Presentation Details

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ The Eleventh International Literacy and Education Research Network Conference on Learning

A Scary Thought - What if Our Schools are Working?: Possibilities for Teachers who are Committed to Promoting Social and Personal Transformation for their Students

Alan Singer.

Since the 1983 report, A Nation at Risk, charged that the United States was threatened by a "rising tide of mediocrity" in public schools that would cripple its ability to compete in international markets, there have been four "Education Presidents" and innumerable education governors and mayors in the country. But what if the fundamental premise of the 1983 report is wrong? What if American schools are working exactly the way they are intended to work? What if every student is not supposed to learn and succeed? This paper examines the role of class, race, ethnic and gender-based education in the United States today and possibilities for teachers who are committed to promoting social and personal transformation for their students. A big part of the problem with American schools is that there is a conflict between the goals of democracy and of capitalism. While most educators are proponents of democracy and see public education as way to achieve a democratic future, most governmental officials and businessmen are capitalists. While "democrats" feel an obligation to teach everyone, capitalists are more concerned with the "bottom line" of profitability. In their world, there is a competitive market place which sorts out winners from losers and there will always be losers. In this stratified world, literacy is a highly prized and scarce commodity to be distributed based on the needs of the system and not of individuals, with the largest pieces reserved for the ruling class, its off-spring and its technocrats.


Alan Singer
Curriculum and Teaching
Hofstra University

  • Transforming Schools

(30 min. Conference Paper, English)