Soviet Classroom, 1969, from University of Delaware Professor Eugene Matusov’s website.
Every morning, little Timmy and his 4th grade classmates pledge to the Texas flag and American flag. Mrs. Wilson has arranged the desks in straight rows, and there is a curious dearth of technology in the class–no computer stations for students. A large, bold-colored poster hangs on the wall above Timmy’s assigned seat. It reads Only English Spoken Here–We Encourage a Full Transition from Other Languages Within Three Years. After lessons in the basics–reading, writing, and arithmetic, Timmy is feeling drowsy, but he doesn’t dare put his head down at the desk. Last week, he saw Mrs. Wilson snap her wooden ruler across Danny’s knuckles when he nodded off in class, leaving a few drops of blood on his desk.
Timmy enjoys the 10-minute snack break of peanut butter crackers and chocolate milk, but he gets confused during science, when Mrs. Wilson leads a discussion about evolution and climate change, saying that they are weak scientific theories. Timmy doesn’t know what is to be trusted as scientific truth, and he senses that some adults–his parents included–get very angry if scientific proof clashes with their belief systems.
Timmy is a strong reader and likes to ask questions, but he doesn’t ever seem to get any answers. During silent reading time, he peruses an article about the environmental pollution and harsh treatment of cattle at some West Texas feedlot operations. Mrs. Wilson, upon noticing the article, frowns. Timmy gets the courage to ask, “Why does it have to be this way?” but Mrs. Wilson doesn’t answer the question. After all, she knows she shouldn’t be teaching Higher Order Thinking Skills, because expanding Timmy and his classmates ability to think might undermine parental authority.
Timmy is lucky to be such a strong reader. After all, he didn’t attend pre-school or kindergarten. His parents did a lot to help him prepare for school, reading aloud with him, bringing him to the local library once a week, and even going to Dallas to the museums once in a while. Timmy notices, however, that many of his classmates are struggling when they are asked to read aloud in class. They stumble over such easy words as constitution, abstinence, no multiculturalism, corporal punishment, and abolishing the Department of Education.
When Timmy returns home from school after his short bus ride, he gives his dog Frank a scratch behind the ear, says hi to his parents. ”What did you learn at school today, Timmy?” his mother asks.
Ever the thoughtful and precocious boy, he responds, “Not much. I’ve learned that some people have a horribly anti-progressive, anti-realistic, anti-thinking, and anti-excitement vision for how school should be. And I’m suffering because of it.”
Luckily for Timmy, his parents allow him a few hours on the computer each night, where he voraciously reads articles on everything he’s not supposed to know and think about in the confines of Mrs. Wilson’s room. He’s even teaching himself some photo and video editing skills on his laptop. This is when his real learning is taking place. He’s exciting doing this work, and time flies by. He and some of his friends have even started collaborating–using Google Docs–on a short story about students who start a tutoring business after school to make up for the lack of education they are receiving from 7:00 am to 3:00 pm.
Thanks to Liana Heitin over at Education Week Teacher online, who noticed some curious–and disturbing–education platforms in the 2012 Republican Party of Texas platform in her recent blog post.