News and Tribune


November 2, 2012

News and Tribune letters: Nov. 2, 2012



Writer disagrees with Bennett’s approach to education

Centralized, distant leadership can only be abstract. It cannot know particular people in particular places, which is perhaps the reason that State Education Superintendent Tony Bennett has referred to teachers and students as “human capital.”

The best work of human beings is love. It is not the production of capital. Bennett’s current goals laud the production of competition over the health of human creativity.

Wendell Berry has said, “Education is not properly an industry, and its proper use is not to serve industries, either by job-training or by industry-subsidized research. It’s proper use is to enable citizens to live lives that are economically, politically, socially, and culturally responsible. This cannot be done by gathering or “accessing” what we now call “information” — which is to say facts without context and therefore without priority. A proper education enables young people to put their lives in order, which means knowing what things are more important than other things; it means putting first things first.”

If/when our government transfers education to privatization, entities that know nothing about particular people in particular places (and who hope to homogenize the unique identity of local places into national industrial standards), those entities can only deal with humans as competitive capital. This is NOT education; this is business marketing.

China found out that dealing with kids on a merely competitive level resulted in a profound increase of teen emotional disorders and suicide. Thus, they scrapped their centralized, hyper-competitive, high-stakes tested, merit-based teacher pay system and decided on a local system, overseen by local people and dedicated to the ideal of individual creativity so that their children’s education also includes their children’s well-being. It is a remarkable incongruity to see a communist state decentralize schooling, while our so-called democratic country races to the top-down politics of centralized education.

Mr. Bennett, can you please explain how the world will be a better place for your own children and grandchildren when mere competition is lauded as the ultimate justifier of everything, replacing and discarding the virtues of love as the primary motivator?

Similarly, I would be interested to know how it is that you believe work done out of duty to numbers will be better than work motivated by love?

Finally, I wander how you would respond to John Ruskin when he stated, “The affections are an anomalous force, rendering every one of the ordinary political economist’s calculations nugatory; while, even if he desired to introduce this new element into his estimates, he has no power of dealing with it; for the affections only become a true motive power when they ignore every other motive and condition of political economy. For human beings, affection is the ultimate motive, because the force that powers us is not steam, magnetism or graviton, (or competition and test scores) but a soul.”

— Brian Lowry, of Scottsburg

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