K-12 Education Viewed Through the Lens of Conservative Values & World-View

Note: this is the second in a series of posts on the effect of conservative & progressive values on K-12 education.

Progressive values should set the ideals of teaching, and learning in American society.  Unfortunately, the “cloud of authoritarianism looms over education, making it very difficult to design instruction around progressive values.  We’ll refer to those who support this latter view as the “authoritarians.”

In order to understand the authoritarianism that has claimed schooling in America, we can glean insights into the effectiveness of this approach by using the values that conservatives use to frame their issues, and make their policy decisions. As George Lakoff says,  “radical conservatives have taken over the reins of government and have been controlling the terms of political debate for many years” (Lakoff, George (2006-10-03). Thinking Points: Communicating Our American Values and Vision (Kindle Locations 131-133). Macmillan. Kindle Edition).

Conservative World View

“World view refers to the culturally-dependent, generally subconscious, fundamental organization of the mind,” according to William W. Cobern, who has done extensive research on world-view and how it impinges science teaching.  Ones world view predisposes one to feel, think and act in predictable way, according to Cobern.  World-view inclines one to a particular way of thinking.

In my argument about trying to explain the current state of schooling in the U.S., we will look at two different political and social world-views, the conservative world-view, and the progressive world-view.  Both world-views have played significant roles in American history, including public education.  In this post we’ll examine the conservative world-view and how it has affected the way in which public schools determine curriculum, hold schools accountable for achievement of its students, and the effectiveness of schools and teachers.

According to research by George Lakoff and the Rockbridge Institute, the moral world-view of either conservatives or progressives can be understood by using the conceptual metaphor of Nation as Family.  Using this idea, ones political beliefs tend to be structured by how we think of family, and our early experiences in our own family which contribute to our beliefs.  Thinking of a nation as a family is a familiar notion, as in phrases such as Mother Russia, Fatherland, sending sons and daughters off to war, the founding fathers, Big Brother (see Joe Brewer, Rockbridge Institute, discussion here).  In Brewer’s thinking, the conceptual metaphor of nation as family organizes our brains in this way: homeland is home, citizens are siblings, the government (or head) is parent, and so forth.  The diagram below shows the organization of schooling according to a conservative world-view.

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