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Taking Education To Court

January 23, 2014 by Tunya

There are two kinds of courts for seeking justice.

We have the law courts — with lawyers, huge expenses, victims/perpetrators — and eventually some judgment with remedies prescribed (maybe). 

And then there is the “court of public opinion”  — with media, movies, good guys & bad guys — and public opinion mobilization that might actually influence reforms.

In the first category, the legal, one of the most profound court cases in education was Brown vs Board of Education (1954) that outlawed school segregation by race. It has had long-lasting benefits to civil society.  Another case with anticipated long-term benefits was the Rick Moore case (2013), which established the right of a dyslexic child to special services. It took 15 years for this case to weave through the courts but eventually, the Supreme Court of Canada declared that “Adequate special education is not a dispensable luxury . . . it is the ramp that provides access to the statutory commitment to education made to all children . . . ”

However, a year later, the father is dispirited, cynical and dubious that responsiveness will improve for other learning disabled students.  Yet we are told that as many as one in five people are dyslexic to some degree. School systems and training outfits pay little attention.  Obviously, the clients’ needs are not being heeded.  So, whom does the public education system serve?  That’s the Big Question.

In the “court of public opinion”, much has been happening worldwide.  Petitions and campaigns do help raise consciousness.  Many movies have been produced that slam education systems for abandonment of intended purposes — Waiting for Superman, The Lottery, etc.

In 1987 I proposed a MOCK TRIAL to a Future of Freedom Conference in California.  I was able to only get as far as producing a brochure but got no uptake from others to advance the idea. Below are some pieces and quotes from the brochure:

PUBLIC EDUCATION ON TRIAL  “School has become the planned process which tools man for a planned world, the principal tool to trap man in man’s trap.  It is supposed to shape each man to an adequate level for playing a part in this world game. Inexorably we cultivate, treat, produce, and school the world out of existence. Ivan Illich, 1971.

– On a small secret island, SANOS, live several hundred who hived-off because they saw a totalitarian doom descending on them.  They resolved to be the “last man” — guardians of the human spirit. One day, they receive a desperate message from the bigger world — “Help us to reverse our self-destruction . . . losing the power of intellectual effort to even keep doublethink straight . . .

– Bringing to SANOS some of these petitioners,  after 3 days of court proceedings, it is determined that:

– The public school system is the source of the self-sabotage and the remedy is to dismantle the infrastructure.  These are the “crimes to humanity” deemed to have been perpetrated — erosion of the family — dumbed-down public — killing the joy of learning — atrophy of democracy — growth of dogmatism — habituation to “experts” — dependence on the state with few choices or exits — individualism curtailed — economic sluggishness — voluntarism mocked  — extinguishing introspection.

[NOW, in 2014, reading just a few excerpts from the brochure, I am surprised how prophetic were my speculations. 26 years ago we were NOT so subjugated as we are now.  Today, suspicions and anxieties are being expressed regarding the 21st Century Learning “transformations” being imposed on schools in the Western World.  My fervent hope is that a movie could be made along the lines of this mock trial to hammer home some of the real misgivings regarding these imposed changes.  Changes which not only alter curriculum but also make serious intrusions into worldview, mind, brain and emotions. ]

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