Colleges, Manipulation, and Ed. Schools
I haven't posted in two weeks, and have I ever been feeling guilty about that. I guess that's the Catholic in me. There is an explanation, but I won't get into that now. I had actually started working on another post, but then I got a letter from a former student, James Erickson, and he asked that I share the letter with my seniors. James is conservative, and the letter reflects that, but I think it's quite fair and the message is a good one. I told James that I would share it with my seniors, but I would also use it on my blog. Here it is:
Congratulations! If you are reading this, I am going to help you save your mind as you pursue further studies. You are in a world that is attempting daily to manipulate your every thought and deed, and it's about to grow worse. This world wants your personal opinions and beliefs to sink to the bottom of the ocean and share space with the Titanic. Before I throw you a life-vest and save your mind, you should know who and what are grabbing your ankles trying to pull you under.As I read James's letter, I couldn't help thinking back to a couple of comments on my last post from Michael Mazenko and Physics Teacher about the role of education schools in the problems in our education system. From 1999-2001 I took classes to earn a Masters Degree. Nearly all of the classes promoted so-called progressive, student-centered methods, and quite frankly, I thought a lot of it was crap. What was being promoted did not square with my experience. Since I had been teaching for 25 years, however, I challenged everything, and I was able to get away with it. The overall program was valuable for me because there were some good things mixed in there, and I took everything I was "taught" with a gigantic grain of salt. But what about people who are just going into teaching? They are probably buying everything their professors are telling them, just like James says. But it's not just young kids who have no experience. I don't know how many times I've been to workshops where the same garbage has been hoisted upon us, and I look around and all I see is teachers nodding in agreement. They should know better.
Currently you are formulating opinions based off of what you see and hear on TV, what your parents tell you, what your teachers tell you, what you read in newspapers and magazines, what Hollywood's hottest are wearing, and what your peers are doing. What if I told you that some of your opinions aren't even yours? Think about it. When is the last time you heard something on TV and repeated it to a friend as if it was originally your point? When have you done that and your point turned out to be incorrect? This is the danger of allowing what we see and hear to become our opinions without further investigation. Let me ask another question. Do you ever feel frustrated because it seems that everyone else has something or is doing something you aren't doing? Have you ever felt out of the mainstream? Have you ever jumped into the mainstream for the sole purpose of avoiding being in the minority? If so, you are forfeiting your mind. You are becoming a robot, and guess what happens to robots? They sink to the bottom of the ocean and learn how to rust from the Titanic. Guess what fellow robots? The manipulation gets worse.
Chances are that you may be attending college in the near future. College, the land of bountiful opportunities and rigorous challenges, endless parties and last minute cram sessions. College can also be a breeding ground for manipulation if you aren't careful. Alright robots, here are the facts. Upon arriving at college, you will find yourself immersed in a world with seemingly endless possibilities. You will likely feel slightly confused within your first semester as you adjust to college life. At this point, your mind's defenses are down, and from my observations the professors know it. If he hasn't told you already, Mr. Fermoyle will teach you that it is the common belief that the more education one receives, the more liberal that person is likely to become. Why is this? Some compare increased intelligence to liberal tendencies. I, however, will give you the facts. The bottom line is that many college professors are liberal and strongly express their beliefs, both political and otherwise, in their classrooms. They advocate liberal agendas and are not open-minded to other views.
Many of my teachers have pushed their political views on students during lectures, but for the sake of time I will give one example. Last year, I took a global issues class. My professor enjoyed showing movies to our class that correlated with our discussion topics. One day we watched a movie that professed Fox News to be "the Biased Satan" of the media world. After showing this movie, my professor asked us our thoughts on the film. After hearing several of my fellow classmates exclaim how biased Fox News was, I raised my hand. My teacher called on me with reluctance knowing that I wasn't likely to be impressed by this film. I started by acknowledging that Fox is definitely biased. Then, however, I said that the filmmaker's intent was to show only the bias of Fox News. I claimed how easy would have been for me to find an ideologically opposite bias on MSNBC and make an equally manipulative film. I further argued that if the filmmaker had wanted to make his film credible, he should have addressed the bias in ALL of media.
I easily could have bought into my professor's film agenda, but I chose to keep an open mind. This is the life-vest that will keep you afloat. You do not have to become a robot. You do not have to succumb to indoctrination--conservative, liberal, or otherwise. You can save your mind by doing one simple thing--QUESTION EVERYTHING! It is too easy to believe everything that we hear from those we respect. I have seen it happen to many of my classmates. Investigate everything, and express what you feel is right in your mind and in your heart. In fact, I challenge you to investigate and challenge this very letter. Get in that habit. We are the future of the United States of American, and we have to choose whether to sink to the bottom of the ocean, or rise to the top of the mountain. It's your mind. It's your choice.
The main reason I haven't posted for so long is that I have been reading Sweating the Small Stuff by David Whitman, a book about six inner-city schools that have had remarkable success. One thing those schools have in common is that they have almost completely shunned "progressive" teaching methods. I am not going to say that those methods can never be of any use, but I do believe that the infatuation that our colleges of education have with them plays a major role in the problems we have in American K-12 education.