Herbert Kohl's 36 Children is a brutally honest account of his experiences and reflections as a sixth grade teacher in an elementary school in Harlem, New York City, during the 1960's. First published in 1967, 36 Children describes the startling poverty, prejudice and injustices which were prevalent throughout the New York City schooling system. Albeit the four decades that have passed following the novel's original publication, the issues described continue to be relevant today. It is Upton Sinclair's The Jungle for the field of education and social justice. Kohl's honesty throughout the novel is at times disturbing but consistently compelling and illuminating. As described by Book Week, 36 Children is not only an indictment of the defeatist assumptions perpetuated by the American education establishment, but a testament to the locked-in abilities of each child that is waiting to be tapped at once a searing condemnation of conventional educational methods and a message of hope against the odds.
[...] According to Kropotkin, it is not, as Hobbes contends, human nature to be at war against all, but to mutually aid and protect those of the same species; “this virtue, one of the noblest with which man is endowed, seems to arise incidentally from our sympathies becoming more tender and more widely diffused, until they are extended to all sentient beings. As soon as this virtue is honored and practiced by some few men, it spreads through instruction and example to the young, and eventually becomes incorporated into public opinion”. [...]
[...] The curriculum with which Kohl was instructed to implement also served as a point for conflict. Not only were the students given books which were old, falling apart, and out of date, but they were of no relevance to their own lives. As described by Donaldo Macedo in Literacy: Reading the Word and the World, dominant curriculum is designed primarily to reproduce the inequality of social classes, while it mostly benefits the interests of an elite minority”. It is through these dominant values of curriculums that “subordinate cultures and produced in the classroom”. [...]
[...] Life in the state of nature is “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short” (xiii). Self-defense against violent death serves as the highest human necessity from which all rights are born and therefore, the desire to end war is materialistic and driven out of the self-interest for preservation. Therefore, it is out of this self-interest that humans choose to enter into a social contract which guarantees the safety of all. In the formulation of the sovereign state peaceful society ruled under an unquestionable, forever just authority/monarchy), each individual in the community is protected from the of every man against every man”(Pt Ch. [...]
[...] In observing the children during the free time he allows in the classroom, Kohl builds an understanding of the point of view of the students which is the first step in effective conflict resolution. From this understanding, he is able to acknowledge their different point of views, and break down the blank slate of other” that he had originally experienced. Using open body language and focusing on points where they both agree, Kohl establishes a framework for a curriculum from which the students can actually relate to the materials being explored and analyzed. [...]
[...] Therefore, it must be considered how one can educate that which is other”. Education is often equated with power, specifically in the sense that the American education system has educated” many groups in order to keep them down and their place” and the transition between the socio-economic scale to a minimum. Lisa Delpit further explores these issues of power and silenced dialogue in The Silenced Dialogue: Power and Pedagogy in Educating Other People's Children (1988). One must determine what the purpose of education truly is. [...]
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