The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, April 12, 2002


Timely topic inspires Carlisle futurists

At first glance, one might expect pessimism from the Gleason Library book group enrolled in the Ends of Civilization program, especially post-September 11. Even the first book, The End of Education by Neil Postman (1996), carries an ominous title. However, the author plays a trick on us: he focuses not on the eradication of education, but on the goal of education, an extremely appropriate topic in town at the moment. Postman invites us to look beyond conventional subjects and test taking in public schools and consider educating children not for careers, but for life.

"Our schools try to be creative, but there are so many barriers," said discussion leader David A. Fedo, Ph.D. and academic dean of Curry College. There are 40 charter schools in Massachusetts, but Fedo calls the results "mixed."

If you had the power to redefine the curriculum of our local school system, what would you choose as the main subjects? Perhaps English and Math? Perhaps you consider yourself a "futurist" and believe Technology is essential. And what do you think are the most important skills for a child to attain through education? Think about it a moment before continuing with this article.

Postman proposes a curriculum based on three major subjects: Architecture, Anthropology, and Astronomy. Architecture provides the key to human continuity and the ability to build on the knowledge attained by previous generations. Anthropology promotes an understanding of different cultures and contributes to development of a word view. Finally, Astronomy inspires "awe" and awareness of human interdependence and global responsibility. Postman emphasizes the development of critical thinking skills in students. He advises doing away with constricting textbooks, and suggests that teachers should use a copier to reproduce only the best and most pertinent information.

The fifteen members of the book group lost no time in questioning the book's premises, and those of local and state schools. Participants included a preponderance of educators (even a member of the Concord school board), an assortment of professionals, and artists. Appreciative of the wide discussion, Fedo called the group "lively."

The Massachusetts Foundation for the Humanities provides the reading materials and discussion program that was developed for the millennium. The program will conclude this year with visits to 27 libraries. The program consists of five sessions held two weeks apart with the next meeting in Carlisle taking place on Tuesday, April 16 in the Hollis Room of the Gleason Library. The Ordeal of Integration by Orlando Patterson will provide next meeting's base for discussion. For more information, call the library at 1-978-369-4898.

2002 The Carlisle Mosquito