Social Agendas in Education

This week my online learning class read a number of papers that addressed the idea of decentralized organizations, social agendas and the group theory that emerges.

I once had a conversation with an educator, Katherine Dang, about the consequences that result from schools becoming political. In summery, her view is that this is a dangerous endevour. For starters, most of us have realized by now that politics has the ability to politicize everything around itself. When a school becomes the platform for political views, the students can become indoctrinated without knowing. They may begin voicing the positions of the local school board as their own, simply because it is the only opinion they have every heard. The fact of the matter is that many of the current political topics such as health care, abortion and Iraq do not have simple answers. That is exactly why they are debated. However when the teacher or school takes a stance these options are perceived as fact. When the same person who teaches 2+2=4 begins embedding their views about religion, economics, etc. the students will naturally be swayed.

I’m not sure why this frightens me so. I guess I’m scared that government makes a lousy moral compass. I fear that the pursuit of political correctness might not lead our children in the best way, science may not contain all the answers, and that the loudest voices in politics may not be the wisest.

Case in point: I was with some 7th grade girls this summer who were doing an after-school program with my wife, Sarah. We had about 20 wonderful young ladies over for a BBQ at our house to celebrate the closing of the program where they learned about some of the “old arts” of handmade goods. During the night, some of the girls were talking about how they had recently had a day of silence to honor the closet homosexuals among them that were forced to remain silent about their sexual orientation in school. The girls explained this topic to me with convincing emotion, using well crafted sentences and examples that obviously did not come from their own reasoning. I listened and asked them questions, concluding that for most of these girls, sex was about the last thing on their minds. So why is it that they had already formed views on paticular sexual issues?

I know this is a complicated subject. That is why the last person I would like to have involved is a teacher that will only know one of these girls as a single student in a single class period of a single year. The real investment of the teacher to deal personally with any of them is just too shallow to discuss topics as important as these. I love that the school has taken it upon themselves to promote equality and the value of all people, but when does it simply become political?

In the worse case, the government will celebrate the knowledge of humankind to the point of being not only the end but the means to all things. The current state of science will become the absolute truth in all things and individuals will exist solely to serve the state. My time visiting auschwitz in Germany and the killing fields of Cambodia have taught me that politics do not always hold the answer.

So how do we give to our student the best of what we have without creating a feedback loop of knowledge that may backfire?

Who is able to aid in teaching how to reason about moral dilemmas when we all have different opinions?

Whose epistemology will win when the state is the source of moral reasoning?

I’m starting to think that it would have been better just to talk about decentralized organization theory.

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