At the recent National Middle School Association (NMSA) annual conference University of Florida education professor Paul George gave a lecture entitled “ Don’t Think of an Elephant” Paradigms in American Life and Education to a small group of educators.

The main title of the lecture came from a book of the same name by Democratic strategist George Lakoff who feels that conservatives have dominated the debate on key issues and lays out an outline on how progressives can reframe the debate.

George has applied the Lakoff strategy in his efforts to reframe the debate on education. He started the lecture off by defining the traditional paradigm or point of view which he defines thusly;

• Life is difficult & dangerous

• The supreme being is a strict & judgmental parent.

• Most people are weak, selfish, greedy, immoral & lazy.

• Evil is a prominent part of human experience.

• Individual responsibility is central.

• Trust in others must be limited to those very much like us.

• Competition is at the center.

• Great questions of the day have simple answers.

• Government is a thief and a waste.

The traditional paradigm to George represents the conservative point of view. To him all of the above represents what is wrong with conservative beliefs even though he misrepresents them and paints conservatives as cold and unfeeling.

As for the conservative outlook on education he listed the following as the paradigm;

• Students are untrustworthy, unmotivated, undisciplined, slothful and immoral.

• Students (and educators) cannot be trusted and must be monitored and coerced to do the right thing.

• Ability is the best way to identify and group students for learning.Isolation of able learners is essential.

• Education is evaluation and evaluation is education.

• Presentation equals teaching.

• Knowledge is the accumulation of brick upon brick of facts.

• Creative, caring, curious, critical citizens are not a priority.

• Public schools are a bloated ineffective government bureaucracy that should be privatized.

Once again George takes a dim view of conservatives and distorts their views on education.

However, when it came time to present the liberal paradigms it was a different story.

• Life is difficult and dangerous.

• The supreme being is a nurturing, loving parent.

• Humans are basically good and always motivated.

• Evil is a minor part of human experience.

• Cooperation and sharing, collective action and mutual support are crucial.

• Trust is the core of healthy human life.

• Complexity and ambiguity characterize our lives.

Frankly I think he got some of these paradigms in reverse.

The same can be said of his interpretation of the liberal paradigm in education.

• Human freedom and empowerment are more critical than accountability and punishment.

• Life is about relationships, not acquisition.

• School… democratic experience.

• Caring and trust for each person is the center of any truly professional activity.

• Schools are to improve society as a whole, not providing competitive advantage to the elite.

• Curriculum is best derived from the needs and interest of the learners.

• Instruction should engage active learners.

• Developmental appropriateness should supersede national assessment.

• School failure has political and economic causes.

As for the net benefits of a liberal education George cited teaching evolution as science, peace movements, civil rights and gay rights as examples.

The audience of course bought George’s arguments hook, line, and sinker but for conservatives this is just another example of just how far liberalism has crept into our education system and why school choice, charter schools and homeschooling are needed now more than ever.

If we want to reform education we need to train conservatives at all levels to become teachers, administrators and legislators that will stand up for an unbiased educational curriculum and be free of union control.

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