Essay about Politics and Education - 369 Words

Thought-provoking, lucid, original in its conceptual framework, and rich with engaging examples from the real world, this is the text of choice for any course that covers or addresses the politics of American education.

As an academic discipline the study of politics in education has two main roots

I guess my mentors are all dead seventeenth and eighteenth century political philosophers and they did it all — you know Voltaire, Rousseau, Diderot, wrote plays, wrote novels, wrote essays, both fiction and non-fiction. My sense is that language and the facility to write knows no barriers, and most of the barriers that we have today are artificial ones. John Updike writes marvelous essays, Philip Roth has written wonderful essays, Erica Jong has a new non-fiction work on Henry Miller coming out which is an extraordinary work. Those distinctions between fiction and non-fiction, or between one genre and another genre, tend to be the contrivances of academic departments in universities trying to narrow down their field of study. I've never met a writer who didn't finally say, "I'm a writer, I have thoughts and feelings and notions and I put them down and sometimes it comes out as fiction, sometimes as poetry, sometimes as non-fiction."

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Why are the problems of education so critical to the nation's future, and how do we begin to grapple with them? In a radio interview taped in November 1992 — the day after Election Day — I explored this question with political scientist Benjamin Barber.

Politics and education in the past

Clearly, professors have their own individual – and sometimes idiosyncratic– views on the place of essay-writing and other written assignments inuniversity education.

Importance of Education in America | Teen Politics Essay

Barber: I think so. I think that if you don't offend someone, you haven't even woken them up, let alone gotten their mental energies going. One thing that does bother me about so-called political correctness — I don't like the term PC — it's really an unfair word, it's kind of a slur in the way that it's used. But the true part of it is that there are some people who seem unwilling to be offended and provocative speech, free speech, and most importantly educational speech — speech that makes people think — has to be to some degree offensive. That's how you get people woken up, that's how you get people caring, that's how you get them reacting.

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London: I hate to bring up Allan Bloom's book again, but I had the feeling while I was reading that in fifty years it will probably stand side-by-side on the shelves of the library with his. This is a very impassioned book — certainly from the other end of the political spectrum — but it's a book about education, a book about the future of America, a book about American culture and where it's going.

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Barber: An "academic" is a technical definition, somebody who is employed by the academy. Since I am employed by Rutgers University, and I have a chair there, and I direct the Walt Whitman Center for the Culture and Politics of Democracy, I am technically an academician: I am a professional employee of the academy. But if you mean, does that require that I bring a set of academic distinctions between this and that field, and a specialty, and a sense that I'm in the political science department so I can't talk about education or novels or theater, then the answer is clearly no. The academic mind, in that sense, is one of the things that I think is wrong with modern education. The over-specialized, narrow, research-obsessed, mind that refuses to see the larger context, the larger world, into which a particular specialty fits it seems to me has done a real disservice to not just teaching but learning as well. The gradual erosion of liberal learning, of humanistic learning, of a widespread learning, I think is one of the great catastrophes of the modern academy, the modern university. I've certainly tried in my own life to resist it, but it's hard because you don't get rewarded, you know, tenured and promoted. Twenty years ago I had to do a good deal of work that was narrower than I would have liked, and I was lucky that the work I did that was broader was decent enough to win the approval of my colleagues. But, on the whole, a young person who comes into the academy today is told you have to do narrow specialist work or you won't get tenure. And the kind of person that gets tenure for that narrow specialist work is often a poor teacher, someone with no interest in the civic mission of the university, someone with little interest in undergraduate teaching.