The Student Voice

Shared Purpose

               Justin Ober,  University of Massachusetts Dartmouth

The markers that I just got are non-toxic.
My sister says the lake is quite dioxic.
I don't know what these words mean,
I just want to play where it's clean;
but something in the backyard made my dog sick!

The Kids Song   by Moxy Fruvous

Shared Purpose* repeatedly criticizes the way we Americans run our 
society.  To hear this panel say it, we can't seem to balance the demands 
and obligations of work, home, and self, and in general have a tendency to 
screw up the whole system and make a mess of things.  This book bills itself 
as a guide to surviving the bumps and valleys of our lives (provided, of 
course, that we follow the advice of these People Who Know Better.)    
Now I ordinarily don't put much stock in the advice of folks I don't know 
(or who don't know me), but since much of what they say seems to fall into 
the "vague and general" category, I'm willing to listen.

Chapter One describes how the failures of the organized feminist movement 
led women (and men) into this current state of confusion.  By focusing on 
materialistic benefits rather than the true concerns of women (family and 
self), the effects of the feminist movement on divorce law and popular 
culture have ended up shortchanging the women they intended to help.  
Divorces have become so common (along with working women) that their 
psychological aspect has been downplayed in favor of trying to equalize 
the monetary settlements of husbands and wives.  This would be well and 
good, but it's not what women seem to want.  Recent studies show that many 
women would rather be free to spend time on themselves and their families 
(as opposed to having the court-appointed freedom to make money).  The 
feminist movement had a strong impact, but is now wondering if its efforts 
were misdirected.

Despite this controversy, it was the chapter on school which most interested 
me.  As relatively recent high school graduates, we have a unique perspective 
on the topic of how well school prepares us for college, life, and the world 
at large.  Personally, I'll go on record as saying (in the slang we so often 
hear tossed around by students) that the current school model in this 
country "sucks."  From first grade on, students are taught in a restrictive, 
rigid, and regressive environment that simply cannot prepare them for the 
challenges they'll soon face.

Our schools have remained islands of constancy in this swirling world of 
dramatic social change.  Alvin Toffler himself would praise our schools' 
ability to withstand social trends, were it not so destructive to our 
children's psyches.  Educators are forced to abide by outmoded curricula.  
Administrators lack the power or funds to keep schools safe, and above all, 
no one seems to notice that kids hate school! Is it me, or does it make 
sense that schools would be more successful if they were made to be 
interesting?  No, I'm not suggesting that we throw teaching to the wind and 
let kids play games all day - that's what college is for.  Instead, we need 
to take a long hard look at what kids do all day in school (presently a 
whole lot of nothing) and try to imagine what they COULD be doing if they 
were inclined to apply themselves.  We might even, in fact (*gasp!*) ask 
the students what they want from this education we're requiring them to 
receive.  My point is that if we can balance a student's interests with what 
he or she needs in order to function, they'll actually be interested in 
attending school, and we might have a better shot at achieving the lofty 
education goals the Clinton Administration has set for this country.  
Not an easy task by any means, but doesn't it beat the alternative?
*Shared Purpose: Working Together to Build Strong Families and High Performance Companies
  Maria G. MacKavey, et al
  Saranac Lake, NY: AMACOM, 1997
  ISBN: 0814403883

Dear Educator:
The Student Voice   welcomes students' essays.
The essays should deal with educational issues and be well written,
discussing teaching, studying, homework, or any school-related topic
of concern to students. These essays will be an opportunity to encourage
students to write and be published, and they will give us, their teachers,
a way of learning from them as well. The essays will not be edited.
If you are interested in seeing one of your students' essays published
either in hard copy or online, please send me one or two essays that you
would consider well done. The essays can be sent either in e-mail
or as a Word attachment. Thank you.
Dr. Ben Varner,   Associate Professor of English
English Department,   University of Northern Colorado
Greeley, CO 80631   USA