Commentary and Criticism about the National Education Association
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“… we need free education Pre-K through grade 16. Physically, adolescence ends at about 22 for girls and about 25 for boys, and yet we artificially end adolescence in this country at 18 and say, “Become an adult.”
NEA President - Lily’s Blackboard
“It is almost shocking to realize that, in more than a 100 cultures around the world, there is really no such thing as adolescence, there is not even a word for that …”
The Myth of Adolescence and Substance Use with Dr. Epstein
Another controversial topic – perfect material for the Anti-NEA Blog.
THE NEA VS. CURRENT RESEARCH
If you skipped the opening quotes above, please take the time to read them now. The essence of this posting lies in the contrast of those two viewpoints.
On the one hand, we have Lily Eskelsen Garcia representing the NEA’s point of view. She claims that children remain adolescents until 22-25 years of age. As a result, she feels that they need “free” public schooling from kindergarten straight through college.
Then you have Dr. Robert Epstein saying the complete opposite – he actually suggests that adolescence is a myth.
Talk about being on opposite sides of an issue.
And, to state the obvious, they can’t both be right.
I leave it to you to make up your own mind after reading this post (and doing additional research on your own), but I thought that it was important to get this information out there for public consumption.
If Epstein’s viewpoint has merit, this will mean a total rethinking of public schools as we now know them. Its kind of crazy to think it, but the current practice of grouping students into grades based on age may be to education what blood-letting was to medicine.
EPSTEIN’S THEORY ON ADOLESCENCE
I first heard of Robert Epstein on the Tom Woods Show podcast.
If you go to Woods’ website, he introduces Epstein in the following way:
“According to Dr. Robert Epstein, adolescence is an artificial construct of recent vintage, unknown in earlier times or indeed in many parts of the world today. The creation of this category, and the assumptions that inform it (by state and society alike) have harmed young people, he argues, and are responsible for the anxiety and angst we associate with the teenage years. These problems are not evident in cultures that lack this category.”
Epstein’s viewpoint here is pretty radical and unconventional. But before you rush to dismiss him as some kind of fringe “nut,” consider his credentials:
“Robert Epstein holds a Ph.D. in psychology from Harvard University, and is the author of 15 books. He is the former editor-in-chief of Psychology Today, founder and director emeritus of the Cambridge Center for Behavioral Studies in Massachusetts, and senior research psychologist at the American Institute for Behavioral Research and Technology.”
Further, he has been published in Scientific American
The Myth of the Teen Brain - We blame teen turmoil on immature brains. But did the brains cause the turmoil, or did the turmoil shape the brains?
SO WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR PUBLIC EDUCATION?
According to Epstein’s website, the problems that arise during teen years can be partially blamed on the way modern public schools are set up. Here is what he has to say about public schools:
“…in the field of education, Epstein advocates shorter compulsory school hours, mandatory education for basics only, more individualized instruction, and an end to age segregation. “
The last suggestion, “an end to age segregation,” struck me as most interesting.
Why do we force kids of the same age group into classrooms simply based on how old they are?
Why not group kids based on maturity, competency, ability level or intelligence?
I can kind of understand how the age method of organizing a school would tend to make sense at first. It is certainly an objective way to classify kids. You can’t really argue with a birth certificate after all.
But is this just taking the easy way out?
More importantly, is it actually harmful to the children as Epstein suggests?
Something to think about at the very least.