Schools and the Responsibilities of Citizenship
I love Penelope Trunk, not because I always agree with her, but because she is absolutely fearless when it comes to sharing half-baked theories on a topic and not worrying about having to admit she was wrong later. I admire that because it’s so foreign to me. Most of the posts I write have been mulled over for months before I publish. In fact, I often think my worst writing is when I fire from the hip.
Anyway, this post isn’t about my admiration for Penelope Trunk. Back in August, she wrote a post about what the purpose of public school is. I don’t think I agree that this is the sole purpose of schools, but she sort of convinced me it’s on their list of responsibilities, especially in elementary school. From Penelope Trunk
I am not sure if this is good news or bad news, but it’s pretty clear to me that the purpose of school is to teach kids to be PC. …
On one hand, I think this is a good thing. In order for children of immigrants to be able to assimilate, they have to go to school. Otherwise assimilation would take generations. And I’m pretty sure that immigrants come here because they want their kids to be like kids who live in the US. Is this racist or insensitive? I’m not sure.
But I’m thinking out loud now: The history of the Jews in Europe is that every time they were isolated from the rest of the population they were poor and anxious (perhaps the Shtetl is the genesis of Jewish anxiety?) and when Jews were assimilated into the national population they flourished. Well, okay. Things did not really go well for the very assimilated population of German Jews in in the 19th century but I think I am making my point: children of immigrants want to fit in (in fact it’s a very American thing to make jokes about being first-generation.)
So Jews. Yeah. I think it’s important for Jews to feel both a part of the larger community and still hold onto a Jewish identity. This is the core problem of living in the melting pot that is the US. And this, more than anything else, is what I think is the challenge for public school. As a democracy we believe in the power of the melting pot. As parents we have an instinct to keep our kids separate so we can control their moral conscience. And these conflicts are universal to the immigrant population – regardless of ethnicity.