This student came to me, he said, “I’m leaving.” He was in one of my more advanced classes, I think it was ‘theory of action’ – if you want anything abstract then it’s theory of action. We were having a great time in class, it was fascinating, although totally irrelevant, and he came to me one morning and he said, “I can’t stay because last night I was drinking beer with my buddies and I realised that I practically couldn’t talk to them anymore. I love my friends, I love my family, and I don’t want to lose them. And if I stay here I’m going to lose them.” I was both horrified and I knew he was right. […] There are all sorts of essays written by people from working class families who become professors and they all tell the same kind of story: some can go back, they switch on and off their personalities, and others have a very hard time doing it.
People keep saying that we need to have a national curriculum and I say to them, “We have a national curriculum – through the media […]”. School’s job is to somehow break through that … we have to work on changing the media. The school is educating the heads, not the hearts or anything else, and the media is educating us in ambition and distraction, […] turning us away from the important problems rather than towards them.
John Dewey talked about educating the whole person. What I talk about is that we need to be thinking about educating not just the whole person, but all our children in the whole range of the culture’s wealth. […] So we need to be thinking more broadly about what parts of culture we’re passing down to our children. There’s also the ‘problem of generations’, and this may be the biggest issue of all. If you start looking at education from the perspective of the culture instead of the individual and one of the main questions, in western culture at least, is: “What are we passing down to the next generation?” Are we passing down our cultural wealth? Or are we passing down our liabilities? And when you look around and you see the greed, the racism, inequality and all the rest, you know that we’re passing down our liabilities. […] Instead of just looking at our own child and how he or she is going to get a job we must start looking at what the culture is passing down. Are we passing down any kind of belief in the value of the Earth and the need to preserve it? No! No, but we’ve got to.