Unity in American High Schools: Why it Left and How to Get it Back
Bolton, G. Jacob
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“Civilizations should be measured by the degree of diversity attained and the degree of unity retained” (W.H. Auden). Throughout the history of education, a simple formula has been used to teach students: the teacher instructs the class, while the students listen and are tested. This formula has worked well for thousands of years, and a homogenous classroom will flourish using this technique. However change looms on the horizon for this time-tested educational technique. Modern classrooms experience more diversity than any previous period throughout the history of American education (Baeth, Johnson, 2001). The necessity for sharing cultural experiences, languages and traditions has never before been more necessary. Reconstructing the classic classroom by placing an emphasis on the students to respect and care for about another’s experiences and opinions will create a more unified scholastic experience for all involved, allowing stronger individual performances within the classroom. Undoing the archaic educational roles will generate a learning environment in which all participants are welcome and encouraged to contribute without the authoritative structure, and assist in making a better socially educated group of individuals. In a post-September 11th and post-Columbine America, we have learned first hand about the fear, hatred and darkness of the world. Even our nation’s unofficial “muckraker laureate,” Michael Moore (2003), acknowledges that the fear of American society has come to a point, “when multiple deaths happen at the same time, with such viciousness, and on live TV, no rationalization . . . can undo the visceral response of witnessing actual horror as we did on September 11.” This event has created a culture in 9 which hatred is cultivated, mainly out of fear. Evidence of this are the numerous attacks on students of Arabic decent, plus the institution of the Patriot Act which allows the federal government to monitor and gain access to just about any information on just about any person they desire. I believe that fear has no place in the educational system of Twenty-First century America. My suggestion is that we squelch this fear and hatred before it is allowed to continue, by promoting unified classrooms and school settings and by cultivating learning communities of respect, encouragement and support. I like to think of the classroom as a garden, where the teacher plays the role of green thumb extraordinaire. Each separate student represents a different flower or herb, and all of these plants require their fair share of nourishment to succeed and flourish. Yet there is only a certain amount of space for the plants to grow, making it necessary for them to work as a group, helping and respecting one another until they have reached full bloom. Although some flowers blossom at different times of the year, the objective for the entire garden is the same: to work as a unified team promoting each member of their group to flourish. No matter how idealistic this reverie of mine may be, there is no reason not to strive for the perfect and unified classroom. Ever since I can remember I have wanted to become a minister. I have been applying to divinity schools throughout the fall and am looking to further my education by entering a Master of Divinity program in 2004. I chose to enter the education program at Kalamazoo College for one reason, I believe that teaching is a large part of the ministry and the better teacher I am, the better pastor I will become. I believe I would apply the pedagogical techniques that I have learned, and apply them to sermons, 10 Christian education classes, as well as my every day life. Teaching is also the most overlooked form of ministry. Teachers are extremely influential in the development of every child as they learn and grow into adult human beings. I am extremely excited to be a part of the teaching community. My passion to become a minister has influenced my desire to study the concept of unity in the classroom. For this paper, I feel very strongly that the urgency surrounding unity has had no greater historical significance than today. America truly is a melting pot and in order for the whole of America to become more than the sum of our parts, our nation must become unified and promote healthy and just relations in all of our domestic and international affairs. Even when individuals of similar backgrounds and interests are placed in a constrained environment, tension can rise due to tempers flaring, cliques, societal structure and personal biases among many other reasons. I want to take the situation of MHS to discover what issues cause a school to lack unity and then devise ways in which to create a unified school. The best way to create a unified nation is by educating the youth about the beneficial aspects of unity within a community. This is best done by having students become a part of a unified experience in school. Once they recognize the advantage of working to create a unified community, the students can then go forth into the world with the desire to build their own united communities.