Running Head: FUNCTION OF EDUCATION IN A DEMOCRATICSOCIETY FUNCTIONOF EDUCATION IN A DEMOCRATIC SOCIETYBreakingthe Status Quo: Moving Past Out-Of-Date Educational PracticesFredFlemingWestChester University of Pennsylvania Abstract: In a perfect democracy,education would be used to create perfect citizens. It would be used to helpteach people to do many things, it would help create a skilled workforce, butit would also allow for the people in this system to become critical thinkersand not just be force fed different individuals thoughts throughout their yearsof education. I think the most important function of democracy should be toequalize all of the citizens. I feel as though education is the one institutionin life that should be the same across the board.
I don’t mean the same interms of what they are learning, I mean the same in terms of resources availableto be used to help learn. I think that all students should have the same opportunitiesfor extracurricular that their friends who live in a more affluent neighborhoodmight be subject to. In this paper, I will be discussing what I think thepurpose of education should be as well as comparing my own education to onethat I find ideal. Ibelieve the true function of education in a democratic society should be to createindividuals who continue this way of life and create informed citizens who knowhow and are willing to participate in the democratic process. I believe thatthis is the function that people expect education to play but more often thannot, this is not how it goes. Education, as it stands is a luxury that not allget to participate in and not all get the same of. We are taught to believethat if we all get the proper education, we would be able to succeed in lifeand that each step farther you take in your education, you should be able to reap the benefitsmonetarily.
There were a few theorist that we discussed in the book who alsothought that education for all was not only a need but a necessity in order forus to continue our existence.Atheorist who believed that education was a human right is Joel Spring, authorof “Wheels in the Head: Education Philosophies of Authority, Freedom, andculture from Confucianism to Human Rights.” In his chapter titled “Human RightsEducation” he talks about how he thinks that this is a natural right, let alonea right that we are promised by the law.
He then references the Declaration ofHuman Rights to prove his point Article twenty-six of The Declaration of HumanRights reads as follows:(1) Everyonehas the right to education. Education shall be free, at least in the elementaryand fundamental stages. Elementary education shall be compulsory.
Technical andprofessional education shall be made generally available and higher educationshall be equally accessible to all on the basis of merit. (2) Education shallbe directed to the full development of the human personality and to thestrengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. It shallpromote understanding, tolerance and friendship among all nations, racial orreligious groups, and shall further the activities of the United Nations forthe maintenance of peace. (3) Parents have a prior right to choose the kind ofeducation that shall be given to their children.
(Spring, 2007)I agree with spring whenhe says that education is a human right. I also agree with his sediment thatarticle twenty-six should be changed to emphasize that this is a human right.Aforementioned,I believe another purpose of education in a democratic society would be toequalize all of the citizens of that society. When I say equalize, I realizethat it is a pipe dream to think that all students would get the same educationthat is impossible because perception is everything and it is impossible forthe millions of children in this country to all perceive the same teachings inthe same way.
I realize that people hear “equity” or “equality” andautomatically their minds go to a dark place because for thousands of years wehave been trying to attain the goal of equality. America is the place ofpulling yourself up by your bootstraps, this is a place where as a child youlearn that if you work hard enough, you can succeed in life but sadly as asociety, we are leaning this to be untrue. Anotherfunction of education that was mentioned before is that it should be used tocreate critical thinking citizens. I believe this to be just as important aseducation being used as an equalizer. A theorist who agreed with the concept isPaulo Freire.
In the introduction of his book “Education for the Criticalconsciousness.” Freire talks about how teachers have the most important job in America.He states that because their job are to prepare the next generation of criticalthinkers and that they themselves must always be willing to learn. In chapterthree: Education VS. Massification, Freire talks about exactly what it means to”Foster a critical consciousness” and that this is the only way to transitioninto the “new” democratic society that we live in.
Freire describes having a criticalconsciousness as being able to debate, to look back on past actions, reflect,and to have a concept of time. One aspect of critical thinking that Freireencouraged was that of an uneducated person going from being illiterate andjust objects that are effected by the world to transforming them into subjectswho take control of their own destiny. Additionally, a different facet ofbecoming a critical thinker is to create your own ideas and views of culture.
