There is evidence to the extent that politics, ideologies and education for a web of intertwined connections. This interactions and relationships are specifically pronounced with reference to the 90s when the country’s education system was trying to recover from periods of poor performances and opposing forces within sector. Dupuis (1966) notes that, during this period, political forces influenced Allocative decisions of funds to the public schools. At the same time, teacher unions had grown stronger and built immense bargaining power over working conditions and salaries. In addition, massive increase in the number of publicly owned schools had risen on the basis of the prevailing ideology regarding education. These ideologies indicated that a strong nation is built on the pillars of an educated democracy.
Colossal educational reforms were taking place, but these reforms were driven politically. For instance, there was a massive shift of financing schools from school boards to state levels; there was political pressure by employers on the teachers for better results. This followed from the huge employment rates of college workers in the previous periods of the 70s and 60s. This pressure, bearing in mind the general poor performance, fell on students, as well. All indications show that politics had the final word on the schools’ next move. There was a feeling that institutions were politically owned, payment of teachers was politically determined and conditions at school (such as games facilities, meals among others) depended on what amount of funds the government found fit to allocate.
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The experience was such that education was a play in a political stage since the existence of well organized groups (political parties, teachers unions, employer unions or parents unions), whose stakes were large in political processes outcomes, effectively shaped the landscape of education sector; they also affected the demands that should fall on the stakeholders such as school management (West, 1994). Thus, the role of political economy, especially with regard to allocation of educational resources and compensation played a major role in schooling.
On the other hand, while politics provide the force, ideology is the direction of educational change; ideology refers to the beliefs or ideas of a group which are voiced and expressed publicly (Dupuis, 1966). The experience of the 90s was hugely shaped by political ideologies of liberalism and conservatism. There was vast focus on individual satisfaction, economic rationality in use of public goods among others. These ideologies shaped social relations in schools such as a focus on desegregation campaigns against minority groups. Welfare decisions and rationality also guided decisions of resource use and allocation. According to Dupuis (1966), Neoliberals ideologies during this schooling period communicated the idea that students were simply global capital that helps the country to compete. Therefore, the rationality of allocating educational resources was based on a student’s ability to acquire competing skills as opposed to Jefferson’s natural right to education.
However, the most outstanding experience was the competitive thought created in the students. The ideology shaping educational direction at such a time made the schooling environment appear like a wrestling arena. Competition between students was the priority theme in an attempt to bring out the best. Nevertheless, this set of beliefs inspired desperation in some students and heroism in others. Consequently, according to West (1994), ideology plays a major role in schooling since it also defines the direction of thought in education, shapes opinions and provides the means of assessing performance. For instance, the 1990 political orientation shifted education from its traditional form to a business model based on technology, performance and managerial capacity in learning.
Applicability of the Jeffersonian Ideal
Thomas Jefferson was a key proponent of the classical liberalism perspective; he views man as having innate rights and abilities which the government can only protect. With regard to his standpoint, his ideals applied to a large extent, but did not fit completely with the 1990’s education experience. His view of an individual’s innate ability to make moral decisions seemed in line with the prevailing approach within the system. His opinion that the education sector helps in character formation was also applicable, given the education system’s goal of creating an all-rounded citizen. Jefferson also espoused the concept that human’s abilities are fixed but, education can improve an individual’s endowment (and lack of education denies one this ability). West (1994) notes that the idea was applicable since the system worked on his idea of selecting the best endowed students; these were the students who ended up in better jobs, received more favors from teachers, and were liked among other privileges.
However, Jefferson’s ideal that individuals are the real drivers of change who re-organize governments to accomplish their pursuits seemed not applicable. Apart from the successful unionized demands that were met, the reforms in education sector seemed to come from the state rather than from its creator (the people) (West, 1994). The concept of students as human capital, whose qualification for accessing educational resources was pegged on their abilities, seemed to contradict the equality ideal by Jefferson. In addition, the underlying perception of differences between races in access to education contradicted Jefferson’s equality; this is because students from different races were yet to believe that they were equal (West, 1994).
Minow (2010), states that the 1990s schooling was marked by experiences of segregation. This issue has an immense history that culminates in Brown’s decisive ruling and the post 1950s desegregation campaigns; it underscores the large journey of school segregation, race and American public schooling. The past of this issue can be analyzed through various cases that currently contribute to the case law on desegregation. Segregation was first brought to the public and legalized in the case of Boston V. City of Boston; Roberts (an African American) attempted to enroll her daughter Sarah into public school. She was continually rejected on the basis of her color and had to travel long distances to school despite there being a school at her neighborhood. He, therefore, launched a petition seeking for compensation from the Boston School Committee in accordance with the Massachusetts Legislation. The supreme court ruled in favor of the school board; it stated that the educational establishment had authority to act as it deemed fit for welfare purposes despite there being an outright segregation on the basis of color. This founded the doctrine of “separate but equal” (Minow, 2010).
Nonetheless, it is the case of Plessey V. Ferguson that made the doctrine a legal standard in deciding racial cases; it related to accommodation in different commuter trains by race. During this period of 1849 to 1896, African Americans were seen as a non-existent part of the society (Minow, 2010). In 1896, the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling cemented the Separate but Equal Doctrine as a legal precedent. Indeed, many decisions made later entrench school segregation under the defense of the Separate but Equal Doctrine. This was until 1950 when 12 families and the Browns, filed a suit jointly in the U.S. Supreme Court. This case, popularly known as Brown V. Board of Education, changed the landscape of segregation. The court ruled that separate schools cannot be equal and suffer deprivation. However, the experience of segregation was still present in the 90s though mildly. Mental segregation was a pronounced experience in school; Afro-Americans and Americans suffered the inability to understand each other and completely embrace this equality. Unspoken suspicion constituted this segregation in classes, games and the view of others as “different” (Minow, 2010).
Evaluation as per Horace Mann
Consequently, it is important to evaluate such an experience under Mann’s conception of education in its perfection. According to Mann (1957), the ideals of education are: sustained by the public; able to embrace diverse backgrounds; able to dispel ignorance; non-sectarian; guided by principles of a free society; and provided by qualified personnel approve the educational experience of the 90’s onwards to a large extent. At such a time the ideology guiding the education sector espoused state funding; there was huge employment of qualified workers; the society embraced the discipline of freedom more and the desegregation campaign was taking root (this reduced sectarianism). However, despite this approval it is important to appreciate that the reform agenda and the ideology was not public driven in all cases (West, 1994).
My Education Philosophy
Given the nature of relationship between political economy, ideology and education, coupled with the effects that these produce on educational outcomes, this paper proposes a mix of result and process oriented education philosophy. This proposal according to Dupuis (1966), emanates from the huge steps made towards fitting into Jefferson and Mann’s ideals; the gaps that exist display that the current philosophy is an extreme system (either too personal or too public), and also lacks a good assessment process apart from results. In addition, segregation took long due to rigidity. Thus, the basics in this philosophy as guided by Minow (2010), are objectivity in both process and outcome; flexibility to change; private-public partnership driven change; common good, welfare, equality that underscore policy and abolition of any law that defeats the cause of equality (West, 1994).
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