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Why School by Mike Rose

Why School: Reclaiming Education for All of Us by Mike Rose was a follow-up read to his earlier book Lives on the Boundaries. The latter book explored, in an autobiographical way, Mike Rose’s ascent from growing up in a working class neighbourhood with little support for education at home. He found support from educators along the way and became an educator himself. Professor Rose used a similar biographical method in the current book and explored the purpose of education, different views of intelligence, learning, and knowledge, and the humbling, yet hopeful work, that results from learning.

The general thesis examined a need for a new conversation about the role of public education, one “not dominated by a language of test scores and competitiveness” (p. 4). Professor Rose presented a case for a good education being designed to help us make sense of the world. He argued that parents historically “sent their kids to school for many reasons: intellectual, social, civic, ethical, and aesthetic. Historically, these justifications for schooling have held more importance. Not today” (p. 4). If these reasons no longer hold a time-honoured place in educating our children, then it begs, “What is the purpose of school?”

Questions: What purpose does school serve in a democratic society? I find the object of school reform is not to change school or its purpose, but to simply layer one more fad on an already overloaded system which is ill-equipped to handle it. The result is we are failing many, serving few, and leaving a huge hole in the middle. What should school reformation or transformation look like? I believe this requires a conversation about purpose of school and its structure. Is the present hierarchical, industrial-age model a suitable mechanism to deliver education in the early 21st Century?

Recommendation: I enjoyed the book. It is short and easy to read. Professor Rose provides a view which is different from the mainstream educational reformer and challenges the reader with questions and not answers. I would recommend it to anyone searching for a different view of educational reform.

About ivonprefontaine

In keeping with bell hooks and Noam Chomsky, I consider myself a public and dissident intellectual. Part of my work is to move beyond (transcend) institutional dogmas that bind me to defend freedom, raising my voice to be heard on behalf of those who seek equity and justice in all their forms. I completed my PhD in Philosophy of Leadership Studies at Gonzaga University, Spokane, WA. My dissertation and research was how teachers experience becoming teachers and their role as leaders. I focus on leading, communicating, and innovating in organizations. This includes mindfuful servant-leadership, World Cafe events, Appreciative Inquiry, and expressing one's self through creativity. I offer retreats, workshops, and presentations that can be tailored to your organzations specific needs. I published peer reviewed articles about schools as learning organizations, currere as an ethical pursuit, and hope as an essential element of adult eductaion. I published three poems and am currently preparing my poetry to publish as an anthology of poetry. I present on mindful leadership, servant leadership, schools as learning organizations, how teachers experience becoming teachers, assessement, and critical thinking. I facilitate mindfulness, hospitality retreats. and World Cafe Events using Appreciative Inquiry. I am writing and researching about various forms of leadership, how teachers inform and form their identity as a particular teacher, schools as learning organizations, hope and its anticipatory relationship with the future, and hope as an essential element in learning.

4 responses »

  1. As a fellow teacher this post is an interesting one. How would you reform our system? It’s pretty easy to find holes. I’d love to hear what changes you would make…

  2. I agree. it is always easier to point out the flaws. I think a key to begin the process is have conversations. Right now, too often, the direction and purpose of education is defined outside of the context of the learning that happens. As I read Mike Rose, I wondered what it would be like to repeatedly revisit a conversation of that nature. Dean Fink, a former Ontario based educator, indicated the challenge for education is to unravel the layers of governance. John Goodlad argued that the common school was a community venture and might be well-served to be returned to the community the educators serve. This is a complex issue not easily addressed, but it is vital to begin the conversation which is what you and I have done. I think the first thing I would do is engage community members in a real conversation about what the purpose of education is in their community;.

    • It is indeed a complex issue. I like the idea of ‘unravelling the layers of governance’. It feels from my perspective that too many decisions as you say are being made outside of the classroom, in a context of ‘what looks good on paper’. We need the right kind of dialogue with the right kind of players in order to initiate the right kind of change.

      • The word dialogue is an appropriate one for the process. David Bohm wrote about the role of dialogue and conversation, as opposed to discussion and debate, as a place to create a safe container to explore complex and emotion-laden topics. Part of the new conversation, as I understand it, is to name and reveal the values which are essential to the enterprise of education. Living the values rather than acting upon them is important to the emerging conversation. This past winter we gathered in a World Cafe format using appreciative inquiry and had a conversation about learning. I hope to use a similar format in the fall to explore the purpose and organization of school.

        I appreciate your input and insight and look forward to more if and when possible.

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