I’ve been watching this whole education conversation with great interest, wanting to get involved but conflicted by and terrified of the exercise.

Why?

Because education in this country and the bloviating around it is such a massive tangled clusterfuck of absolutely everything (history, economics, psychology, personality, systemic racism, blah blah blah) — it’s almost impossible to have or form a rational, functional opinion about it. It’s like trying to grab mercury, everytime you think you’ve got it, you don’t.

I’ve been very mouthy and somewhat activist about education in the past, and each time something or someone comes along to shut me right up and change my course. It’s so big — TOO big — for any policy or person to get arms around and I’m finally willing to admit that I don’t understand half of it and have no idea how to ‘fix’ it. Possibly because ‘it’ is an entire generation of our population and how we manage/shepherd/teach/nurture them. See, I don’t even know what word works there!

I have four kids and homeschooled, with occasional forays into the system. I’ve written a fair amount about it and won’t rehash here, but after my own experiences and those of my kids and their friends (many of whom went to school, both public and private), I feel like I can say, yes, the system is broken. And I think it makes a bit of sense that education is the system that witnesses the most griping, because it is the system that EVERYONE experiences, for better or worse. It is also the system that feeds all the others — all those public servants and lawmakers and business people came out of the school system and are somehow formed by their experiences there.

On another note, it irks me beyond reason that my local high school has cut all French and most art classes, but somehow manages to find big cash for the football team. The field and its accoutrements could comfortably welcome the Bears, given its grandiosity. (Do we really need those giant stadium lights in my teeny tiny town?) School taxes here are wildly overblown, but my daughter was completely unchallenged and uninspired by the 9th grade curriculum (and she’s a normal, middle class kid). Something is missing.

The book looks interesting, I may check it out. I’ve read so much and railed so much about education over the years, I’m kind of weary of the subject. I would recommend this book,

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— another mildly depressing read, very short but very smart. Written by an award winning teacher, he comes to the conclusion that the system is indeed broken. Perhaps you already know it. To quote Gatto,

“I’ve noticed a fascinating phenomenon in my thirty years of teaching: schools and schooling are increasingly irrelevant to the great enterprises of the planet. No one believes anymore that scientists are trained in science classes or politicians in civics classes or poets in English classes. The truth is that schools don’t really teach anything except how to obey orders. This is a great mystery to me because thousands of humane, caring people work in schools as teachers and aides and administrators, but the abstract logic of the institution overwhelms their individual contributions. Although teachers do care and do work very, very hard, the institution is psychopathic — it has no conscience.”

And now you’ve made me break my flimsy promise to myself that I’m not writing about education anymore. And you may have gotten me in trouble with Anthony Bourdain. But you’ve given me the Summer of Zappa, so I’m considering forgiveness.

Write it down.

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