Children are the living messages we send to a time we will not see – Neil Postman

Reforming education?

Postman & Weingartner (1969) argue that education needs reforming to meet the needs of, what was then, the Twentieth Century. They state that there needs to be more approaches to reforming education and that there are insufficient daring and vigorous ideas on which to build a new approach to education (Postman & Weingartner, 1969, p. ?).

One of the problems they cite with education reform movements is that it fails to take account of the core problems with education. They argue that the core problem with education is that changeis the most striking characteristic of the world we live in and that our educational system has not yet recognized this fact (Postman & Weingartner, 1969, p. xiii). Using the metaphor of a car, they argue that the current system of schooling is deeply flawed, they state that:

it is as if we are driving a multi-million-dollar sports car, screaming, ‘Faster! Faster!’ while peering fixedly into the rear-view mirror. It is an awkward way to try to tell where we are, much less where we are going, and it has been sheer dumb luck that we have not smashed ourselves to bits – so far. We have paid almost exclusive attention to the car, equipping it with all sorts of fantastic gadgets and an engine that will propel it at ever increasing speeds, but we seem to have forgotten where we wanted to go in it. Obviously, we are in for a helluva jolt. The question is not whether, but when.

(Postman & Weingartner, 1969, p.xiii).

Gato (1990) and Holt (cf. 2005) have also argued that school reforms are failing to get to the root of the problem with schools. For example, Gato (1990, p. 89) states:

There seem to me to be two “official’ ways to look at the state of education … both of them wrong … we conceive it to be an engineering problem that can be made to yield to a pragmatic instrumental approach … we look upon schooling as if it were a character in a continuous courtroom drama , a drama wherein we search for victims … bad teachers, poor textbooks, incompetent administrators, evil politicians, ill-trained parents, bad children – whoever the villains may be we shall find them, indict them, arraign them, prosecute them, perhaps even execute them! Then things will be okay.

Holt (2005, p. 9) argues that the problem is the school itself.

Most of our schools remain about what they have always been, bad places for children, or for that matter, anyone to be in, to live in, to learn in.

For Gato (1990) and Holt (cf. 2005), the solution to the problem identified by Postman and Weingartner (1969) was homeschool. The increasing numbers of people turning to home education suggest that there is a growing movement of people who agree that homeschooling is one way to solve the problems with schools. The numbers of homeschoolers in Australia, the USA, the UK, Canada, New Zealand and Japan suggest that there are many parents who recognise the failure of the current model of education.


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