Sugata cannot continue teaching with the methods of the

Sugata Mitra, a TED prize winner and Professor of Educational Technology at Newcastle University, England, once exposed a sad truth about our educational system: “We cannot continue teaching with the methods of the 19th century and hope to prepare our children for the 21st century.” Twenty-first century students, like myself, agree with Mitra as nineteenth-century teaching methods often feel suffocating. Most often, we have to sit impatiently in a confined traditional classroom and mindlessly stare at the board for hours. In addition to typical 7 hours spent in school, we have to laboriously endure through an average of 4 hours of homework, innumerable community service hours, and insufferable extracurricular activities. As a result, a whopping 98 percent of students said they were bored in school according to a survey of more than 81,000 students in 110 high schools across 26 states by Indiana University’s High School Survey of Student Engagement (HSSEE) (Bryner, Jeanna.). Noticing the issues in today’s educational system, Neil Postman, the author of The End of Education, emphasizes that our educational system provides confused students with false ideology of economic utility, consumerism, technology, and ethnic separatism instead of a unique, motivating “narrative” that inspired former generations and provides an alternative vision to education. This literary work has received many positive reviews. For instance, The New York Times praises the book for being “informal and clear” and Postman’s ideas for being “appealingly fresh” (Lemann, Nicholas.). The Christian Science Monitor commends that his proposals would bring an “exciting, unifying focus to a school’s curriculum” (Nartonis, David K.) Scott London calls the book “clear” and “strikingly persuasive” (London, Scott.). With these positive comments, The End of Education deserves attention from education reformers. In this book, Neil Postman employs metaphors of “Fallen Angel,” “The American Experience,” and “The Law of Diversity” in order to figuratively suggest the means to reform our educational system. Certainly, Neil Postman is a qualified critic whose ideas on public education hold weight. Upon graduation at Columbia University, he received a master’s degree in 1955 and an Ed.D (Doctor of Education) degree in 1958. In 1959, he started teaching at New York University (Communications). Subsequently, Neil Postman served as Chair of NYU’s Department of Culture and Communication for many years (Strate, Lance). As a scholar, professor, and public critic, he contributed and enriched many different disciplines, including linguistics, semantics, media studies, communication, education, journalism, English, psychology, philosophy, history, cultural studies, political science, sociology, technology studies, religious studies. Across these disciplines, and throughout his life, he strived to promote and foster the field of general semantics (Strate, Lance). Having enriched more than 15 fields of study, Neil Postman is a prolific author who works tirelessly to contribute to his field to study and, thus, becomes a role model and an inspiration to many people around the world, especially in the US. Not wanting to be confined within the university’s boundaries, he also ventures into authorship in which he wrote more than 20 books in the field of semantics as he strives to preserve the beauty of the English language (Strate, Lance). Therefore, his dedication, passion, and experience inside and outside the university world immensely boost his credibility.Postman employs a metaphor of a “Fallen Angel” to signify that even though we are fallen and prone to make mistakes, we, like angels, are able to rectify the mistakes that we did. He claims that “there is very little tolerance for error in the classroom… In varying degrees, being wrong is a disgrace; one pays a heavy price for it” (125). In order to remedy it, Postman suggests that teachers should be “error detectors who hope to extend the intelligence of students by helping them reduce the mistakes in their knowledge and skills” (120) and that students should also be error detectors who would point out the mistakes in their teacher’s lecture. By doing so, both teachers and students can improve upon their mistakes (122). It is essential for students to acknowledge their mistakes in order for them to learn and improve. A famous Chinese proverb informs that “Failure is the mother of success.” In other words, before achieving success, one must expect to make many errors and mistakes. For example, according to Scott Cowley, “Edison failed to refine the light bulb so many times it took him 10,000 attempts to perfect.” Thomas Edison, one of the greatest scientist of all time, failed not only one time, but uncountable times. He did not and would not give up and give in to anything. He kept trying and improving in order to finally achieve the result which made him the greatest scientist of all time. Sadly, people, in general, are judgemental to one degree or another. Human beings, the most vulnerable, insecure, and egocentric species known to mankind, have inexplicably provoked and developed the fear of judgement since the dawn of civilization. In fact, most people would rather lie than to admit their mistakes when they are told so. Furthermore, Brett and Kale McKay claim, “in our day-to-day lives, we all know folks who constantly blame their failures on everything but themselves. We all justify our failures to one degree or another.” Therefore, it is our ego that leads us on the path of failure; however, if