Home > Uncategorized > Uber-Capitalist David Brooks Champions Compassion and Caring over Individualism

Uber-Capitalist David Brooks Champions Compassion and Caring over Individualism

At least a dozen of the posts in this blog have been devoted to either de-bunking David Brooks’ columns or pointing out the paradoxes in his positions. One of the in-house conservative columnists for the NYTimes, Brooks’ columns often take on cultural issues that overlap with public education policy or examine the context of public schools. Today’s column, “Communities of Character“, like many of his essays, supports a broader role for schools that is a direct contradiction to the core values of conservative philosophy in general and today’s Republican party beliefs in particular. Here’s the argument Brooks presents at the outset of his column:

You’d think that schools would naturally nurture deep community bonds. But we live in an era and under a testing regime that emphasizes individual accomplishments, not community cohesion. Even when schools talk about values, they tend to talk about individualistic values, like grit, resilience and executive function, not the empathy, compassion and solidarity that are good for community and the heart.

Researchers at the Harvard Graduate School of Education asked 10,000 middle and high school students if their parents cared more about their personal achievement or whether they were kind. Eighty percent said their parents cared more about achievement — individual over the group.

But there are some schools that nurture achievement precisely by building tight communities.

Brooks then describes two high schools that explicitly emphasize “community values” over individual effort, the Denver School of Science and Technology that convenes morning meetings four days a week to discuss the climate at the school and the Leaders School in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn that is based on the philosophy of Outward Bound. It is unlikely that either school could be scaled up and also noteworthy that both are high schools which are largely exempt from the test-and-punish regimen that dominates each grade level in elementary and middle schools.

Here’s what I found maddening: The “testing regime that emphasizes individual accomplishments, not community cohesion” that Brooks laments is an artifact our legislature created and the regime will be continuing under the Every Student Succeeds Act. The schools that emphasize “individualistic values, like grit, resilience and executive function” and downplay “empathy, compassion and solidarity that are good for community and the heart” mirror the mindset of cold-hearted social Darwinists who believe that their success is deserved because they were born into relatively affluent middle class families… and that view is the dominant one of the conservative wing of the Republican party.

If our country believed in values that are “good for the community” we would stop characterizing government programs as “handouts” and view them as a helping hand for our neighbors in need… we would stop thinking of immigrants as latent radicals and see them as brothers and sisters whose lives have been disrupted by war… and we would publicly shame anyone who attempts to divide us into factions that fight against each other based on our race or religious convictions. Instead we think of our most disadvantaged citizens as “takers”, of immigrants as “moochers”, and gather at rallies for candidates like Donald Trump.

When it comes to schools, we would stop spending money on surveillance and door locks and start spending on counseling and community service projects… we would stop the practice of basing student success on individual test results and examine the students ability to relate to others in the classroom… and we would worry less about tax rates and more about the conditions many of our children face in their daily lives.

Advertisements
  1. No comments yet.
  1. No trackbacks yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: