This 2012 article by Walter Russell Meade discusses the breakup of the old models of our economy and why we can’t go back. If anything, it is even more relevant today than it was in 2012 because it helps dissect the Donald Trump phenomena. To our purpose here, however, some insightful critiques of typical schools. In one section, Meade writes:

Social critics also denounced our school system, justifiably, as a mediocre, conformity inducing, alienating, time wasting system that trained kids to sit still, follow directions and move with the herd. The blue model built big-box schools where the children of factory workers could get the standardized social and intellectual training necessary to enable most of them to graduate into the big-box Ford plant and shop in the big-box store. Maybe that was a huge social advance at one time, but is that something to aspire to or be proud of today? Don’t we want to teach our children to do something smarter than move in large groups by the clock and the bell, follow directions and always color between the lines?

Many of the ways people think of schools running now are, quite simply, factory-style arrangements whose time has passed: shuffling kids off to all-day care at young ages rather than slowly building up their endurance for substantive study as their brains and bodies mature, for example; or merely tacking on ever-more grades that all look alike rather than rethinking what fits children as human beings and building a structure around that instead (how about some more outside play? Integrating parents and professional mentors into schools? Or school buildings that look more like homes than prisons?).

Meade also turns directly to the deeper meaning that underlies our education and job choices:

Many Americans became (and remain) stuff-rich and meaning-poor. Many people classified as ‘poor’ in American society have an historically unprecedented abundance of consumer goods—anything, essentially, that a Fordist factory here or abroad can turn out. But far too many Americans still have lives that are poor in meaning, in part because the blue social model separates production and consumption in ways that are ultimately dehumanizing and demeaning. A rich and rewarding human life neither comes from nor depends on consumption, even lots of consumption; it comes from producing goods and services of value through the integration of technique with a vision of social and personal meaning. Being fully human is about doing good work that means something. Is a blue society with our level of drug and alcohol abuse, and in which the average American watches 151 hours of television a month, really the happiest conceivable human living arrangement?

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