we can overcome it, we will ultimately achieve success. In addition to the metaphor of “The Fallen Agnel,” Postman employs a metaphor of a “The American Experiment” which he portrays as an interminable and captivating question mark. “The idea,” he claims, “was to allow everyone to participate in the arguments, provided they were not slaves, women, or excessively poor… Through argument, the slaves were freed and admitted to participation, and their progeny are now among our most vigorous arguers; then women; then the poor; and more recently, students and homosexuals and even, God help us, radio talk-show hosts” (72). He warns that America would cease to be a major power in the world when every American stop to “participate in the arguments” (73). In truth, America has always been “a perpetual and fascinating question mark.” Through arguments, the riskiest problems can be solved. We argue “to solve problems or make judgments. The world is filled with controversies about how best to act, all with competing interests and evidence that prescribe a particular direction. Argument helps facilitate decision-making about what actors should and should not do” (Bannon). Thus, arguments have always been an important aspect of this land of “Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.” I myself also participate in the arguments in most classes, notably in my AP English Language and Composition class, where we argue whether or not the establishment of the Buy Nothing day is good, whether or not the “curtain rippers” (secret exposers)  are criminals, and whether or not power is diffused in America. Moreover, I also learned to recognize logical fallacies in order to not fall into the irrational trap made by others. And when we, as a nation, stop arguing and negotiation, hardship prevails. For instance, when the North and the South ceased to argue and negotiate over the issue of slavery, the Democratic Party split and the Civil War became a reality (Landis). However, when the Union won and decided what to do with the South, they resume to argue and, therefore, started the Reconstruction in which the South was restored politically, economically, and socially. In conclusion, we started with a question mark and will end with a question mark. In addition to the metaphor of “The American Experiment,” Postman employs ‘The Law of Diversity” to signify that “America has always been a nation of nations, our schools always multicultural… though schooling a common culture could be created” (74). He further argues that “the attempt by some schools to ensure that students cultivate a deep sense of ethnic pride… subordinates or ignores the essential task of public schools, which is to find and promote large, inclusive narratives for all students to believe in” (144). Through this, he concludes that promoting diversity is the opposite of promoting ethnic pride because promoting ethnic pride can lead to discrimination in schools. I agree with Neil Postman that diversity is what makes America great and unique from other countries. However, immigrants have not always been treated with respect. For example, Christopher Klein states, “Today, 32 million Americans—10 percent of the country’s population—celebrate their Irish roots. There was a time, however, when the thought of Americans honoring all things Irish was unimaginable. This is the story of the prejudice encountered by refugees from Ireland’s Great Hunger and how those Irish exiles persevered to become part of the American mainstream.” Furthermore, she explains that it was because these poor and disease ridden refugees threatened to take jobs away from the Anglo-Saxon Americans. Subsequently, the Irish clambered up the social and political ladder and controlled many powerful political machines such as Tammany Hall in New York as an influx of Southern and Eastern European immigrants took hold in the late nineteenth century. Thus, the Irish transformed the United States, just as the United States transformed the Irish. The point is that newcomers are not treated very nicely and have to desperately resort to promoting ethnic pride instead of a common culture, leading to discrimination against the next generation of immigrants. Likewise, “The U.S. Department of Justice is threatening to sue Southern Illinois University to block three paid fellowships for minority and female graduate students, saying the university uses race and gender as factors in awarding graduate student fellowships” (Page). In other words, Southern Illinois University promotes ethnic pride instead of a common culture, exclusiveness instead of inclusiveness, and discrimination instead of impartiality. Moreover, in the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson clearly states, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” Since we are all equal and should be treated equally, schools should promote the equality among all students instead of pointing out how they are different. Thus, equality should be prioritized over cultural ties. Clearly, Neil Postman has strived to improve our educational system in order to make it fit the themes of the 21st century. He has also envisioned a world where students would go beyond the suffocating traditional classrooms to experience learning in the real world, to become active in their community, and to protect the environment in order to become a modern, cosmopolitan, and caring citizens. However, he fails to provide a means to accomplish this. Leaving us wondering, how could we shift from traditional classroom learning to real world hands-on learning and what would be the cost of doing so?