kitchen table math, the sequel: amateurs making decisions

Sunday, January 14, 2007

amateurs making decisions

Be sure to take a look at Allen's response to Rory's post about parents choosing their kids' schools.

Allen's post reminded me that my own family has recently made back-to-back decisions based in limited knowledge and information.

Ed and I made a bad choice of physician a few years back.

But my two sisters & my brother and I, thanks to laws mandating transparency & an office of ombudsman for long-term care, could probably make a good choice of nursing home today.

I've now had experiences with 3 state-paid ombudsmen or advocates: one for students, one for parents of developmentally disabled kids, and one for patients in long-term care.
Two were terrifically helpful.

One was not especially helpful as an advocate, but gave us a great deal of information concerning law and school practice we wouldn't have known without her.

If I had to bet, I'd say that once school choice comes to pass (at the moment I'm thinking school choice will come to pass) we'll also create better means of making real information about individual schools available to parents.

Easily available.


Unless ideology gums up the works, that is.

Ed school ideology is all-pervasive and to some degree all-persuasive; it's not going away any time soon. Who's to say the Advocates & Ombudsmen & state-funded informational websites that will come along won't be constructivist, too?

If experience is a guide, they will be.

Hirsch is good on this point. Hirsch traces ed school philosophy to the Romantics and argues that ed schools wouldn't be able to impose their vision on nearly every public and private school in the country if the American people didn't already believe the same things constructivists believe.

Here's Hirsch:

Our nation was born in the Enlightenment but bred in the Romantic period....
The word natural has been a term of honor in our country ever since our forebears elevated "nature" and "natural" to a status that had earlier been occupied by divine law. Following the Colonial period, during the heady days of the early 1800s, the most influential thinkers in New England were no longer writers like Jonathan Edwards, who had exhorted us to follow the commandments of God's law, but writers like Emerson and Thoreau, who admonished us to develop ourselves according to nature. That was a hugely important shift in our mental orientation. Vernon Parrington titled the second volume of his masive intellectual history of the United States The Romantic Revolution in America, 1800-1860, and his use of the term revolution accurately estimates the fundamental change that took place in the American attitude to nature and to education.
The fundamental idea of romanticism is that there isn't any boundary between the natural and the divine. Jonathan Edwards emphatically did not see nature and the natural as being either reliable or divine. In his famous 1741 sermon called "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God," he cautions us against the sinful "natural man" and contrasts an imperfect "nature" with divine "grace," which is a special supern atural dispensation that sinful "natural man" must seek if he is to be saved. In the nineteenth century, by contrast, American Romantics like Emerson, Whitman, and even our great educational reformer Horace Mann thought that if you followed nature, in life and in education, you really were following the divine. There were no natural sinners. Sin was a product of civilization.

Observation: it is impossible to grow up on a farm and think nature is your friend.

We used to sweat through every summer Waiting For Rain; inevitably, when rain was late coming, my dad's temper would ignite.

I remember one day hearing explosions towards the front of the house. Minutes later my sister came sobbing and hiccuping into our bedroom.

"I'm never going to marry a man who depends on the weather!" she gasped out a couple of words at a time, in between those involuntary air-gulps that seize up the lungs of a child who's been crying really hard.

I'm an Enlightenment baby.

No comments: