And The Rest Is History
Myles Horton and Howard Zinn believe that some of the most meaningful education comes along with being given the freedom and responsibility to take action and take a stance. “Education is what happens to the other person, not what comes out of the mouth of the educator,” Horton says. “You have to posit trust in the learner in spite of the fact that the people you’re dealing with may not, on the surface, merit that trust. If you believe in democracy, which I do, you have to believe that people have the capacity within themselves to develop the ability to govern themselves” (131). This reminds me of the psychological concept of the self-fulfilled prophecy. This is the when a prediction or pre-judgement of a person either directly or indirectly causes them to become the prediction. For example, I was in a gifted program in middle school that treated us like adults, or older high school students at the least. I have no proof or real evidence whether or not this affected us for the rest of our educational careers, but many of us believe that being treated like mature adults and being told we were mentally capable of more than our peers at such a young age caused us all to behave more maturely in our classrooms and treat school very seriously. I believe that Horton is spot on with his method of educating, because I believe instilling confidence, autonomy, and trust in a group is the best way to promote them to act this way. This is forcing them to adjust and step up to the challenge that the instructor is posing them.
This education style will promote a stronger, more active democracy because teaching people to develop their own independent thoughts is a skill not only applicable in the classroom but also in work, daily life, and politics! As Zinn put it, “But of course democracy can’t be put on the blackboard. It’s not a formula, it’s not a constitution, it’s not laws, it’s not a framework, it’s not a structure. Democracy is people acting on behalf of justice” (83). In order to cultivate a democratic environment, those who are within it must be able to live it with the faith that their own ideas can become change.
A vital part of being able to actively participate in a democracy, or in any group for that matter, is having a grounding or history of the group. In the case of the United States government, how can one make informed decisions to help their people if they don’t know the history of their own country? And if one was a minority in the United States, how can they help improve the lives of their people if they don’t know their own history within the country. In both these cases it would be an uninformed decision. Zinn explained the importance of knowing history by saying, “If you dont know important things about history, then it’s as if you were born yesterday. And if you were born yesterday, then you will believe anything that is told to you by somebody in authority and you have no way of checking up on it… So while history might not tell you definitively what’s the truth in this particular case, it at least teaches you to be cautious and skeptical” (69). Horton believes that instead of looking at history objectively, one must also take a stance on history in order to avoid repeating it over and over again. If one wants to make changes in the world they must be able to pick a side of history, study it, then fight for the side they believe is right. And if they believe neither side is right — then they must actively and passionately fight for their own solution. Horton explains, “Neutrality is just another word for accepting the status quo as universal law. You either choose to go along with the way things are, or you reject the status quo. Then you are forced to think through what you believe” (139).
Today when I was at Venetia Valley I took a long look around and realized that the entire classroom I was in was full of children of color. I know for a fact that many of these students are Hispanic with parents who are either immigrants or first generations in the US. With Horton in mind, I pondered whether or not these children knew their own history or if they would be taught their own history in the classroom. I know that in my majority white grade school and high school they never bothered to focus on Mexico or the United States’ affairs with Mexico. I am hoping that the social studies classes in this school at least attempt to shift the lens to make it more applicable to them and their history. I have been trying to use this information to tailor to their educational needs rather than imposing my own experiences on their education. Recognizing and understanding differences is vital to being able to grow together.