Running Fred Fleming West Chester University of Pennsylvania Abstract:









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the Status Quo: Moving Past Out-Of-Date Educational Practices


Chester University of Pennsylvania


















In a perfect democracy,
education would be used to create perfect citizens. It would be used to help
teach people to do many things, it would help create a skilled workforce, but
it would also allow for the people in this system to become critical thinkers
and not just be force fed different individuals thoughts throughout their years
of education. I think the most important function of democracy should be to
equalize all of the citizens. I feel as though education is the one institution
in life that should be the same across the board. I don’t mean the same in
terms of what they are learning, I mean the same in terms of resources available
to be used to help learn. I think that all students should have the same opportunities
for extracurricular that their friends who live in a more affluent neighborhood
might be subject to. In this paper, I will be discussing what I think the
purpose of education should be as well as comparing my own education to one
that I find ideal.













believe the true function of education in a democratic society should be to create
individuals who continue this way of life and create informed citizens who know
how and are willing to participate in the democratic process. I believe that
this is the function that people expect education to play but more often than
not, this is not how it goes. Education, as it stands is a luxury that not all
get to participate in and not all get the same of. We are taught to believe
that if we all get the proper education, we would be able to succeed in life
and that each step farther you take in your education, you  should be able to reap the benefits
monetarily. There were a few theorist that we discussed in the book who also
thought that education for all was not only a need but a necessity in order for
us to continue our existence.

theorist who believed that education was a human right is Joel Spring, author
of “Wheels in the Head: Education Philosophies of Authority, Freedom, and
culture from Confucianism to Human Rights.” In his chapter titled “Human Rights
Education” he talks about how he thinks that this is a natural right, let alone
a right that we are promised by the law. He then references the Declaration of
Human Rights to prove his point Article twenty-six of The Declaration of Human
Rights reads as follows:

(1)   Everyone
has the right to education. Education shall be free, at least in the elementary
and fundamental stages. Elementary education shall be compulsory. Technical and
professional education shall be made generally available and higher education
shall be equally accessible to all on the basis of merit. (2) Education shall
be directed to the full development of the human personality and to the
strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. It shall
promote understanding, tolerance and friendship among all nations, racial or
religious groups, and shall further the activities of the United Nations for
the maintenance of peace. (3) Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of
education that shall be given to their children. (Spring, 2007)

I agree with spring when
he says that education is a human right. I also agree with his sediment that
article twenty-six should be changed to emphasize that this is a human right.

I believe another purpose of education in a democratic society would be to
equalize all of the citizens of that society. When I say equalize, I realize
that it is a pipe dream to think that all students would get the same education
that is impossible because perception is everything and it is impossible for
the millions of children in this country to all perceive the same teachings in
the same way. I realize that people hear “equity” or “equality” and
automatically their minds go to a dark place because for thousands of years we
have been trying to attain the goal of equality. America is the place of
pulling yourself up by your bootstraps, this is a place where as a child you
learn that if you work hard enough, you can succeed in life but sadly as a
society, we are leaning this to be untrue.  

function of education that was mentioned before is that it should be used to
create critical thinking citizens. I believe this to be just as important as
education being used as an equalizer. A theorist who agreed with the concept is
Paulo Freire. In the introduction of his book “Education for the Critical
consciousness.” 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 critical
thinkers and that they themselves must always be willing to learn. In chapter
three: Education VS. Massification, Freire talks about exactly what it means to
“Foster a critical consciousness” and that this is the only way to transition
into the “new” democratic society that we live in.  Freire describes having a critical
consciousness 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 Freire
encouraged was that of an uneducated person going from being illiterate and
just objects that are effected by the world to transforming them into subjects
who take control of their own destiny. Additionally, a different facet of
becoming a critical thinker is to create your own ideas and views of culture.
Freire states in his introduction that becoming a critical thinker requires the
student 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 will
help the student shape their own views of reality and culture. A final aspect of
critical thinking that Freire encouraged was that at some point, the educator
need to be educated. He called this “decodification” and this was done by those
involved with a “culture circle”. This involves the student and teacher
simultaneously engaging in a dialogue in which the educatee can pass the
educators information. I think that this is one of the most important aspects
of becoming a critical thinker. I believe that it is up to the teacher to help
the kids realize that their way of thinking is not the only way. I believe that
teachers engaging in this part of the process would give a great example to the
children and would allow them to follow suit.

I do believe that America’s education system has come a long way, I don’t think
that we are at our peak and I believe that there needs to constantly be change
and improvement if we hope to continue better ourselves as a nation and as
individuals. America’s Education system is filled with flaws that former philosophers
talked about in their teachings and many of which I saw during my time in the
education system thus far.

problem that I saw in my own education while growing up is the types of
classrooms that I was in while growing up. I believe that the most important
step in determining if a kid will succeed or not in school is the style of
teaching by the professor. I believe in life that it is all about give and take
and 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 well
as classroom management styles, Diana Baumrind stats that there are three
possible styles that could work in the class room. 

first style that she talks about is the one that I believe to be the most damaging
and unhelpful. This style is called the Authoritarian style of teaching. This style
is categorized by being somewhat of a dictatorship. Throughout my time in
elementary school, middle school, high school and thus far in college, this is
the type of teacher whose classrooms that I hated going into the most and who
classes I enjoyed the least.

an absolute standard, theologically motivated and formulated by a higher
authority. She the parent values obedience as a virtue and favors punitive,
forceful measures to curb self-will at points where the child’s actions or
beliefs conflict with what she thinks is right conduct. She believes in keeping
the child in his place, , in restricting his autonomy, and assigning responsibilities
in order to inculcate respect for work. She regards the preservation of order
and traditional structure as a highly valued end in itself. She does not
encourage verbal give and take, believing that the child should accept her word
for what is right (p. 890).

