Renewing America's Progress: A Positive Solution to School Reform

By Fredric H. Genck | Go to book overview

5
Renaissance: Democratic, Pragmatic, and Progressive

Modern history since the Renaissance could be Characterized as a trend of declining authority and growing freedom. Medieval concepts of church and state and moral limits on freedom of choice seem impossibly restrictive in a modern world of existentialist values, civil rights, womens' liberation, virtually everything open to choice and negotiation. Americans' search for personal success through self-help is giving way to more concern with community and environment, and well it should. Our history is full of social responsibility added to personal ambition, though the former is usually preceded by the latter, often with a generation or two separating social contribution from personal success.

The declining authority of school administrators should be seen as one more step in the inevitable course of history away from authority and toward freedom. It should be celebrated along with America's other successes in civil rights, the feminist movement, and the widening freedom of choice generally available in a modern society.

We must also recognize the broader educational opportunities of children today, largely because of television, in spite of how we fear and criticize this still new and somewhat frightening medium. How else can you explain the unwillingness of American and Soviet citizens to fight in unjustified wars in Vietnam and Afghanistan? Children are benefiting from the availability of television in spite of our criticism of the medium. A University of Chicago math project has found that a majority of inner-city children can count to 100 by the time they reach school. The curriculum proposes to teach them to count to 15. Perhaps this is one of the reasons they are dropping out as soon as they can.

At the end of this chapter is a historical note on the relevance of

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