Postman & Weingartner: Teaching as Subversive Activity (City Schools)

In this chapter, Postman & Weingartner talk about ‘city schools’ but what they’re really talking about are in fact urban schools in primarily impoverished areas. They say that teachers with conventional, middle class attitudes cause most of the problems they themselves deplore, and the testimony provided by students, both verbally and behavioural, requires that this criticism be met. Conventional school is hostile place, especially to urban, disadvantaged children. They do not learn, they drop out but they don’t go away. They add to the problem of the school’s making. The following suggestions, however romantic or impractical, are no less impractical than allowing the present system to continue. Move from seeing schools as structures to seeing them as processes.
Once we do this, a number of invisible potentials appear.

  1. identifying community problems,
  2. planning possible solutions on a variety of levels, and
  3. carrying out a plan, the objective of which is to produce some immediate and palpable amelioration of the problems.

In a way, such a school permits the school to operate as kind of local ‘think tank’ with the intellectual focus on the problems the staff and the students identify. Such a school has the community as its curriculum and as an ongoing learning laboratory. The services such a school might use as a vehicle include:

  1. community planning and action programmes
  2. immediate daily problems including repairing household alliances and equipment
  3. cultural services, including musical and drastic productions, films, puppet shows,
  4. athletic programmes on a city-wide basis.
  5. services in or to city agencies- hospitals, police, fire, sanitation etc.

Such a school might get into the production of food, clothing, household and personal items, vegetable and flower gardens, baking, toy repair, photography etc.

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