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A Critical Research on the Status of Public School Funding in Relation to the Concept of the Meme and the Necessity of a Paradigm Shift

 

Introduction

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The growing problem in terms of how America’s schools are funded is one of the most relevant problems that the government has to focus on.  The issue of some public schools having a relatively bigger amount of fund in comparison to others is a topic of most debates.

The rationale behind how public schools within the United States are funded initially stemmed out on the use of property taxes that would enable a particular school to raise the revenues that are necessary to finance public schools.  On the traditional set-up, these property taxes are primarily used in order to fund the aforementioned.

Come mid 1970s, the issue of school financing systems eliciting inequalities between school districts due to the amount of the aforementioned’s property tax revenues had become apparent.  It is often the case that property-rich school districts provided a higher per capita educational expenditure in comparison with relatively marginalized districts.  As such there has been a huge difference in terms of per pupil expenditure on every school district.  For instance, pupil expenditure in Chicago varied from $9,371 in Niles Township to $5,265; on the other hand, New York schools’ budget ranges from $11,372 to $5,885 and New Jersey from $7,725 to $3,538 (Hardaway, 1995, p.159).

In effect of this, many attempts has been made in order to solve the issue of public education system.  For instance the California Supreme Court on the case of Serrano v. Priest declared as unconstitutional the notion that the quality of a child’s education is highly relative to the wealth of the district in which he or she lives (P.180).

These issues on public education funding were analyzed by Kozol, hence pointing out the correlation between quality education and a generous student funding.

In order to know the effects that stemmed out of the disposition of American Public Schools, the author significantly related the problems of the former to the concept of the meme by Dawkins. Such a correlation is established in order to create a theoretical explanation of what will happen to students who are receiving poor quality of education.

The meme according to Dawkins act like genes in the sense that they are able to propagate themselves by “leaping from brain to brain via a process, which is the broad sense, can be called imitation (Dawkins, 1989, p. 192).  For instance, a particular scientist has the tendency to pass a good idea that he hears or reads about to his colleagues and his students and in consequence such an idea once shared will be spreading from brain to brain.  The replication of memes according to Dawkins is through the means of imitation.  Albeit he maintained that some memes could be successful in replication but others could not be the same.

These two major premises: (1) Poor education funding result to poor quality of education and; (2) The poor funding caused the inefficient transfer of knowledge, hence the inefficient transfer of the meme.  In integrating these two premises, such will be significantly analyzed in order to arrive at a particular cultural evolution paradigm.  Finally, the cultural values that are needed to be changed in order to create a more effective educational system were also pointed out.

 

Kozol’s Public Education Funding

Kozol as cited from Scherer (1993) claimed that the major determining factor for the existence of inequality among public schools is due to inequitable funding.  The author pointed out that thee is no significant correlation between high property taxes and small property taxes among school districts.  For instance, Kozol said that East St. Louis is one of the most highly taxed cities in America, yet such is also one of the poorest schools in the country.  The fate of Camdem in New Jersey also is closely similar to the aforementioned since its high property taxes do not help in any way to the improvement of their public schools (p.2).

In Kozol’s Savage Inequalities, one of the schools that he closely studied was East St. Louis.  According to him, the said school could be said as “the saddest place in the world” due to various inequalities that could be found in such place.

East St. Louis, being one of the poorest cities in the United States is composed primarily of black residents.  In addition with this, the city is perhaps one of the dirtiest as well due to the lack of garbage pick-up for four years.  In effect of this, the garbages of residents are often found on the back of homes or abandoned places.

The toxic waste incinerator in Monsato on the other hand, emits a lot of toxic chemicals that contributed a lot on the increasing rate of infant mortality and fetal death in Illinois.

The schools on St. Louis also suffer the same circumstances as the community.  Kozol said that upon visiting the school, he saw the poor environment due evident pollution and garbage.  In addition with this, teachers have been experiencing difficulties due to inadequate school facilities and lack of basic needs (p.1).

In effect of this, Kozol is arguing that state property taxes should be abolished, and there instead should be an equal financing of American education.  He is proposing for a centralized government funding wherein the federal government should be able to give the funding that is necessary for every community regardless of their wealth and property taxes.  Rather, the fund according to Kozol must come from the collective wealth of the society coming from the citizen’s income tax returns (p2).

Also, another thing that Kozol viewed as problematic in most public schools is the segregation in terms of race such as Blacks from Whites, or Hispanics, Asians from Whites- hence eliciting a number of issues on racial discrimination.  There are also segregations such as those of gifted children to those of slow learners.  These segregation of students is something that has a direct effect on how children will perform well in school.  Kozol argued that methods such as that which are normally called “Tracking” or “Homogenous Grouping” is an act that is not only ineffective but also “damaging” slow learner and to those of successful students.  He pointed out that children who are doing well in their academics, when separated to those of their counterparts will never learn certain virtues such as helping others.  Such an act will promote to students acts of selfishness and indecency p.8).