Freire states in his introduction that becoming a critical thinker requires thestudent to learn the words and then put the words to a visual representation.Freire calls this codification and says that this is important because it willhelp the student shape their own views of reality and culture. A final aspect ofcritical thinking that Freire encouraged was that at some point, the educatorneed to be educated. He called this “decodification” and this was done by thoseinvolved with a “culture circle”. This involves the student and teachersimultaneously engaging in a dialogue in which the educatee can pass theeducators information. I think that this is one of the most important aspectsof becoming a critical thinker. I believe that it is up to the teacher to helpthe kids realize that their way of thinking is not the only way.
I believe thatteachers engaging in this part of the process would give a great example to thechildren and would allow them to follow suit. WhileI do believe that America’s education system has come a long way, I don’t thinkthat we are at our peak and I believe that there needs to constantly be changeand improvement if we hope to continue better ourselves as a nation and asindividuals. America’s Education system is filled with flaws that former philosopherstalked about in their teachings and many of which I saw during my time in theeducation system thus far.Oneproblem that I saw in my own education while growing up is the types ofclassrooms that I was in while growing up. I believe that the most importantstep in determining if a kid will succeed or not in school is the style ofteaching by the professor.
I believe in life that it is all about give and takeand in most instances, you will be met with the same energy that you put out.With that being said, respected author and theorist on parenting styles as wellas classroom management styles, Diana Baumrind stats that there are threepossible styles that could work in the class room. Thefirst style that she talks about is the one that I believe to be the most damagingand unhelpful. This style is called the Authoritarian style of teaching. This styleis categorized by being somewhat of a dictatorship. Throughout my time inelementary school, middle school, high school and thus far in college, this isthe type of teacher whose classrooms that I hated going into the most and whoclasses I enjoyed the least. Usuallyan absolute standard, theologically motivated and formulated by a higherauthority. She the parent values obedience as a virtue and favors punitive,forceful measures to curb self-will at points where the child’s actions orbeliefs conflict with what she thinks is right conduct.
She believes in keepingthe child in his place, , in restricting his autonomy, and assigning responsibilitiesin order to inculcate respect for work. She regards the preservation of orderand traditional structure as a highly valued end in itself. She does notencourage verbal give and take, believing that the child should accept her wordfor what is right (p. 890).This type of classroomdoes nothing but perpetuate the cycle of the government that they are in.
ifyour teacher is authoritarian, you are more likely to have authoritarian viewsand act accordingly. This type of teaching is somewhat of a dictatorship. If Ibelieve the purpose of education is to be the great equalizer amongst men, authoritarianeducation practices do not fall in line with that. This type of educationteaches students, starting at a young age that power dominates all and thoseare not the type of citizen that I would want to create. Strict teaching withlack of input from the students does the exact opposite. While you will havehigh involvement and high control over the student, you will have low studentinvolvement and that could cause animosity towards the teacher which in turn,could make teaching that much more difficult. This type of teaching does notfacilitate the development of critical consciousness. It is a teaching stylethat restricts involvement, and causes the student to have disdain for theeducator almost immediately.
The second style of teaching that I found a problem withthroughout my years of school is the teacher who was too permissive. I remembervividly, my tenth grade English teacher trying to be “cool” with the studentsand this never worked. According to Baumrind permissive teachers attempt tocontrol the classroom by having rules but letting the students dictate theiractions. This type of teacher allows for students to “regulate his/her ownactivities” as much as they want. This type of teaching gives kids free reignto do what they want but still allowsfor the teacher to take control through manipulation, not overpowering thechild. This type of teaching is comparable to the concept of Free Schooling.
According to spring, in the late nineteenth century,people were tired of the typical school system which allowed for elites to stayin power through their transfer of knowledge and educating the youth how theysaw fit. This encouraged the development of a new type of schooling called”Free Schools”. Free schools, when they were first incepted was supposed to bea type of schooling that discouraged educating based off of imposition of ideasand beliefs. This type of schooling was a need based schooling thatconcentrated on the needs and wants of the students. The problem that I findwith this type of schooling is the same that I had with the teaching style ofmy former teacher.
In my opinion, this type of teaching and schooling allowsfor far too much ambiguity and decision making by the student. While I do thinkthat schooling should be need based, it is impossible to think that a school (orclassroom) can succeed without the help of a leader. I do believe thatschooling should not just be the imposition of another person’s ideas onto themasses (the students) however, I do believe that there is way to have propercontrol of the classroom while also still taking into account the needs of thechildren. Another problem that our education system faces is thatof funding and where it is coming from. During my education, I didn’t see thisas a problem for myself, however I did notice it for my friends and family wholived in Philadelphia. Where my high school was located, the street was the dividingline that separated the city from the suburbs, the good school from the badones. I always hated this street because I feel as though my siblings weren’t affordedthe same opportunities that I was because they lived on the wrong side of it.
