Daily Archives: September 2, 2011

Inside Ed School

The American “education system,” not just the public school system, is a total mess. Public school systems are being systematically de-funded, while the cost of attending private schools or universities rises faster even than health care. There is an ideological war of all against all pertaining to how to fix American education in which some occasionally gain the upper hand and impose their ideologies wholesale across entire school systems, as has happened most recently in Washington, DC and Atlanta, Georgia, and as the disastrous effects reveal themselves, are abandoned wholesale for some other program. Children should be taught only grammar — or no grammar at all. They should learn to read through phonics only, or by sight only. And we continue to deceive ourselves that people with little, or seriously stunted, intellectual curiosity will — if exposed to enough numbing instruction in the pseudo-psychology of pedagogy, the subtleties of classroom discipline and the latest neo-Fordist time management techniques — become marvelous teachers who miraculously cultivate in children and adolescents (who, let’s admit, left to their own “devices” (so to speak) would rather be toying with their cell phones and genitals) a lifelong devotion to learning and the pursuit of the good bourgeois life.

So why bother? I suppose because I care. I suppose because, even with my limited “training,” I’ve seen the light go on in a previously uninterested teen’s eyes. Not a miracle, but the same light that one sees in the midst of a good, fascinating conversation, which, at this time and in lieu of some more sophisticated “theory,” I personally take as the ground of all real and successful education. And because I’m a blowhard and an auto-didact, enjoy a receptive (if captive) audience as much as anybody, and because I believe that the canon of American literature (as it evolves) not only must be saved, but only can save us.

So I hope to share some insights and absurdities here — inasmuch as teacher education is a substantial part of the ongoing debate about education qua education — from my own ongoing experiences in Ed School. We’ll see how this project proceeds as papers come due and client work piles up over the course of the next few months.

“America is in Decline” — if you don’t believe me, will you believe Harold Bloom?

“Twenty-first century America is in a state of decline. It is scary to reread the final volume of Gibbon these days because the fate of the Roman Empire seems an outline that the imperial presidency of George W. Bush retraced and that continues even now. We have approached bankruptcy, fought wars we cannot pay for, and defrauded our urban and rural poor. Our troops include felons, and mercenaries of many nations are among our ‘contractors,’ fighting on their own rules or none at all. Dark influences from the American past congregate among us still. It we are a democracy, what are we to make of the palpable elements of plutocracy, oligarchy, and mounting theocracy that rule our state? How do we address the self-inflicted catastrophes that devastate our natural environment? So large is our malaise that no single writer can encompass it. We have no Emerson or Whitman among us. An institutionalized counterculture condemns individuality as archaic and deprecates intellectual values, even in the universities.”

– Harold Bloom, The Anatomy of Influence (2011).