The question is not, Does or doesn't public schooling create a public? The question is, What kind of public does it create? A conglomerate of self-indulgent consumers? Angry, soulless, directionless masses? Indifferent, confused citizens? Or a public imbued with confidence, a sense of purpose, a respect for learning, and tolerance? The answer to this question has nothing whatever to do with computers, with testing, with teacher accountability, with class size, and with the other details of managing schools. The right answer depends on two things and two things alone: the existence of shared narratives and the capacity of such narratives to provide an inspired reason for schooling.
I spent most of my life trying to specialize myself. I went to theater school, film school, music school, mime school ... Finally, I was able to gather enough knowledge to build the confidence to create my own work, that goes utterly against the sense of specialization.
Institutional wisdom tells us that children need school. Institutional wisdom tells us that children learn in school. But this institutional wisdom is itself the product of schools because sound common sense tells us that only children can be taught in school. Only by segregating human beings in the category of childhood could we ever get them to submit to the authority of a schoolteacher.
School is a terrible place, I have decided. There is nothing good about it except for math class. Everything else is a total waste of time. As I mentioned before I have done a lot of reading about prisons, and I notice that they always describe them as painted in very dull colors, and my school is also painted in these kinds of colors, with greenish lockers and brownish walls and grayish floors. Actually they recently fixed up one wing of the school, and now that part of the school is just the opposite—all the colors are really bright, with bright red and yellow lockers and blue doors and shiny white floors that are already all scuffed up. It's funny because I thought the other colors were terrible but these are much worse, because they make it seem like it's normal to be happy there when it isn't.
The middle class and upper middle class are highly attached to the institution of school explicitly as a sorting mechanism, as a way of justifying privileges of which middle-class members are already central beneficiaries. These critics suggest that the entire notion of schools as meritocracies actually reifies and reinforces class privilege--making those whom school rewards (those who already have a lot of benefits) feel they deserve the privileges they have.
You show me a school with a principal behind the desk, and I'll show you a school without principal leadership. (Quoting Baruti Kafele)
As I very much liked to draw and paint as a child, I entered a special art program in high school, which was very much like being in an art school imbedded in a regular high school curriculum.
I was a theater dork in high school and did all the plays. My theater teacher in high school, Janet Spahr, was absolutely incredible and mentored me throughout school. She taught me a lot about relying on my instincts.
Adults always ask kids how they are doing at school. The one subject kids absolutely hate talking about. You don't even want to talk about school when you are at school.
Teachers who complain 'These kids have no work ethic' couldn't be farther off the mark. The problem is not that these kids lack a work ethic; the problem is that some of them see no connection between a work ethic and school. None of them would think, for example, to say to a customer at the MacDonald's drive-up window, 'Do you think I could get you those Chicken McNuggets some time tomorrow?' Yet we give sanction to that sort of request when it comes to school assignments.