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Sustaining Our Culture and the
Goals of Education
Chapter 3
Sustainability
• Sustainability is a fundamental concept in
ecology
• Sustainability can be applied to
culture…and to an educational system
• A major obligation of schools: the creation
of a just and sustainable culture and living
in a balanced and sensible way…to take full
advantage of the human resources available
Goals of U. S. Education
• Education is the “deliberate, systematic, and
sustained effort to transmit, evoke, or acquire
knowledge, attitudes, values, skills or sensibilities,
as well as any outcomes of that effort”…Cremin
• Jefferson, Rockfish Gap Report, to provide each
citizen with the means by which he can transact
his own business, can calculate for himself,
preserve his dealings in writing, improve through
reading one’s morals, understand one’s duties,
understand one’s rights, understand social
relationships
Goals of U.S. Education
• More often for males than females, more
often for whites than people of color
• Assumption has been that education is a
universally positive experience and that it
serves all people equally well…and that
America has created a Meritocracy.
Meritocracy
• All individuals are given the opportunity to
compete fairly and equally
• Assumes that those at the lower end of the social
and economic scale are there because of lack of
intelligence, drive, and ability to succeed in the
general culture
• The Bell Curve has argued that biological factors
rather than race, gender or geography are why
people succeed or don’t in America (Herrnstein
and Murray)
The Great School Legend
• Argues that the public schools have
functioned as the great equalizing force in
U.S. culture
• Instead of helping the poor and minorities
advance within society, says Greer, schools
have actually held people back
• Power Blocs…have given a different
education for different purposes
Counternarratives
• Stories or cultural patterns of belief out of the
mainstream and opposing traditional values and
interpretations
• Postcolonial themes…have emerged in opposition
to models of colonial power and control
• “We didn’t cross the border, the border crossed
us.” European occupation of Native North
American territory and the subjugation of its
people
What teachers need to do
• Understand the context in which the schools they
teach function
• Understand the cultural background of their
students
• The ways in which their families and communities
understand and organize knowledge
• The foundation necessary to be “border crossers”
• To be effective differs from setting to setting,
community to community
Dare the School Build a New Social
Order?
• “We should…give to our children a vision
of the possibilities which lie ahead and
endeavor to enlist their loyalties and
enthusiasms in the realization of the vision.
Also, our social institutions and
practices…should be critically examined in
the light of such a vision.” George S.
Counts (1932)
Critical Questions About the Nature
and Purpose of Schooling
• What is taught? Should schools be agents
of change or the status quo? Who is to be
educated? What makes a good school?
• Who should control the schools? Should
schools have a role for past social
injustices? Should schools teach what the
family has taught in the past? How is the
media taking the place of the family?
Critical Questions
• What is useful knowledge? How does race affect
what happens in schools? What about gender?
Social class?
• Should schools provide social services?
• Should there be national standards and guidelines
for the curriculum of the schools?
• Should teachers be nationally licensed and
certified?