According to Kozol, the only answer to solve these inequalities in education is to provide sufficient funding.  There are lots of criticisms to this proposal of Kozol doubting if money is indeed the solution to deteriorating education in public schools.   There are claims that there are schools in which are highly funded but still experiences a significant degree of failure in their academics. However Kozol responded to these criticisms by saying that there is a significant difference between inconvenience and justice.  He maintained that majority of the students who fail in highly funded education are having existential angst which could be easily solved in one way or another.  Albeit, students in poorly funded institutions do not have else where to turn too- for Kozol, they are due to a lifetime of failure if they do not have a good foundation of education.

 

Dawkins’ Selfish Gene

Mimeme or meme are like genes in the sense that they are able to propagate themselves by “leaping from brain to brain via a process, which is the broad sense, can be called imitation (Dawkins, 1989, p. 192).

Memes act similar to RNA replication of primeval soup and genetic viruses (Sullivan, 2007, p. 1).  The memes work by “exploiting machinery design” in order to make things work similar to them.

More importantly, the memes work in a complex web of interaction, a so-called meme-complexes that are similar to sets of genes that could be found in species.  The survival of a meme depends primarily to its level of transferability wherein once ideas are transferred; people who are receiving it will necessarily accept it as part of their epistemological framework (p.2).  One very notable implication of this occurrence is the possibility that man’s behavior could not be seen as solely dependent on genetics, but also through the meme. It could be the case that common behaviors among men are a result of a successful meme (p.3).

As such, one very significant implication of the said concept is that it paves the way to the theory that it could be the case that some of human behaviors are “memetically selected” rather than biologically selected (California Institute of Technology, 2007, p.3).  As such it could be significantly argued that it is possible that some of the behaviors of men are a result of a successful meme rather than a mere product of pure genetics.  Hence aligning this perspective on the study of Kozol, can one significantly say that the reason why students in public schools fail in class is because the transfer of knowledge or information has not been effective, hence an implication of failure of embedding the aforementioned in children’s cognitive framework.

One very important characteristic of the meme is its ability to be transferred through communication and imitation. It could be significantly argued that beside the capacity of the meme to be passed through human interaction, the environment in which the meme resides also played a great role in terms of its survival.   It is important to note that the neo-Darwinian claim on the success of a particular gene is dependent on its environment.  Similarly, the meme’s survival is also dependent on the mind or the culture where it is at.  In order to explain this further Dawkins as cited from California Institute of Technology (2007, p.2) gave an analogy.  He said that the mental defense systems of people could be related to that of biological immune systems.  The usual tendency of the latter is to reject any foreign objects that enter to the body. Similarly, the mind also has the tendency to “reject all new ideas”.  Given this, it could be the case that when a new or a revolutionary idea is introduced to the society, it could be possible that the people whom who receive the information will not accept it to their cognitive systems due to a possible dissonance emanating from their core beliefs.  In relating this claim on the problem of public schools based on the study of Kozol, it could be argued that the changes that he is introducing in the public educational system could either be accepted or wholly criticized by America’s various institutions.

As such, it could be said that Kozol is attempting to do an entire paradigm shift on the beliefs of the society due to introducing a meme that is highly different from their current justified beliefs. The meme that is attempted to be transferred by Kozol could only be successful if the people in which he communicated his ideas would be seen as something that is in accordance with their current paradigm

 

Cultural Evolution and Its Effect on the Educational System

The process of cultural evolution could be closely connected to the concept of the paradigm shift of Thomas Kuhn.  The human culture is something that is subjected to changes that are highly dependent on the society’s acceptance.  The proposal of Kozol to change the process of educational funding in America is something that is in need of a paradigm shift due to the fact that the root cause of his perceived problem in the educational system is due to the statutory laws that are being imposed which places a strict emphasis to the use of property taxes to fund education. His proposal to fully change the way in which schools are funded, calls to an acceptance that money is indeed the problem why some schools are performing badly.  In addition with this, the paradigm shift also needs the acceptance that by providing enough funds to these schools, this problem could be solved.

Kuhn perceived Normal Science to be working under a paradigm.  The paradigm on the other hand, defines the research tradition, or the scientific life of a particular discipline and its practitioners (Nickles, 2003, p.1).  The Normal Science is then challenged on virtue of a Revolutionary Science or a new set of paradigm that is radically different than those of the normal one.    A revolution carries science in a different perspective.  Such a process is described by Kuhn as a process that is similar to a biological speciation.  The process in reaching a preordained goal traces historical lineages and historical differences like the specialization and accuracy of latter day science in reference to the past (p.3).

On the process of a scientific revolution, it is always the case that the revolutionary science is being introduced of course first to the scientific institution and then to the society as a whole.  If the revolutionary science through numerous tests, criticisms and the likes passed, then it could be said that this revolutionary science will be replacing the normal science, hence taking the place of the aforementioned.

Kuhn exemplifies that a scientific paradigm once evaluated as a normal science defines a research that is firmly based on one or more past scientific achievements, or achievements of the scientific community that adopts such a practice.  The theory of the scientific revolution represents a “tradition-shattering complements to the tradition-bound activity of normal science” (Kuhn as quoted from Roberts, 2002, p. 59).  This means that the orientations of a particular society that accepts or rejects a new theory would be tested.  It is with this respect that Kuhn argued that an accurate research of a particular paradigm does not solely depend on the scientist, but also to that of social-scientific community where it belongs (Roberts, 2002, p. 59).

