Thursday, September 27, 2012

"Education Nation" might be a more inspiring rubric if it applied to a nation that actually had some respect for education


"Education Nation is NBC News' year-round initiative to engage the country in a solutions-focused conversation about the state of education in America."
-- from NBC News's Education Nation website

by Ken

The phrase "Education Nation" has a nice ring, though the ring rings a tad hollow when you consider that the nation in question is supposed to be our own, which has never been an education nation ans in modern times has devolved into an anti-education or mis-education nation. Nevertheless, under that rubric NBC News and the New York Public Library have been cosponsoring a week's worth of weirdly and wonderfully eclectic free events that really do assume that learning is a core value.

I see by NBC News's Education Nation website that in addition to Education Nation Summits in New York City, of which this week's was the third, there's an annual Education Nation Tour -- this year's already over, alas. But the website stresses that the effort is ongoing, year-round.


Especially now that the cause of educational "reform" has been taken over by a gaggle of Democrats, heavily weighted to the millionaire ilk, making common cause with brute right-wing educational fascists, as Diane Ravitch for one has been screaming bloody murder about. I've written about her views in a number of posts, including one from September 2011, "When we put the plutocrats in charge, we get their crackpot ideas on matters like education," and a pair from February 2012, "With such powerful forces for mis-education arrayed against actual learning, is there any hope for American education?" and "In NYS's education war, Diane Ravitch asks: 'Will we ever break free of our national addiction to data?'"

For Ravitch's thoughts on master thug Rahm Emanuel as educational reformer, which I meant to write about but never got around to, see her terrific NYRB blogpost "Two Visions for Chicago's Schools."


And let fly a barrage of educational imbecility (see Joy Rasmovits's HuffPost report), woven around the theme that class size doesn't really matter, as liberal whiners are wont to whine, and as he himself once believed, in another, now-forgotten lifetime. What matters is -- are you ready for this? -- great teachers! And what makes a great teacher? Someone who (1) doesn't belong to a union (is it any wonder that a born bully hates unions, which enable powerless people to stick up for themselves?) and (2) breathes the passion of standardized-testing euphoria.


And the New School's community and student center was packed! The Indian-born reporter-author, who's done a lot of terrific descriptive and analytical reporting on South Asia for the New York Review of Books, was there to talk about his latest book, From the Ruins of Empire: The Revolt against the West and the Remaking of Asia, with one of my favorite writers, the seemingly infinitely and effortlessly erudite Dutch-born Ian Buruma. I arrived late, because I had a DWT post to finish before I could head out, but I got the idea: that Mishra is looking at the clash between East and West that played out in the late 18th and early 19th centuries from the vantage point of the Easterners, one we hardly ever see from.

My favorite moment, though, came in the Q&A period, when Pankaj and Ian were asked, more or less, "What about Syria?" The question took a lot longer to ask, but didn't seem any more specific than that. Ian ventured that if the question was, should we be doing something about the horrendous situation there?, then he would have to say that this is one reason he rates President Obama higher than many of his liberal friends -- the recognition that there really isn't anything more we can do.

Needless to say, this is something that the perpetual thugs of the Right refuse even to try to understand. But then, refusing even to try to understand is the hallmark of the American Mis-Education Nation.

My second "Education Nation" event was something completely different: a celebration of the Bronx. I think I'll save that for tomorrow.


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At 10:20 AM, Anonymous Lee said...


I've been thinking a lot about public education lately.I just got back from Cleveland where my daughter now lives. Public schools have done really well by her. And she just graduated College in May debt free thanks to a generous scholarship endowed by someone who went to her college on the GI bill. She is the only one of her friends who is not in debt AND has a job.Doesn't pay much but she couldn't do what she does
( a casino worker/union organizer)if she was in debt. If the plutocracy gets their way, the rich will send their kid to college and pay for it. And the rest will take out loans and be in debt much of their lives.

At 9:37 AM, Blogger opit said...

You call it education. I call it programming.
The lady has made several videos.


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