Iwas fortunate enough to have many extracurriculars and I feel as though this isthe one thing that kept me out of serious trouble and may be the reason that mybrothers got into so much. Horace Mann was a theorist who believed thateducation should be for all. He believed that education, was for everyone. Atthe core, this philosophy should be seen as one that was progressive at thetime, Horace encouraged learning however, how Horace wanted to go about achievingthis educational system was flawed. Mann’s overarching theme was for everyoneto so have a basic level of education. The differences in these educationswould differ amongst class level and that is where the problems come in. Mannproposed that education be paid for by the taxes of its citizens. Just as howit is a problem now, using taxes to pay for education does nothing butperpetuate the class system.
The people of a higher social status would have abetter education because they would be able to afford more opportunities. Thepeople of a lower social status would have an education that was not up to thesame standard as there wealthy counterparts because they would not be able toafford as many things. This is a problem in the education system of today.While Horace man did believe that this was the way to equalize men, I do notbelieve he took into account all the factors of a truly “equal education.” Education,then, beyond all other devices of human origin, is the great equalizer of theconditions of men-the balance wheel of machinery” (urban and wagner p.123). Mannmeans by this is that education is going to be a way for the poor to work theway up in the economic food chain so their kids can do better than they didhowever, as stated before, this is impossible when they are not getting thesame education from the beginning. A final problem that I had with my education growing upwas the style in which the teacher taught the class.
Many teachers think of theirclass as a one-way street. What I mean by this is that many teachers do notcare for dialogue nor do they intend on having any with their student. For alot of teachers, they are just at work to transfer the knowledge of the subjectfrom their head to that of their students. This is called extension. Paulo Freire,a renowned author and philosopher had a theory on communication vs extension. Freireargued in his book Education for a Critical Consciousness that extension isvery similar to communication but is opposite of education. The differencebetween extension and communication is that extension lacks dialogue.
They arethe similar in the fact that they both involve other people and theirrelationship with the world in order for them to change the world. However theydiffer in the fact that people who practice extension do not care to have a dialoguewith the student while communication involves a transfer of the same knowledgebut both the educator and the educate are learning from one another. I thinkthat many of my teacher lacked this skill.
As a child, a lot of students feelas though they are at the mercy of their teacher, many kids don’t feel likethey have any say in their education and that is a big reason as to whymany kids do not like school. In orderto break this stigma between the teachers and student I believe that more teachersneed to be trained on how to teach and not just the subject matter they are teaching. I believe educators have the most important job in theworld. These are the people (outside of your family) who people trust to raisethere children. These are the friends and adults that are around kids more thantheir parents. Knowing all of this is why I think that teachers need to betrained on how to teach.
I think that people need to realize that life is neverabout the current and always about the people and generations that come afterus. If John Dewey’s theory on the purpose of education holds true and educatorsare here to prepare students to live auseful life, but to teach them how to live reasonably in their currentenvironment, then this theory applied to today’s time means that we willproduce citizens who will continue on our democracy. I believe that in order tocontinue this we must make a change in how we approach education. I think thatwe need to have less of an authoritarian view on educational practices and moreof an authoritative view. I think that we need to shit from the dictatorship and”teacher knows all” attitude to one that is more of a democracy in theclassroom and values what kids have to say. I think that while free schools areimpossible I do think that we should adopt some of their practices and takewhat the student has to say into account more. My vision of an ideal educationalsystem is one that is funded equally with teachers who know how to perfectlyblend knowledge transfer and dialogue. The end result would be people who canthink critically but also truly have equity of opportunity.
These citizenswould also need to know how to help continue on in this process. While that isideal, I do believe it to be attainable and I think the biggest factor holdingus back from this utopic education is money. Once the funding for education is equalized,I think that everything else will be able to fall in line but I feel as thoughas long as we continue our current practices, it will work against our agenda. `WorksCited: Baumrind, D. (1967).Child care practices anteceding three patterns of preschool behavior. Genetic Psychology Monographs, 75(1), 43-88.
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