Flying Kites On A Pond (Essay #1 to Jerome Stern’s What They Learn In School) Jerome Stern’s What They Learned In School challenges the phrase “the sky is the limit” in the case of today’s methods of school education. While we are taught that education further develops human characteristics and the understanding of life, Stern points out the ironies. Instead of the intention to expand, to explore, and to inspire, he feels today’s education is hypocritical of what it preaches.
Stern’s essay follows a simple format, he lists each educational standpoint with a following ironic disclaimer. For instance in lines 10-11: “And they want them to learn how to think for themselves so they can get good jobs and be successful, But they don’t want them to have books that confront them with real ideas because that will confuse their values” The greatest offense to Stern is the coercion of a uniform truth. We should be proud of our nation as we are taught, but when many tragedies spring from our so-called patriotism, there are many secrets that are hidden. Ignore the fact that millions of Native Americans were killed off for land and profit.
Ignore the fact that the Emancipation Proclamation wasn’t a social conscience move, but of a political war move. And ignore the fact that our own countrymen place Japanese Americans into camps during World War II. But as Orlando Patterson, a sociology professor at Harvert suggests, “We like heroes, the good guys against the bad guys. We like to see history in two paths, good and evil, but it isn’t so.” The truth is Christopher Columbus slaughtered the natives for gold, even proclaiming himself as God to the natives. However, we are taught a simple and amusing nursery rhyme to celebrate him, Columbus sailed the ocean blue in 1492. But of course, they left out the other trivial items.
Stern also challenges our ways of viewing value. A great deal of us would love to see our children and their children to be good people. We have sets of values to be placed in all of us. But sometimes values should be challenged, even if it is dominantly accepted as the perfect utilization. He argues that we tend to fear books, anything radical that challenges of what we think. Mark Twain’sThe Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is a racist book. But if anyone really did read between the lines (or read it at all), Huck chooses damnation rather than letting Jim be sold. Is that being racist? So we fear them Stern contends, we fear our Steinbecks, our Twains, and our Chaucers, because it will make them think about their values and their life. And people generally don’t like change, if it ain’t broke don’t fix it.
Stern isn’t lobbying for radical change. He just wants the whole story for everything. Don’t focus at the square when the cube has five other sides. Besides, aren’t true values the ones that stand after a challenge? Isn’t that the meaning of a value? Sadly, education has lost its inspirational side. It’s always in the lips of people who read the morning paper. Those Japanese are out producing us. Those Mexican ninth grade students are doing Calculus while we are still in Algebra. We need to out compete those foreign powers. So don’t use drugs, don’t get AIDS (of course they don’t tell them how to get AIDS), don’t learn real science, because you’ll lose your faith, winning isn’t everything but the one thing, and whatever you do, don’t become an individual or you’ll be consider weird. That is the voice of American education in Stern’s opinion.
By hiding all truths, by limiting to what we can expand, and by giving no strong inspiration, today’s education is lacking its most important ingredient, a definition. Education is lacking education. So if the phrase “the sky is the limit” is true for education, then our kids must be flying kites on a pond.