Today, American public schools are in dire need of innovative approaches to community engagement. A dual challenge lies in front of most schools today. One, there is the outside in view of public schools that says that in many areas gangs rule the halls, students are not capable of high achievement, and teachers are not doing the best job possible in reaching students. Second, the inside out view holds that the public does not understand the complexity and challenge associated with educating students in today’s world Unfunded expectations of public education are seemingly ever higher and press schools’ administration and teachers beyond their capability to provide a free and high quality education to every student that needs it. From either perspective it is apparent that there is a deep need for society to take a greater and deeper interest in what happens in the public school classroom. The average American is a good person at heart and would love to see public schools being places where high level teaching approaches as the Socratic method are utilized in parallel with teaching methods that reach those students with special needs.
There is a common love of learning in everyone. However, the Devil is often in the details. The dichotomy of public versus privately funded schools is strong in American education. Often the politically powerful wealthy send their children to expensive private schools, insulating them from the reality of public education. In the eyes of the American elite, public schools are for the common person being subject to all the good and bad that exists in general society. The prevailing American philosophy of individualism crafts this dichotomy. A great need is present for a communal American philosophy that places the good of the commons over that of the individual. I feel that religious organizations should have a greater say in the public dialog around education. Let me add to that something. Religious organizations should participate in an absolutely secular greater society that does not place one belief over the other and has 100% support for the modern scientific worldview. To speak from a religious perspective simply means to speak from the perspective of the best of older human ethics texts. For example, the values espoused by Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount should be on the tips of tongues and ever present on the minds of all Americans. It may seem as a disconnect between idealism and pragmatism to say such a thing, but hear me out. It is hard to argue against the ethics of the Sermon on the Mount. The problem in their implementation is a deficient commons space. What can we do today to build a society where they come into being? How can the commons be protected? Fortunately, God is above social class. The barriers of social class, seemingly so ever present in American society, can be surmounted with a faithful effort to bring together the religious and secular in America. Let’s all work together to help our children become well educated.
In science, the phenomena where self interest overrules the good of the commons is called the Tragedy of the Commons. Please go ahead and read the linked Wikipedia article about it. Fortunately, there is situation in theory where the good of the commons overrules self interest. It is known as the Comedy of the Commons. Please also go ahead and read about it too. Finding these two theoretical situations from game theory took me many years of study. I am just at the beginning stages of learning about them. I feel blessed to find them in the literature. Backing up a little and thinking more about the problem posed at the beginning of this post, what we really need to improve education in the United States is caring. Moving beyond the figures, the images, the incessant chatter of the media, etc. what are we left with? Young minds of clay. All children and young adults have the inner capacity to thrive. Let public schools be a place where that clay can be molded into beautiful pottery. I hope for the next year to be a learning experience. May I become the best teacher I am able to be by thinking through the hard questions and acting in a way that is in harmony with the good of all.
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