As the book starts with a very genuinely challenging but intriguing question “Dare the school build a new social order?”, George Counts has awaken the conscience among educators and their respective world about “getting the grip back” for school to function as the agent of change and the agent of conscience in the society. As to “move” socially, Counts has put emphasis more about the significant contribution of what so called as political state of the art to open up more possibilities for the school in building social order.
As he turns out to deliberate further, the political state of the art confirms about the optimistic notion in Counts’ ideas which sparks the hope to provide opportunity for better changes in America’s education, social, and economy within Counts period (economic depression of 1930s). From here, I would “dare” say that whenever there’s hope in ideas, it will always be contextual and applicable across time and century. This is because there’s always coherence between aspiration and circumstantial evidence that leads to everyday changes. This coherence of how education was carried out – is developed – will be reformed places a medium for inspiration where the thoughts and ideas about education movement and reformation that takes the society as an important account for changes. Therefore, not only Counts’ thoughts and ideas were “happening” in his time but also post his time – our time – nowadays. Nonetheless, as a rural boy, Counts’ confirmatory experiences served as bottom-up framework of his analysis that bridged precisely to the crucial issues he laid out (seems like it was scrutinizing the issues but actually it was derived from thorough observation from his own genuine experiences with a crystal clear form of expression:the failure of the public high school to minimize socio-economic imbalance; arrogance of school board for the need of control; socio-economic domination in schools, etc).
At the beginning of my journal, I would like to reflect upon everything my mind and heart could further digest about how education in America takes place itself in the society. Through Counts, I have come to know the knowledge – not just the information. To put it into an account, the idea that education is “the unfailing remedy for every ill” is amazing (1978, p.1). The Counts’ criticism towards this remedy is supposedly to be what is termed as PEM (Progressive Education Movement). Within this term, what has engaged me is that Counts bridges the thesis that only few informed persons would care to defend that school is leading the way to a better social order with a seemingly probable solution of PEM. He expands this bridge by gradually presents its vision as the great faiths of the American people: faith in progress and faith in education (1978, p. 3). In the similar fashion, he designates the standards that entail what and how this PEM is supposed to be: having orientation, possessing direction, implying the moving forward – attitude, genderless, fair and courageous, community building, visionary, and free from indoctrination (1978, p. 4 & 7).
Undoubtedly, the interesting part comes after that – the way he criticizes how hopeless the society at his time regarding the application of PEM where it is straight-forwardly displayed starting from page 5 until page 7. As to facilitate me in understanding his expressive ideas, I have found something more amazing – Counts’ courage in defending his thesis that says all education contains a large element of inevitable imposition by examining a number of widespread fallacies underlying the theoretical opposition to all forms of imposition. He further examines the fallacies as in the following:
“man is born free – helpless; the child is good by nature; the child lives in a separate lives of his own; education is some pure and mystical essence that remains unchanged from everlasting to everlasting; the school should be impartial in its emphasis; the great object of education is to produce the college professor; education is primarily intellectualistic in its processes and goals; the school is an all-powerful educational agency; ignorance rather than knowledge is the way of wisdom; and a dynamic society like ours the major responsibility of education is to prepare the individual to adjust himself to social change” (1978, p. 11-24).
Likely that all of the fallacies/imposition has made me think something more than just education per se – it’s more about how education is manifested and impersonated within the society.
In advance, Counts continues to “awake” my conscience by showing me his ideas about the sources of imposition that he has elaborated in the previous part. This is to be the most important part where I have learned from his perspective on what teacher is, who teacher is, how teacher is supposed to take part – his standards for ideal teacher as in the following: Teachers shall become a social force of some magnitude – reaching the public conscience; teachers should deliberately reach power and make the most out of their conquest” (1978, p. 25-26). However, counts emphasizes that “teacher possess no magic secret to power as to relate that with agrarian proverb – a spring never rises higher than its source – therefore, the power that teachers implement in the schools can be no greater than the power they use in the society” (1978, p. 27). Thus, teachers are expected to be at their best bridge the gap between schools and society where at the end, Counts explicates clearly that there are indubitable and irresistible threats that challenge teachers and their school to be dare in building a new social order: industrialism and capitalism. However, Counts asserts that such threats are highly probably to overcome, to deal with, and to wisely encounter, as long as teachers and their school develop and sustain what Counts refers as “hopes” as in the following:
“Only through a finer and more authentic vision; discharging the age-long obligation which can obscure sophistry; through a legacy of spiritual values; through cultural heritage of the race” (1978, p. 52).
This little book by Counts is amazing – Clear cut, Concise, Solid, and Contextual!
Wini – 2009