This type of classroom
does nothing but perpetuate the cycle of the government that they are in. if
your teacher is authoritarian, you are more likely to have authoritarian views
and act accordingly. This type of teaching is somewhat of a dictatorship. If I
believe the purpose of education is to be the great equalizer amongst men, authoritarian
education practices do not fall in line with that. This type of education
teaches students, starting at a young age that power dominates all and those
are not the type of citizen that I would want to create. Strict teaching with
lack of input from the students does the exact opposite. While you will have
high involvement and high control over the student, you will have low student
involvement and that could cause animosity towards the teacher which in turn,
could make teaching that much more difficult. This type of teaching does not
facilitate the development of critical consciousness. It is a teaching style
that restricts involvement, and causes the student to have disdain for the
educator almost immediately.

            The second style of teaching that I found a problem with
throughout my years of school is the teacher who was too permissive. I remember
vividly, my tenth grade English teacher trying to be “cool” with the students
and this never worked. According to Baumrind permissive teachers attempt to
control the classroom by having rules but letting the students dictate their
actions. This type of teacher allows for students to “regulate his/her own
activities” as much as they want. This type of teaching gives kids free reign
to do what  they want but still allows
for the teacher to take control through manipulation, not overpowering the
child. 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 stay
in power through their transfer of knowledge and educating the youth how they
saw fit. This encouraged the development of a new type of schooling called
“Free Schools”. Free schools, when they were first incepted was supposed to be
a type of schooling that discouraged educating based off of imposition of ideas
and beliefs. This type of schooling was a need based schooling that
concentrated on the needs and wants of the students. The problem that I find
with this type of schooling is the same that I had with the teaching style of
my former teacher. In my opinion, this type of teaching and schooling allows
for far too much ambiguity and decision making by the student. While I do think
that schooling should be need based, it is impossible to think that a school (or
classroom) can succeed without the help of a leader. I do believe that
schooling should not just be the imposition of another person’s ideas onto the
masses (the students) however, I do believe that there is way to have proper
control of the classroom while also still taking into account the needs of the

            Another problem that our education system faces is that
of funding and where it is coming from. During my education, I didn’t see this
as a problem for myself, however I did notice it for my friends and family who
lived in Philadelphia. Where my high school was located, the street was the dividing
line that separated the city from the suburbs, the good school from the bad
ones. I always hated this street because I feel as though my siblings weren’t afforded
the same opportunities that I was because they lived on the wrong side of it. I
was fortunate enough to have many extracurriculars and I feel as though this is
the one thing that kept me out of serious trouble and may be the reason that my
brothers got into so much. Horace Mann was a theorist who believed that
education should be for all. He believed that education, was for everyone. At
the core, this philosophy should be seen as one that was progressive at the
time, Horace encouraged learning however, how Horace wanted to go about achieving
this educational system was flawed. Mann’s overarching theme was for everyone
to so have a basic level of education. The differences in these educations
would differ amongst class level and that is where the problems come in. Mann
proposed that education be paid for by the taxes of its citizens. Just as how
it is a problem now, using taxes to pay for education does nothing but
perpetuate the class system. The people of a higher social status would have a
better education because they would be able to afford more opportunities. The
people of a lower social status would have an education that was not up to the
same standard as there wealthy counterparts because they would not be able to
afford 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 not
believe 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 the
conditions of men-the balance wheel of machinery” (urban and wagner p.123). Mann
means by this is that education is going to be a way for the poor to work the
way up in the economic food chain so their kids can do better than they did
however, as stated before, this is impossible when they are not getting the
same education from the beginning.

            A final problem that I had with my education growing up
was the style in which the teacher taught the class. Many teachers think of their
class as a one-way street. What I mean by this is that many teachers do not
care for dialogue nor do they intend on having any with their student. For a
lot of teachers, they are just at work to transfer the knowledge of the subject
from 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. Freire
argued in his book Education for a Critical Consciousness that extension is
very similar to communication but is opposite of education. The difference
between extension and communication is that extension lacks dialogue. They are
the similar in the fact that they both involve other people and their
relationship with the world in order for them to change the world. However they
differ in the fact that people who practice extension do not care to have a dialogue
with the student while communication involves a transfer of the same knowledge
but both the educator and the educate are learning from one another. I think
that many of my teacher lacked this skill. As a child, a lot of students feel
as though they are at the mercy of their teacher, many kids don’t feel like
they have any say in their education and that is a big reason as to why
many  kids do not like school. In order
to break this stigma between the teachers and student I believe that more teachers
need 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 the
world. These are the people (outside of your family) who people trust to raise
there children. These are the friends and adults that are around kids more than
their parents. Knowing all of this is why I think that teachers need to be
trained on how to teach. I think that people need to realize that life is never
about the current and always about the people and generations that come after
us. If John Dewey’s theory on the purpose of education holds true and educators
are here to  prepare students to live a
useful life, but to teach them how to live reasonably in their current
environment, then this theory applied to today’s time means that we will
produce citizens who will continue on our democracy. I believe that in order to
continue this we must make a change in how we approach education. I think that
we need to have less of an authoritarian view on educational practices and more
of 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 the
classroom and values what kids have to say. I think that while free schools are
impossible I do think that we should adopt some of their practices and take
what the student has to say into account more.

            My vision of an ideal educational
system is one that is funded equally with teachers who know how to perfectly
blend knowledge transfer and dialogue. The end result would be people who can
think critically but also truly have equity of opportunity. These citizens
would also need to know how to help continue on in this process. While that is
ideal, I do believe it to be attainable and I think the biggest factor holding
us 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 though
as long as we continue our current practices, it will work against our agenda.





















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