Down the Rabbit Hole

December 15, 2011


“Alice came to a fork in the road. ‘Which road do I take?’ she asked.
‘Where do you want to go?’ responded the Cheshire Cat.
‘I don’t know,’ Alice answered.
‘Then,’ said the Cat, ‘it doesn’t matter.”

–Lewis Carroll

Education has taken a nasty fall. In fact, if we do not commit to a serious dialogue with the intention of finding immediate solutions, we will never find our way back up. At the bottom of this hole are entire generations without focus or incentive. At the top of the pile are the latest young college graduates, without the necessary tools of creative and analytical thinking, nor the processes to come up with solutions and answers to the multitude of problems awaiting them. And we are working on the newest generation, insuring a continuation of more of the same. Why would we do this? How is this happening and is there anyone building a ladder to the surface? One system that is attempting to work through this conundrum is the German school system, although, even in this forward thinking system the cracks are beginning to appear.

In the U.S. people don’t like to pay taxes, even if that means their children receive an inferior education and grow up to be welfare recipients condemned to minimum wage jobs, if they can find them. Henceforth, our state-funded schools do not have adequate funds to support healthy education. Not to mention that higher education is no longer a choice, but a matter of privilege, and if you don’t have it, you borrow it. If we take a closer look at the Bank/Corporate-to-Students zero-sum game, we will find that it is a form of indentured servitude. Easy credit, and low and stagnant wages. The Banks/Corporations win by ensuring themselves a profitable return and a constant supply of worker-bees–– under educated and ill prepared to come up with alternatives to the situation. Our young people are forced into unproductive, creatively un-challenging, low-income jobs, barely able to make ends meet in order to pay back or risk failing into default.

Here in Germany, where I’m currently residing, education is public and placed strictly in the hands of each of its 16 “states.” Each state is responsible for and administers to primary, secondary, career training schools and much of higher education, and is free to create its own curricula. That means that most schools, colleges and universities are paid for with taxpayer money, with a few institutions of higher learning charging a nominal fee. Teachers are Federally-tenured and there is coordination between state and federal administrators, teaching and testing standards ensuring that education is relatively equal throughout the country. However, globalization has pretty much corporatized education, even in Germany. Corporations want school children in the work force as soon as possible in order to fill positions in a rapidly growing industrial-export economy. As a result, the system is implementing a reduction in the number of years attended below college, from 13 to 12 years. School begins at 7:30 a.m., ensuring that children can ride the bus or that parents can drop their children off at school, relieving traffic congestion for people on their way to work. Sounds somewhat sound, however many studies have recently turned up indicating that both students and teachers ability to cope with this early biorhythm has affected attention and learning. Hmmm.

Empowering teachers helps to ensure a productive and fulfilling classroom experience. The Corporatizing of education has eroded the primary teacher-to-student experience. Every child has different affinities, abilities and interests that affect the way they absorb and learn from the materials presented in any given curriculum. Adding to this are classrooms full of multi-cultural, multi-ethnic children, creating a situation, which makes it next to impossible for teachers to do their jobs and connect with students on a deeper level. In the U.S. a broad-spectrum curriculum has been imposed without acknowledging these factors, effectively devaluing the creative and critical thinking that might one day turn the tables on the corporate imperative of a “dumbed-down” work force, perfectly designed to turn a corporate profit.

Taking into consideration that not everyone will learn the same way, at the same rate, or has the desire to go to the same place with their accumulated knowledge, the biggest difference between schools in the U.S. and Germany is that of freedom of choice. The German constitution guarantees all citizens the right to fully develop their human potential, which includes the right to choose one’s occupation and to have access to the appropriate career training. It recognizes that if you are going to become a productive member of a multi-dimensional society, overlaying one educational model simply does not work. Therefore parents and students are given a choice early on. The system gives parents the possibility, based on aptitude, grades and interests by the end of the 4th grade, to select what type of secondary school the child should attend and has made this flexible as well, by allowing students to change their minds later on. This ability to choose continues by offering students based upon their interests, a dual-track job skills training program: a three year classroom instruction together with a paid internship (Berufsfachschule), as well as other options. To read more about the German education system see: The Educational System in Germany

