INTRO: In part three of our series on the National Strategic Narrative we look at the goals of education. Should education help communities or companies? Is it more complicated than that? Here’s Michigan Now’s Chris McCarus.
Last year, the National Strategic Narrative got a big reception in Washington D.C. Minnesota’s Keith Ellison was there. He graduated from University of Detroit Jesuit High School and is now the only Muslim in Congress. Navy Captain Wayne Porter says the Narrative is meant to modernize the country.
“It starts by reinvigorating America’s sense of cooperative competitiveness with multiple winners not a single winner and multiple losers.”
The seagulls overhead were near the Naval Post Graduate School in California. Educators spent 2 days talking about the Narrative that Captain Porter co-authored. He says American industry could lead the world again if it helped poor countries and poor Americans.
“To do that it starts with education and I happen to believe our system of education in America is horribly ineffective. It’s badly outdated. And we aren’t ranking very well among other nations, developed and other wise. So I think this kind of citizens approach to identifying not only the challenges we face but attempting to come up with positive solutions is what’s needed and that’s why we wrote the paper to begin with.”
But you might be thinking…. wouldn’t anyone around the world want to put their kids in our big suburban schools that prepare them for the Ivy League?
No, says June Gorman, a Monterey area teacher and member of the United Nations Association. See her work with the Transformative Education Forum. She says trouble started with a document called ‘A Nation At Risk’ from the Reagan Administration.
“Their idea was that you do want these science and math skills. You do want people easily manipulated into the slots that the economy is asking from a corporate viewpoint of manipulation. You don’t particularly need a lot of values questions.”
Reagan said stronger math and science training would allow students to get high technology jobs. At the same time, he called for privatization of public institutions. Run them like businesses. By the 1990’s, charter schools and schools of choice programs began. Artemio Paz doesn’t like the results. Paz is a Vietnam Veteran who serves on the Oregon State Board of Education.
“If you don’t like your school next door that your kids are supposed to be going to you have deep enough pockets to go across the community and get the one you want. And also as you do that you have a higher carbon footprint.”
So climate change keeps getting ignored. Then, Paz says, local public city schools lose money and students to the charter schools and suburban schools of choice.
“You undermine the issues of racial equality and socio-cultural issues.”
That means millions of poor black and Latino kids get segregated by race and class. But why isn’t the problem urgent enough for authorities to act?
“It clearly is urgent because every time we continue another day of sorting people especially young people into red birds, blue birds and buzzards, we’re somehow throwing people away. And when I look at California now that used to be first in the country and is now something like 47th or 48th in its ability to graduate students from high school, let alone what are the skill levels, there is clearly an urgency.”
Phoebe Knight Helm retired in June as President of Hartnell College in Salinas, California. Dr. Helm says Science, Technology, Engineering and Math, have returned profits to shareholders. But they haven’t raised America’s standard of living or citizens’ quality of life.
“If you had goals and metrics around security using the old definition versus Wayne’s definition of yesterday look at how much things would change. The whole issue around educational equity and metrics is designed to separate and scatter and keep people in their place. It is indeed designed around structural racism. And we kept it in place for hundreds and hundreds of years. So it does work.”
For evidence of that argument, just come to Metro Detroit. A few African-Americans from the city get their kids into Birmingham and Bloomfield Hills schools while whites who occupy those suburbs fear an influx and send their kids to private schools. The pattern is hard to break. It keeps Detroit the most segregated region in the country.