Law in Contemporary Society

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Law and the Education System

It seems that in today’s modern society, education, specifically public education, has become more controversial than ever. The controversy surrounding the American education system has become increasingly polarizing as well. From one point of view, the current education system exists only to indoctrinate the children of the country. Furthermore, this indoctrination is, of course, full of ideas these individuals cannot support: gender identity, minority history, etc. The other point of view not only supports the current education system, but advocates for its expansion as well. Those of this view point seem to argue that the education system can be used to better society as a whole; a very progressive, and promising, standpoint. While both these viewpoints seem to be gaining, at least some, traction throughout the country they both have one thing in common: the law.

Turning to the history of the United States, each of these viewpoints both come from, and find support, in distinct educational policies. Each policy, advanced by either side, has deep roots in the history of the United States. Horace Mann and John Dewey are two important figures in US history that deeply influenced the education system that is currently in place. Although these men are no longer with us, their ideas continue to play a major role in the formation of education policy. Furthermore, these ideas can help explain the controversies surrounding education policies that we see today.

Horace Mann was around at the beginning of our nation’s history; however, his ideas and reforms left a lasting impact that we still see today. Horace Mann is often called the Father of the Common School as he essentially advocated for universal education. Horace Mann advocated for a basic level of literacy and education that could benefit all the people of the nation. Mann saw this basic level of education as essential to a successful nation and society. Without it, Mann argued that essential functions of society, such as democracy, would not function to their best ability as the people would not be able to participate fully. His ideas were followed throughout US history as public schools provided a quality foundational education for many citizens. It was not until the COVID pandemic that his ideas were truly questioned and resisted to an unprecedented level.

During the Pandemic, many schools shut down and stayed closed permanently. The legitimacy of the public educational system was questioned to such a high degree that it gained national attention. Many parents, and some high level politicians such as the Florida Governor, seemed to reject the Mann system and advocate for a reversal. Prior to Mann’s reforms many of the nation's wealthy were educated in private schools, through private tutors, or even sent abroad. The Covid pandemic seemed to cause a resurgence of these ideals and many advocated for educational policies that reflected these ideas as opposed to the public system in place. Instead, Mann’s system should continue to be honored and reflected in our educational policies to ensure the equal access to quality education. If this system was abandoned in favor of another more private educational system it would likely lead to a decrease in access to quality education for many throughout the nation.

A dramatic shift in both the educational system and education policy came from the Covid pandemic as well. Many public schools were forced to shut down during the pandemic. Due to these shutdowns another question surrounding education policies arose as well: the question concerning the quality and content of education in public schools. Education policy began to focus on the content, and subsequently the quality, of the information presented in schools. This focus brings another education scholar back into the discussion: John Dewey. John Dewey, like Horace Mann, is an education scholar that was active in the earlier parts of US history. Dewey was active during the 20th century and his ideologies focused on the content of education in the country. His idea of “double consciousness” is most relevant in today’s society. This concept focused on the idea that when educational standards are substituted for individual desires and purposes, it leads to divided attention, or “ double consciousness”. In today’s contentious environment this idea seems ever present, and it is extremely important to name the phenomenon in order to end it. As the content of public education is debated, many are substituting standards previously set to serve their own public desires. As a result of this, the debate surrounding education policy is extremely divided and detracts from the important aspects of the conversation. Given today’s conversation surrounding education policy, it is important to remember this idea as it can help recenter the conversation around policies that serve to unite instead of divide.

Overall, it seems important to remember the ideas of these early educational intellectuals. The law is a powerful tool that can influence education within the nation leading to profound impacts. These impacts can either be beneficial or harmful; depending on the policy that is pursued. As a result, it seems to be important to recall the ideologies of both Horace Mann and John Dewey. Although these men were active in the early years of our history, their ideas continue to play an important role in the shaping of education policies in the nation. Mann’s idea of a common school should continue to be implemented throughout the country. Providing a foundational education for all of the citizens of the nation would undoubtedly have positive benefits for the rest of society. A higher education society would not only improve societal functions, but would no doubt provide positive economic benefits as well. In terms of content, the ideas of John Dewey should be remembered once again. Instead of subjecting education to the desires of individuals, education should aim to serve society as a whole and provide a positive benefit. This would end the divided attention, or double consciousness, that plagues our society today and would instead foster a more unified environment.


Revision 1r1 - 20 May 2023 - 01:01:08 - AndresAguilar
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