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Desmond Ryan

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'Drop-outs' vote against school - do they have a good reason?

First, let us state the principle relevant to Sir Ken's issue, a refinement of the neo-Darwinian view: "...most higher organisms select their environment before they allow the environment to select them. Release a hare and a rabbit in the middle of a field, the rabbit will run off to the hedge and live its life there, while the hare will be content to live its life in the open field....If a seed falls on stony ground in the desert, it simply refuses to germinate until the next shower of rain comes along and gives it an environment at least somewhat appropriate to its needs." (C.H.Waddington (1972) 'Ninth Lecture. The importance of goals' in Kenny, A.J.P. et al. The Nature of Mind Edinburgh University Press p.128)
Second, let us respect these young Americans for having rumbled that their schools are not a well-irrigated flower bed for their Robinsonian flourishing, but something else, perhaps a selection mechanism for the US economy, against which, they know from their parents, there is no resistance, from which there is no mercy, apart from which there is no life.
Third, let us propose that, notwithstanding the danger of economic marginalization, large numbers of the young people who fail to engage with American schools have decided, in the metaphor of the seeds in the desert, to avoid 'germinating' (i.e. exposing their vulnerable developmental potential) in 'mechanistic' schools which provide no environment for their individual needs.
Fourth, let us accept the tragic conclusion that to be a school-failure by their own hand (drop-out, apathy, disengagement, exclusion) is nevertheless an act of agency, a decision to say 'No' to a system which, while not recognizing their human existence, wants to brand them for life as sub-standard goods, hardly worth taking to market - and wants them to accept that branding as publicly binding for the rest of their life.
Nothing unusual here - drop-out kids are selecting their environment before they allow the environment to select them.


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  • Nov 6 2013: Good morning Desomond from California,

    Your thoughts on seeds got me to thinking.....

    I wonder if you might reflect on this.......Do you feel it is accurate to claim that society, as a whole, views education in much the same way it views agriculture? That is to say, our children are the seeds. The seeds are planted into soil which is itself institutionalized educational systems. Desiring strong and healthy crops/adults, we add things to the soil to make it richer....more fertile. We tinker with it. We strive for efficiency so we begin to arrange them in larger groups. We crowd them closer and closer. We arrange them in rows. We use medicines and pesticides to address pests that enter the growth system. Pests that mess with efficiency and yield. We develop best-practices/common core standards and apply them across the board to every plant/student. We test and test. We measure. We compare. We work desperately to do more with less money. In the end, we are left with a monoculture.

    While I exaggerate and embellish, I admit that this IS my perception of institutionalized education. This has been my belief for a while. But, I cannot help but question and doubt all beliefs....especially my own for I've been proven wrong over and over again. Thus, I cannot help but wonder if our children are NOT actually the seeds. Perhaps Schools are NOT the Soil in which they grow. Perhaps we are wrong altogether.

    What if the children are the Soil from which all things in Society emerge. The quality of Society is a reflection of the quality of the Soil. Crops are separate. Soil is not.....

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