The Curiosity Of School
Education and the Dark Side of Enlightenment
by Zander Sherman
$32, 340 pp, adult
Have you ever wondered how we got to where we are today in public school education, or for that matter where it all began? Have you questioned what it is that students are learning or what teachers are teaching? How are curricula developed and why do they exist? Who is making curricula and what are their motives? What are some of the reactionary school models and are they any better at educating children? And what is education anyway? These are some of the salient issues explored and discussed by Zander Sherman in The Curiosity of School, an insightful, dense and humorous examination of the history of public schooling and the personalities who have been instrumental in shaping our futures.
Beginning with the defeat of the Prussian army in 1806 by Napoleon and the limitations of the Treaty of Tilsit, The Curiosity of School shows how the first compulsory schooling system was initiated to train a militia army under the guise of “school” which would result in the defeat of Napoleon in 1815 at Waterloo. The book then looks at the careers of educational leaders such as Horace Mann, Egerton Ryerson and others who adopted the Prussian system in the United States and Canada. The positive and negative influences of systems such as the Montessori, Waldorf, Summerhill, UCC and homeschooling are discussed in depth. The reader is always led to question whether or not any one of these systems is the “answer” to education needs or indeed if any one system is superior to the others. Zander is always good at explaining the historical origins and differences of each form of schooling.
Beyond exploring the systems, the author exposes the forces that have been purposely constructed to create and perpetuate student debt in for-profit organizations, with the help and approbation of governments. In contrast, he shows the motives behind the millions of dollars donated to education by Andrew Carnegie and John Rockefeller and their desires to build an educated workforce in America. On the subject of for-profit motives, the book explores the historical rise of high stakes testing and the fortune made by Educational Testing Services while creating a world-wide test-oriented society.
The Curiosity of School certainly does show that education has a dark side and is not really concerned with the “education” of youth. Anyone in education should journey through this well-balanced critique of the educational forces that shape each of us and help define our roles in society.
Review by Kent Miller.
This review is from Canadian Teacher Magazine’s Sept/Oct 2013 issue.