The less money that goes towards education, the less time and resources teachers have to give students the attention and individual respect they deserve. We do not have to agree to the Bank/Corporate agenda dictating to our educational systems. If we are to climb out of the rabbit hole, and begin to take back our rights to choose our future and create our lives, we have to change teaching paradigms and instruct our children how to think creatively and problem solve with patience to persevere in the face of obstacles. A distracted and fractured mind is an all to easily malleable mind, and we’ll fast find ourselves in a complicit wonderland, wondering how we got there:

Mad Hatter: Would you like a little more tea?
Alice: Well, I haven’t had any yet, so I can’t very well take more.
March Hare: Ah, you mean you can’t very well take less. 
Mad Hatter: Yes. You can always take more than nothing.

Jeannie Winston Nogai
Owner / Winston Nogai Design / E:


Filed under Education

3 responses to “Down the Rabbit Hole

  1. Terrie

    Germany has a much stricter immigration policy than the US, therefore that, coupled with their “short work” program, workers are paid for a short day, rather than laid off, results in less unemployment in Germany than in the US, but the fact is that most of the work is in, manufacturing, and Germany limites the influx of foreginers with computer science and IT backgrounds. Not sure if that is the fulfilling work that you are speaking of. Lets not always look to foreign Countries to fix America. Lets look at the reason that the Tax dollars along with the Education level is going down the Rabbit Hole. The top heavy Adminstration of the School Districts, which sucks the funds up before actually getting to the Schools and Classrooms is a huge problem. Its not that there isnt enough Tax dollars being collected…Government run institutions and programs are like water-they always seek their level, no matter how much money the Government takes in, it always needs more. State run School Districts is a step in the right direction. The Fed should stay out of Education. What about the Voucher Idea, what happened to that. Why is it that Private schools can take $8000.00 annuall and run a full program -complete with Music, Art, Science, Sports, etc, and provide an excellent education, while the Public Schools cant even provide the basics with that same amount. Private schools are able to assimilate and take in multi-cultural students, and provide an in depth experience for the Students…so whats wrong with this picture?

    • Jeannie

      HI Terrie,

      Thanks for your interesting response. While it is true that Germany developed a “short day work program” during the last recession, it was created to keep companies producing and keep people working. The way it works is that the companies and corporations pay for 6 hours a day and the government pays for the additional 2hours to keep the wages fair at an 8 hour day. The way I see it having a job in manufacturing is a lot better than being unemployed––with world economies being what they are “fulfilling” seems to be subjective, at least for now. And right now Germany is trying to import foreigners with significant computer science and IT backgrounds to keep up with demand. That may change once this next wave of students graduate, but we’ll see.
      I completely agree with you that no one should fix America but America. But we can stand to learn by example.Your explanation of where the Tax dollars are going is a good point and should be addressed, and think the Voucher Program should indeed be reconsidered. I am not sure what you meant by private schools taking $8,000.00 annually? Most tuition fees at private schools are quite steep, sometimes running around $10,000.00 -$17,000.00 per year or in private colleges, $17,000.00 per semester! That is a big chunk of change to play around with. Nevertheless, I agree with your points and it’s time to come up with workable solutions. Stay tuned!

  2. Terrie Dierlam

    sorry, i wrote this fast so excuse typos and such. the 8K was addressing the elementary costs per child. I just think that when we constantly look at other Countries to fix America, it doesn’t really apply in the real world. The reference to “fulfilling” comes from my thoughts that now adays the young people want more meaningfull fulfilling jobs and the run of the mill job, although it pays the bills, isn’t capturing the youths desires…I think they need a dose of reality however! Baby steps!! Happy New Year!

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