Jacks Professor Emeriti of Child Education at Stanford University Nel Noddings addressed the topic of education in a democratic society on March 29.

“When we think about aims, we think about guiding stars,” Noddings said. “Aims are tied to the society in which we live, the culture in which we live, so aims have to change.”

In her speech, Noddings emphasized that schools should provide more than just a good education. Noddings said that schools should have certain aims such as teaching health, ethical character and citizenship.

Another point Noddings brought up in her speech was choice.”In a liberal democracy the thing we enjoy is choice, well-informed choice,” she said.

Noddings believes that schools that provide students with choices, such as what class to take, are more successful. “The choice should be which foreign language to take, not if one should take a foreign language,” she said.

School vouchers were another topic addressed by Noddings. A question that she raised was if a child leaves schools for non-educational reasons, such as religious reasons, then should the public funds be used for this purpose?

Noddings believes that money should not concern the child because this would turn schools into a consumer good.

“A school is not a business,” Noddings said.

Noddings stated that if public education remained a public good then people would be more likely to take care of it for their own children’s benefit, thus helping society.

She questioned whether children sent to restrictive religious schools, such as the Amish, would be properly prepared to join society. She said that when the Supreme Court ruled in favor of Amish parents, allowing them to send their children to their own schools, they ruled against the children and their future.

Noddings also spoke of how she did not like modern schools, their authoritarian rules and standardized testing.

“I find schools today oppressive,” she said. “I don’t want [students] exposed to standardized tests.”

The speaker compared current schools to prisons with metal detectors and security guards. She stated that schools that impose rigid rules on students are harming the students’ socialization process and their ability to learn. She suggested that if schools were smaller, it would alleviate the security problems.

“Students should be allowed to help in establishing rules in their schools,” Noddings said.

Woo can be reached at mwoo@campustimes.org.

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