Vilt raises points of contention with current education system

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, December 12, 2000

"With the collapse of the educational system, the younger ones really don’t know about the literature that can open up new worlds and possibilities for them.

Tuesday, December 12, 2000

"With the collapse of the educational system, the younger ones really don’t know about the literature that can open up new worlds and possibilities for them. They don’t know what their deeper longing is." – Robert Bly

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I do not hold with Robert, the poet, the same esteem I hold for Carol Bly, an author and his former wife, but I agree with what he says.

My wife has said, "Sometimes men are so into themselves." I think Robert Bly might be an example of this. I think Jeanne is right. It’s something we as men have to work on or, as some might think, maintain.

However, Robert Bly’s point is well taken.

And as you well know, I often speak out against education.

So does Herbert Kohl. He says, "It is my conviction that teachers who comply with the values and goals of this culture can only do so at the cost of stripping their students self-respect and substituting violence in the form of competition in place of knowledge, curiosity, and a sense of community."

Personally, I believe grading to be more damaging than helpful. Alfie Kahn maintains in "Punished by Rewards" that grades serve the top grade getters and the lowest grade getters the harshest disservice.

He maintains that the top grade getters determine what their teachers want and then provide this, so they really aren’t challenged or required to develop their curiosity or use their imagination.

Those who struggle in school and who receive the lowest grades see themselves as failures or worse yet "stupid." So they find other ways to develop their curiosity and imaginations – ways that are often destructive and they become "outcasts."

It’s interesting to read about the musical group Korn who today pack concert halls and how they identified themselves as "outcasts" growing up in Bakersfield. They lived hard tough lives that can be heard in their lyrics and witnessed in their videos, one showing evidence of physically abusive parents. They found music as an outlet.

I have always been astonished by the writings of students who ‘aren’t succeeding’ in school.

It’s these kids and their families that often end up with services offered by the community.

Carol Bly points out that at the moment, "most very rich powerful people have little access to the kind of social scientist who helps with our ethical growth." This she compares to the "losers in the street, in love, and in the justice system – these are the people whom chance or juvenile court judges or common sense have shoved into the faces of modern therapists and social workers."

Carol goes on to ask what can be done to help a rich person feel sorry enough at 40 to stop doing "bad work." The bad work she speaks of includes "lying about nicotine, devising new germ warfare at Ft. Dietrich, removing the restrictions on clean air and water pollution, cutting the funding of our cultural truthkeepers – arts and humanities funds, libraries and public television."

All very interesting.

I might add agribusiness and corporate farming, that is making farmers nothing more "than hired hands" and destroying the land.

Wendell Berry speaks so eloquently to this. He points out that government itself cannot solve the agricultural problem – the answer will have to come from the community of like-minded farmers.

When Carol Bly recently came on stage as a panel member at a colleges she turned to the audience and said, "Did you know that Weyerhaeuser is selling trees to Japan."

Carol, in her spare time plants Oaks on the land up north.

Getting back to schools, locally it’s good that our youth are becoming more involved in community service projects. I especially like the tree planting they are do.

Even today, years after being a student at Banfield, I notice the Oak tree on the corner where the late Nancy Grimly stood as a patrol in sixth grade counting cars and flashing her big smile that greeted you.

One might ask, what are we doing for education to make it fit the 21st Century and raise the interest of our future generations so we don’t lose them, so they don’t drop out?

Again, I think this falls primarily on the teachers.

A half century ago Einstein said, "It is the Supreme art of the teacher to awaken joy in creative expression and knowledge."

This calls for more than filling in blanks or underlining the subject and predicate. It requires more than 50 minute periods especially in the upper grades.

It calls for reading and writing, imagination and fresh ideas.

I’m told teachers and students both win with block scheduling.