On the Lives and Education of Children
Edited By Paul L. Thomas, Paul R. Carr, Julie A. Gorlewski and Brad J. Porfilio
Chapter Ten: Aesthetic Reading and Historical Empathy: Humanizing Approaches to “Letter From Birmingham Jail”
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Aesthetic Reading AND Historical Empathy
Humanizing Approaches to “Letter From Birmingham Jail”
JASON L. ENDACOTT, CHRISTIAN Z. GOERING, AND JOSEPH E. O’BRIEN
An increasingly troubling paradigm shift continues to narrow the purpose of a public education in the United States toward a primarily economic function of preparing students for the workforce (Mehta, 2013). Envisioning the purpose of education in such a narrow fashion hinders our ability to develop reflective citizens who are capable of understanding who they are in relationship to the “Other.” This problem is not a new one, as progressive educators have worked to expand democratic education beyond the idea of “efficiency” for over a century.
But if democracy has a moral and ideal meaning, it is that a social return be demanded from all and that opportunity for development of distinctive capacities be afforded all. The separation of the two aims in education is fatal to democracy; the adoption of the narrower meaning of efficiency deprives it of its essential justification. (Dewey, 1916, p. 281)
Our efforts to promote a critical—as opposed to compliant—democratic citizenry must continue despite the corporate-driven creation and adoption of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS), which have been described as “technical specifications being confused with, but applied to, human learning capabilities” (Tienken & Orlich, 2013, p. 44). The CCSS privilege the development of workplace skills and thereby serve as a powerful...
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