Technological progress, disacculturation, and our public schools Public Deposited

http://ir.library.oregonstate.edu/concern/graduate_thesis_or_dissertations/76537529s

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  • The problems facing our nation's public schools today cannot be divorced from our enthusiasm for technology and the positive relationship we believe it shares with our perception of progress. Based on the second law of thermodynamics, the law of entropy, author Jeremy Rifkin argues that the development of increasingly "efficient" technologies is more cause for concern than congratulations - increasing the scale and pace of activity in our lives hastens the overall process of the dissipation of energy in our environment and increases the amount of disorder in the world. What's more, Rifkin believes we rationalize our actions on the basis of our views of the order found in nature when, in fact, our views about nature and progress reflect our own dominant modes of activity. From an anthropologist's perspective, schools can be numbered among the various exosomatic instruments that we humans use to capture, transform, and process sources of energy from our environment. Only when societies have reached a certain stage of technological sophistication and organizational complexity has the suggestion for the need for schools arisen. This paper examines the relationship between the rise of industry in America and the birth and expansion of our public schools. Americans place great faith in education and we have organized our schools on the basis of our ideas about progress. During the Enlightenment, men were equally enthralled by the discovery of order in nature and the human capacity to appreciate and manipulate this order. As the nineteenth century progressed, Americans became greatly attracted to Herbert Spencer's ideas about evolution and progress, ideas which reflected the more impersonal nature and increased organizational complexity of American society after the Civil War. In our nation's public schools, these ideas were reflected in the express transformation of public schools into comprehensive socializing institutions during the Progressive era. With continued technological progress, the expanding number of socializing and vocational responsibilities assumed by schools has led to their overshadowing the teaching of basic skills and academic subjects. Two recent movements in education - the Back to the Basics movement and the Home Schooling movement - are also discussed as re- evaluations -of the relationship between public schools and changes in American society.
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