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Friday, October 17, 2008

Educational Issues Raised by Politics

This blog has never been about politics but there are a few issues that the 2008 U.S. presidential election has highlighted in a subtle or not-so-subtle way that raise important issues. In both cases, the answer to the questions raised have implications for curriculum and methods in education. The two questions are:

· Do women (as mothers) have a unique role in the education of young children?

· What is more important in leadership, accumulated knowledge or attitude and temperament?

The first of these questions comes up in a subtle way by voters reactions to the nomination of Governor Sarah Palin for Vice-President. At the time of her nomination she had five children, one of which was an infant. What has come as a politically charged question of “shouldn’t she be at home with her children” implies a question about education as abstracted from politics and from gender equality issues. It begs several questions:

· Do women have a special role in the education and nurturing of young children?

· Can husbands do this job just as well?

· Can nannies, grandparents, older children or others do this job as well as mothers can?

We all know that there are special circumstances where a mother dies in childbirth or where children are given up for adoption where it impossible for a mother to be the first educator of her children. The question is not about those special circumstances, but the question is, in general, is it better for children to be nurtured by their mother than by someone else? I leave this to you, the reader, to consider.

The second questions comes up because of the rancorous nature of politics and of political debate. After several of the debates, journalists have noted things like, “McCain scored several hits on Obama, but that Obama looked more relaxed and ‘presidential’ than did McCain.”

To me, what this implies is that leaders should be relaxed, should get enough sleep, should get regular exercise and should be able to withstand the “hits” without getting angry. If this is an accurate conclusion, then there is an implication of common ground upon which some aspects of a curriculum suited to the 21st century should be built upon. It says to me, that students should be presented with scientific facts about the importance of sleep and perhaps be encouraged to participate in experiments that will help such students draw their own conclusions.

Similarly, the importance of physical exercise should be taught through science and through experiential education.

Lastly, I believe it is possible to teach (starting at an early age) that we do not need to react to criticisms by the engagement of our egos. While this is often left for religions to teach, there is no reason that this important skill could not be taught in schools.

Posted by Steven Fletcher at 2:24 AM
Edited on: Friday, October 17, 2008 2:33 AM