The School House Rock

Some of you may have the wrong impression. First you’ll notice there are no bold primary colors or catchy tunes in this article. Second, while I may sound like an old puppet in the balcony, this is not about conjunctions’ functions at any junction, nor is this article sponsored by a consonant. However, I do hope this collection of familiar nouns and verbs has some kind of moral. So I ask for your patience as I attempt to unpack an old-fashioned idea that’s making more sense the older I get.

The emphasis here is not on the fourth word in the title, but rather on the nostalgic, hokey notions caught up in the third. The metaphor of school as house contains what I believe to be significant implications, and embracing that metaphor is the bedrock of effective schools. In these “houses” real, live, messy human beings teach and learn how to be better moms and dads, citizens and neighbors. As one old book suggested, houses built on the solid rock of a clear understanding are more likely to stand when the wind kicks up.

There have been plenty of high winds and a lot to fight over in the last 150 years of this grand North American experiment to educate all of our citizens. We have probably fought more over the form and function of the school “house” that almost any other issue. But that’s hardly news. Over twenty-four centuries ago, Aristotle complained that “men do not agree on what they would have a child learn” or even the form of the building where the child learns. If the American architect Louis Sullivan is right, “the form follows the function.” Consequently, if we can figure out what the function (or purpose) of education ought to be, then the form or shape of the school “house” where it happens should follow. But it’s just not that easy.  [This is only part of the article. Want to read more? Subscribe to the website by choosing "Register" from the menu above. It's free!]