Member Rara Avis
I agree, Tim. But I think recognition needs to be pretty evenly divided between the really good teachers and the serendipity of a child finding that teacher. In my experience, one really great teacher anywhere in grades 6-12 can make all the difference in the world. Those great teachers, however, seem to be the exception rather than the rule, and my trust in the luck of the draw goes only so far.
Last summer, I was lucky enough to spend several weeks with two different groups of 7-8-9 graders, teaching them a little something about the Internet. They covered two different school districts, one small, one fairly large, comprising about ten junior high schools. I met a lot of their regular teachers, both those who had volunteered for the program and those who had not. I met several school administrators. We talked extensively about literacy and things that could be done to better encourage literacy, especially as it relates to poetry and short fiction. I walked away from that two weeks with much more respect and hope for the kids I met than for most of the teachers. Interestingly, several months later, in talking to some staff at WMU, I was told my suggestions would likely have been better received if I had assigned a price tag to them. Grant money is a strong motivator, it seems.
The safety valve in our system, as I see it, is that our children are exposed to something in the neighborhood of two dozen teachers over the course of several years in junior and senior high. All it often takes is for one or two of those teachers to make a real difference during a very impressionable time. That difference, I think, can last a lifetime.
Yes, there are positives, Tim. I just wish there were a few more of them.
Hush, my short quote doesn't do justice to the article in its entirely. The essay is about the many, many attempts to reform a sagging educational system and the difficulty in doing so. Mitchell's point about pop-culture was in reference to the goal of the Commission for Reorganization of Secondary Education to "adjust the ordinary American child to live in American society," a goal Mitchell feels is so nebulous as to be meaningless. How does that pertain to pop-culture? "After more than half a century of preparing children for life," he says, "Our government education system has prepared life for children." In other words, instead of shaping our children to fit into society, our society is inevitably shaped by what we teach our children.
As to your actual questions, no, I don't think culture and education should be separated. On the contrary, school is where kids and young adults should be exposed to far more varied cultures than is possible in any single home. I'll also admit to being a bit of a snob, however, in that I think popular culture is too often geared towards the lowest common denominator and should NOT be the width and breadth of what we teach. At best, pop culture should be, as you suggested, a tool, a starting point.