A True Education Essay, Research Paper
A True Education
Students from impoverished neighborhoods and students from economically secure neighborhoods; who deserves the best education? Better yet who deserves an education? In the opinions of both Mike Walzer and Mike Johnson everyone who desires an education deserves one regardless of their social or economic background. This is democracy at work, yet here is where the two men have their first difference of opinion.
To Walzer, the goal of a basic education is to provide all students with the tools they need to succeed in life, while promoting social values and an understanding of democracy. This is all fine and well, but to Johnson education should prepare children for the world they live in and the world they will shape. Democracy can be taught and learned from reading ?the papers? not giving the students a say in their education. Students must be pushed into the subjects the teach feels they as a member of society will need to learn. If the school is going to prepare the student to succeed in life than the school must give its students a strong basic education. Johnson pushes his students to take the SATs in their freshman year, makes them take Regents exams regardless of their learning level, and pushes them past the limits of their abilities. Is this reform? Is this a working system of education? Yes in both instances. Why? Because right now students wanting to go to college or get a job are measured by certain standards and in order to succeed they must meet the minimum requirements. While many argue the necessity to break away from standards and judge students based on individual portfolios, Johnson views the reality of the present situation. That reality is everyone must fit a standard and until that is changed first, the goal of education is to prepare students to meet those standards. By forcing students to over-achieve and learn basic societal skills like how to act in a formal setting (a situation Johnson teaches by taking students to a formal restaurant) Johnson bestows upon his students the ability to meet any standard and achieve any goal. Why? Because he has given them the tools they need in life and the self-confidence and respect to utilize what they have learned. Education is not about promoting lofty democratic ideals, but about preparing people to face society and giving them the ability to develop principles that will shape society and themselves. These principles will come from the same source; the feeling of self-respect and confidence Johnson has bestowed upon his students.
So where is Walzer on all of this? Walzer agrees that education must prepare students not only for the future, but also the present. However, the way about doing that differs. Equality and democracy should be at the foundation of the basic education. Walzer believes that in order for students to be successful in society and in order to strengthen society the principles of democracy should be taught. Students should come out of school with an idea about the social good, which comes from understanding democracy. Equality and a sense of cooperation are necessary concepts to be taught to the students. These concepts further the development of democracy, which is key to Walzer?s basic education. However, teaching democracy is not enough. Walzer does agree with Johnson that a basic education must give students the proper tools to achieve success in life. Yet Walzer, again like Johnson, is not guaranteeing success; he is guaranteeing only that the education received by the student will, if they choose, lead them to success. Sometimes basic education is not enough and some may choose to narrow the field they wish to enter into. For these students Walzer calls for specialized education. This sort of education will prepare students for a specific career and broaden their options when entering society. Here students choose what to learn and move on when they have taken in what they felt was important. It is an education that is left up to the student and not the school or teachers.
So in comparison how do Walzer (ideals and principles) and Johnson (tools and fundamentals) match up? The two educators agree on bestowing upon their students the tools necessary to achieve both in the present and future, while also instilling self-confidence. However, Johnson is more concerned with meeting the standards of society not preparing for what may be as in Walzer?s case. To Johnson basic education is giving his students tools and abilities which net results now giving his students a better life than they had. Walzer goes beyond this to instill democratic principles and ideals, which will allow his students to shape society and participate actively in the democratic process. From here Walzer desires students to continue their education in specialized schools in order to achieve their goals and specify the role they?ll play in shaping society. Johnson on the other hand is more concerned with teaching the basics so that his students are well rounded and prepared for entering the society that exists now. Where they go from there is up to them. Yet, both men agree upon the most important issue; that all people who desire an education should receive one regardless of their background. In education, whether it is basic or specialized, this is the most important element to success as a society. To deny anyone who is willing to learn is to deny society of a valuable resource in the eyes of these educators.
So who is right? Well, both men are. Johnson has the best idea for basic education. Basic education should promote self-confidence in the learner through high standards and goals, while giving the student the proper tools to achieve whatever they choose to do in society. Virtues, principles, morals, and democratic ideals should be left up to the families and communities to teach to their children. Teachers and schools have a hard enough time preparing people for the real world as it is without having to produce philosophers! However, Walzer is correct in stressing specialized education. In order to truly achieve in an ever-changing society, students must have an understanding and expertise in a specific function important to the development of society. Basic education prepares the student for society, but specialized education gives the student the tools to adapt to societal changes. There is no perfect system, but by combining the philosophies of Johnson and Walzer one can begin to develop a well-rounded philosophy of education.
*All information in this paper came from the article Scores Count and the text Classic and Contemporary Readings in the Philosophy of Education (pgs. 386-411).
article: “Scores Count”