Tuesday, February 7, 2012

The Purpose of Public Education

By Larry Schugam, Executive Vice President, Baltimore Curriculum Project

The purpose of public education should be to increase the amount of love in the world.

I often hear teachers say that “students won’t care what you know until they know that you care.”

In my education I had some teachers who seemed to care, but the overall impression was that education was a weeding-out process. The system was mainly fear-based – if you don’t pass these tests, you won’t get into a good college and you’ll wind up in the gutter.

Kids should know that the reason we require them to spend so much time in school is because we love them and want them to have the knowledge, tools, and assets they need to live healthy, fulfilling, connected lives full of joy and love.

There is a lot of talk now about kids being prepared for the workforce, and this is critical, but the people who recently crashed our economy and defrauded millions were very well-educated and prepared for the workforce; however, I imagine that their capacity to love and consider the needs of the millions they defrauded may have been sub-par.

We need restorative schools that restore everyone involved – students, teachers, parents, administrators, and operators. An environment where people embrace the ideal that "it is better to be kind.”

We all come with some kind of baggage and wounds. Schools should be places of healing, where people learn to communicate and work together. Where challenges and discord are viewed not as as excuses to lambast people behind their backs; but as opportunities to grow spiritually. Where we all get the healing we need to love and respect one another.

One of my teachers always says “Learn to love your relatives. You don’t have to like them, but you have to love them, which can be hard because some of them are such $%&*!”

I'll end with the following excerpt from an NPR interview with Cornel West:
COX: Why, thank you. I appreciate the compliment. Let's begin with this, Cornel, if we might. You talk a lot about the lack of love. You say there is a lack of available love in black America. What do you mean by that?

Prof. WEST: Well, I think it's true in the society as a whole. We have a market-driven society so obsessed with buying and selling and obsessed with power and pleasure and property, it doesn't leave a whole lot of time for non-market values and non-market activity so that love and trust and justice, concern for the poor, that's being pushed to the margins, and you can see it.

You can see it in terms of the obsession on Wall Street with not just profits but greed, more profit, more profit. You see it in our television culture that's obsessed with superficial spectacle. You see it even in our educational systems, where the market model becomes central. It's a matter of just gaining a skill or gaining access to a job to live in some vanilla suburb, as opposed to becoming a critical citizen concerned with public interest and common good.

It's a spiritual malnutrition tied to a moral constipation, where people have a sense of what's right and what's good. It's just stuck, and they can't get it out because there's too much greed. There's too much obsession with reputation and addiction to narrow conceptions of success.

And when I talk about love, I'm talking about something that's great, though, brother. I'm talking about something that will sustain you. It's like an Aretha Franklin song, brother, or a Coltrane solo or Beethoven symphony, something that grabs you to the gut and gives you a sense of what it is to be human.

That's what we're more and more lacking, and it's very sad. It's a sign of a decline of an empire, my brother.

Read the full interview at: