Read Part One
Many people will argue that the key problems with Colorado's public education system can be fixed with "more money".
Other people have very different ideas about fixing a broken system. Surprisingly, many of those people work within the Colorado Department of Education, in the "Choice and Innovation Unit." One of the main tasks of the "Choice and Innovation Unit" is to promote the establishment of innovative Charter Schools throughout Colorado — in particular, in places where these schools can serve 'at-risk' students. A fair number of the students in our Pagosa public schools fit the definition of 'at-risk.'
It so happens that a young Pagosa Springs mother has become interested in the idea of innovative Charter Schools, and has scheduled a public meeting for interested citizens on November 1. The young mother happens to be my daughter, Ursala Hudson, and she wrote up the following essay to share with Daily Post readers:
A Charter School Initiative and the Implementation of Our Public School System
By Ursala Hudson
By the time I chose to go to public school, I could dress myself according to the seasons, perform all the acceptable hygiene rituals, and fry my own egg for breakfast. Each school day I got myself ready for school, woke my parents up with a good-bye kiss, and trotted off to school. Often, they would ask me if I’d like to stay home, and occasionally they would warn me that I’d be brainwashed if I spent my days in public school.
I did well in school. I followed the rules, paid attention to the social structure, studied just enough to get A’s on all my assignments, and I despised the class clowns for interrupting lectures. Even in the haze of pot smoke, I graduated at the top of my class without ever being sent to the principal.
Despite my parents’ warnings, I was completely brainwashed.
Pagosa’s only option for public schooling worked well for me, but many of my classmates didn’t have the self-motivation to learn in such an environment. Under the conventional standardized system, students learn to be indifferent to the learning material; they are unnaturally segregated by age; and they become emotionally and intellectually dependent on their teachers. The interruption of relentless bells keeps children from caring much about lessons. They have their class position and they are taught to stay in their numbered class where they belong. They are taught that someone else knows more about what they should be doing and learning, and someone else knows their worth better than themselves. The majority of my friends dreaded school, but there was no alternative.
This standard design was not an accident. It’s a brilliant system, if you understand what it was created to accomplish.
When Massachusetts became the first state in the United States to force children to go to school in 1852, literacy was at 98 percent in the northern states. Contrary to what one might assume, the rise of public education was not in response to lack of literacy in the country, nor were schools set up to serve the poor. There were hundreds of private schools, and if educating children of low-income families were the issue, the government would have simply set up tuition subsidies.
About 80% of the population of Massachusetts resisted the implementation of compulsory schooling, but the militia stepped in, and by 1900 public education was widespread and mandatory in all states.
So why would anyone oppose free education?
At that time, libertarian America was much more aware than we are today of the purpose of state-run “education”. The aim of mandatory public schooling was to create a homogeneous, national culture, and Good Citizens who would trust and defer to their government in all areas.
Greek philosopher Plato first proposed the model for our current public school system in The Republic. An educational system that required compulsory attendance was the perfect tool for socially engineering a society full of obedient and obeisant taxpayers and soldiers. If children were given a choice whether or not to attend government schools, the state’s efforts would be futile. Several other countries formed their own versions of Plato’s design prior to our country’s own implementation of compulsory education. The more recent variations were by Soviet Russia, Fascist Italy, and Nazi Germany.
A few ideological American leaders visited Prussian schools in the early 1800s and were enamored by their order, and obedience, and by the efficiency of Prussia's education system. American leaders returned to the States and began working towards implementing a similar model. They were not interested in intellectual training, but the conditioning of children, where memorization outranked thinking. Whole ideas were broken into fragmented subjects, and school days were broken down into short periods, so that self-motivation to learn would be muted by countless interruptions.
In present day, our school system is still largely based on the same model from the 1800s. Now, the public education system has not only become generally accepted, but almost completely unavoidable; most families can’t afford to homeschool their children even if they wanted to.
However, now that the Colorado Charter School Institute has been authorized to approve new charter school applications, the formation of a new Colorado charter school has become somewhat less daunting. Previously, the local school district had to approve charter schools in order to share state funding accordingly. Now, the Charter School Institute (CSI) can authorize charter applications, which is fostering a promising future for public education in Colorado.
As test scores and enrollment waiting lists are shooting upwards at charter schools, public schools are being forced to reevaluate their own ideals, curriculums, and operations.
A public meeting will be held in Yamaguchi Park this Saturday, November 1 at 12 noon for anyone interested in helping to form a charter school in Archuleta County. Picnic lunches are encouraged. Please call Ursala for more details, at 970-946-6204.
For more information on the history of public education in America, any books by John Taylor Gatto are fabulous resources.
Read Part Three...