On 04 March 1800, Thomas Jefferson made an explicit case for public schools in his inaugural address. He had a civic purpose in mind, believing that our citizens needed the necessary skills in order to navigate our democracy. His view of what public school would offer and be was vastly different from the failing system currently in place. I think he would shudder at the very idea of the No Child Left Behind program, which encourages, and even at times dictates, that teachers teach to the test.
It would be impossible for any one person to learn everything there is to know. Rather than learning a series of facts, our children need to be learning life skills which can be utilized no matter what they encounter in life. Critical thinking skills are not acquired through memorization, ideology, or the popularly purported group think found in today’s classrooms. They are developed when a person asks questions and discovers these skills for themselves.
Inquiry based teaching is a far stretch from our current educational system. It allows children to have ownership and responsibility for their questions, guiding rather than force-feeding pre-approved information. Inquiry based learning helps people understand as much as they can on their own while developing skills on how to deal with future questions and situations.
The United States educational system doesn’t provide students with an education. Instead, it indoctrinates students. With education, there is learning and questioning for more learning; with indoctrination, there is an assumption that the person will not question. Indoctrination provides a sound foundation for military and police states, discouraging independent thought and inquiry and more easily enabling control of the country’s subjects.