Paradigms persist because of its capacity to outdo competitors in solving problems; albeit, the success of a paradigm does not solely depend on the capacity to solve an issue, rather on the promise of a development through “selection, evaluation, and clarifying criticism” (Roberts. 2000, p. 54).  Kuhn provided an analogy using a puzzle.  He had coined various meanings to the process of puzzle solving that he related to the function of paradigms.  Kuhn said that it could be the case that a particular scientist or a person for that matter may have taken for granted an existing paradigm in lieu for a netter solution.

The process of scientific revolutions which involves the rejection or acceptance of a particular paradigm could be related to the concept of the meme.  Information when passed from person to person could either survive or die hence determining the future of that particular body of knowledge.

The rejection of a particular paradigm that could have paved the way for a revolution arises on the malfunction that could have arisen on existing institutions; or failure to provide a group of people with answers concerning a particular aspect of nature that it previously revealed.  In addition with this, scientific revolutions’ appeal are only limited to that of paradigms it directly affects.  The notion of competing paradigms could arise due to “incompatible modes of community life” (Roberts. 2000, p. 54).

The question of how a particular paradigm succeed are determined by two circumstances: The first one is the emergence of a crisis and the second one are the emergence of “novices” that are less committed with the current paradigm that led them to introduce a paradigm shift(Roberts. 2000, p. 54).

In the process of asking people to convert to the revolutionary paradigm, according to Kuhn includes the further testing of the normal paradigm in the presence of a crisis.  In the course of this, various alternative paradigms will emerge hence it is within this that the community ca look not necessarily to a perfect alternative, rather to a paradigm that could have bring a promise of success through “probabilistic verification and falsification” (Roberts. 2000, p. 54).

Cultural Values in Need of Changing

Based on the theories and studies presented on this research, the author perceived that the cultural values that are in need of changing in America’s educational system are: First, the acceptance that problems in education is a matter of national concern, hence the importance that the government must view it as such.  In this respect, discrepancies in which schools are funded will be solved.

Second, the research viewed that racial discrimination is still a state of affairs that exist at present.  The act of segregating students not just based on their race but also their capacities is a growing concern.  As such, there must be an attempt for the government to specifically deal with this problem.  Although it could be significantly noted Bush’s current educational policy of No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) calls for a results driven approach for all students, it could not be denied that the mere fact that the federal government is supporting schools which are highly effective in terms of student grades and teacher performance, implies that low performing and poor schools still has a very small chance of getting supported.  The NCLB in a way is still an act of discrimination among students and among schools; and in a way does not really solve the current state of affairs of schools that Kozol is talking about.

Third, it is also important that majority of the citizens should perceive the problem of education as concern for the entire country.  In this respect, if people will be the one to initiate the change of the current paradigm, the government will most likely hear their voice.  One of the basic principles of democracy is deeply rooted on the will of the people.  Reiterating from the social contract theory of Jean Jacques Rousseau, he said that man indeed is a rational animal, and the government being in existence is only a way of man giving up some of his rights for the sake of order.  As such this implies that it is the people who should really be deciding for themselves, and the government should only be in existence to efficiently manage the affairs of the aforementioned.  The will of the people sufficiently supported by the political will of the government would surely pave the way to make education indeed as a right and not a privilege.

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Conclusion

This research dealt with the financial problem of America’s public schools based on the study of Kozol.  The problems in the educational system are significantly related to the theory of the meme of Dawkins to show the various epistemic and cultural implications of such state of affairs.

In order to change the current system of education, the author introduced the notion of Kuhn’s paradigm shift.  As a consequence, the author perceived that the cultural changes that are necessary for the current educational set up are the acceptance that problems in education is a matter of national concern, awareness of acts on discriminating among students and their schools, and finally the perspective that majority of the citizens should perceive the problem of education as concern for the entire country.

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Literature Cited

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California Institute of Technology (2007).  Review of Memes: the New eplicators

Chapter 11 of The Selfish Gene by Richard Dawkins.  Retrieved 25 January 2007          from http://www.ugcs.caltech.edu/%7Ephoenix/Lit/meme-ess.html

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Dawkins R. (1989). The Selfish Gene. New York: Oxford University Press.

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Hardaway R. (1995). America Goes to School: Law, Reform, and Crisis in Public

Education. Westport, CT : Praeger .

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Nickles T.  (2003). Thomas Kuhn. England.: Cambridge University Press.

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Roberts L. J. (2000). Thomas Kuhn’s the Structure of Scientific Revolutions. ETC.: A

Review of General Semantics. (57) (1).

 

Scherer M. (1993).  On Savage Inequalities: A Conversation with Jonathan Kozol.

Educational Leadership (50) (4) , p.4.

 

Sullivan D. R. (2007). Review of Memes: the New Replicators  Chapter 11 of The Selfish

Gene by Richard Dawkins. Accessed 23 November 2007 from      <http://www.ugcs.caltech.edu/%7Ephoenix/Lit/meme-ess.html>.