. What happens when students are not educated and provided the experience of discovering who they really are and how they are truly connected to each other? There are a disconnect and malaise that has overtaken our youth and culture. We cannot truly see the other person like ourselves, and our faculty for compassion is dulled.
We are willing to go to university for six years, specialize for two years, and write our PH.D. thesis for two years about how the wind blows, how cockroaches live, or how monkeys play. But we never spend time on who we are and how we want to be.—Yogi Bhajan.
My excerpt from
- Building Cultures of Peace: Empowering Our Local-Global Communities
- PEACE EDUCATION chapter. Included writers: fRev. Dr. Linda Groff, Rev. Stephen L. Fiske, Rev. Leland Stewart, Eisha Mason, Anthony Manousos, PhD, Dr. Sarah Larson, Dr. Simon Simonian, and Arpi Simonian, Richard Schachter, Rev. Doris Davis, Rev. Joanie English, Bonnie Bluestein, and Rev. Amadi (George) Hines.