About every month or so in my U.S. History class we have class discussions, or what we call “open forum” about the book we are reading. The book is called “A People’s History of the United States” by Howard Zinn, and we basically spend the entire class period voicing our opinions about the recent chapter we read; whether or not we agree with Howard Zinn’s thoughts on certain aspects of our history.
A couple of days ago we had one such discussion. Someone brought up a very interesting assertion that Zinn makes, and it made me think about school. About why we go to school and why school was created. Now I’m warning you, at the end of this blog you might think me a skeptic, but I ‘m simply just throwing some questions out there.
Zinn argues that the purpose of public school was to train the lower classes as the future labor force of America; for the benefit of the economy. It’s a little sad to think that the only reason we are in school is to become working class citizens. Aren’t we in school to become educated, informed citizens? To move on to a higher level of education and pursue high level careers of our interest? According to Howard Zinn, this was not the original intent of public school. Zinn says public school was meant to teach the children of lower class families the basics of education. Teach them just enough to have a skilled working class to work in the factories and turn out the profits. Private schools and colleges were reserved for those children of wealthy families who could afford tuition and who would likely become the next elite class of the nation.
Certainly today things have changed. High level education is more widely available and we are not at the mercy of large corporations as we once were. However, I do see some similarities between now and then, which is why I’m bringing it up. The quality of public education, at least in poorer areas of the country, seems to be getting worse and worse. Public schools are not getting as much funding as they once did, all the good teachers are leaving, and more people that can afford it are turning to private schools as a result.
To connect this with Zinn’s point, the government has been making it harder for students at public school to succeed which makes private schools much more appealing. This essentially separates the higher classes from the lower. With all the wealthy, elite kids attending private school, public school can just offer basic education to the lower classes who will end up getting blue-collar jobs in the end.
I’m not saying this is how things are now, I believe it is still possible to get a great education at a public school, I just think this is where we may be headed if we keep thinking of education as a low priority.