Curriculum: Is it 1984 yet?

A national debate about curriculum may be healthy, but having the nation control curriculum is entirely different. Let us not forget that prior to the printing press, the church controlled education and it was restricted to an elite class. Now with the advent of the computer and the instant spread of information and ideas, we see a government that wants a standardized curriculum. Forgive me for fearing big government that both Republicans and Democrats seem to want when it comes to curriculum, but I would no more have the government be in control of instruction than I would be in favor of letting the church control education.

Almost immediately upon the invention of the printing press businesses determined books were useful. The spread of literacy created demand for paper and ink. New businesses began catering to the masses that now were learning to read. As with any technological breakthrough, others lost their income. Copyists were now out of demand and aristocrats thought it was vulgar that their private libraries were devalued by the mass production of books. Overall though, education then, as social scientists claim now, was good for sustained economic growth.  The struggle for control of education began and businesses sought their place in the debate.

Business wants cheap labor. If schools could be used to produce an abundance of workers employers can pay less money for capable employees. We have seen movements in education to train electricians, plumbers, carpenters, and now computer technicians.  Education, business claims, must meet the needs of an economic society.

I argue that education is not training, that the control over curriculum is in analogous to the control of an individual’s bloodstream. Education is the lifeblood of a country and curriculum therefore should not be under the control of one authority. We have seen the greed of business at work in society, polluting land, air and water, polluting our ethics as we sacrifice truth and honesty for income. Imagine what is at stake for those who can control knowledge or the spread of it.

The problem with curriculum is that it dictates what is taught. In a country like the United States where innovation and individuality are honored cultural norms, a dictated curriculum goes against the grain. We see violent and absurd crime on the rise such as the murders of 16 by a young man in the Texas Tower, Columbine, Timothy McVeigh and what he did in Oklahoma, and as sad as any was the murder of innocent young Amish children in their country schoolhouse. These events aren’t phenomena because they spread quickly via the internet, they are phenomena because they exist, they happened, they appall us. Today at college campuses and our public/charter schools we see a retreat from social tolerance into the old ways of segregation both by color and religious belief. One must question what in the 21st Century has happened to American character?

And that is what our curriculum should be based on: Moral Character Development. If curriculum develops character our business people will be honorable, those we disagree with politically will be respectful. We must develop character and there are curriculums that do this and while doing so, evidence indicates they raise test scores. If schools are happy places children do better academically as demonstrated by data. Let us in this 21st century remove ourselves from a curriculum that dictates to us what some believe we should know, in favor of a curriculum that broadens our understanding and creates inquisitive, respectful, intellect. Character curriculums exist and are growing because there is a demand for respectful, tolerant behavior. Just like in economics, the supply must meet the demand.

If we fail in this endeavor our society may just collapse. Just as nobles petitioned Richard II to disallow their serfs from sending their children to school fearing they the nobles would lose control of this newly educated class, we may become ruled economically and then politically by those who dictate what is taught. Education is freedom.

 

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