Sunday, September 28, 2014

Could Frank Bruni Be Any More Wrong?

(M.A. Reilly, 2008)

In today's opinion column, The Wilds of Education, Frank Bruni asserts:

While these efforts differ greatly, they overlap in their impulse to edit the world to the comfort of students, and that’s especially troubling in this day and age, when too many people use technology and the Internet to filter a vast universe of information and a multitude of perspectives into only what they want to hear, a tidy, cozy echo chamber of affirmation.
Bruni's misreading here is classic. He references several current educational happenings in an attempt to demonstrate that parents are coddling the kids and that 'people' are already employing technological methods to filter their world.  The parents in the Dallas suburb Bruni references who are suppressing high school students'  right to read seven (7) titles are not about the comfort of students.

Denying another access to print has never been about the comfort of other.

The conservative Jefferson County BOE who wants to limit materials that “encourage or condone civil disorder" are not motivated by children's comfort. There, BOE member Julie Williams and her panel are reviewing history curricula in order to ensure that " 'positive aspects' of U.S. heritage that 'promote citizenship, patriotism, essentials and benefits of the free enterprise system, respect for authority and respect for individual rights.' Materials should not, it says, 'encourage or condone civil disorder, social strife or disregard of the law.'" (from here). 

Revisionist history has never been about the comfort of other.

Bruni asks: "Isn’t education supposed to provoke, disrupt, challenge the paradigms that young people have consciously embraced and attack the prejudices that they have unconsciously absorbed?" 

And the answer here is not quite.  

Yes, an education can provoke, disrupt, and challenge and democracies with public education are better served by ensuring that such disruption is possible, if not probable.  In the situations Bruni cites, it is not the youth who are asking to be shielded, but rather their parents and adult community members who are reducing freedom in order to maintain a status quo.  

Let's not call this comforting the kids. 

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