K through 12

August 1st, 2015

~ The American educational system explained, or maybe there’s no explanation.

I’ve been working on updates to the Bernie Sanders (Bernard Sanders) timeline (Teppline) that I started (HERE).  It’s fairly slow going, trying to sort out Bernie’s educational history when there is really so little history available.  This is revealing.

Bernie never claimed to be a particularly good student.  He was more into sports and politics, he didn’t seem to care much about or use libraries.  Carnegie, I guess, never made an impression on him.

What did make an impression on Bernie Sanders was the New York City school known as P.S. #197.  Apparently (and I’m still not really sure), PS 197 was a K-8 school, one name, one big building, one address.  After this “elementary school” experience Bernie moved on to attend James Madison High School in New York City, borough of Brooklyn.  JMHS was the typical grade 9-12 (‘Freshman through Senior’) high school experience, or more accurately, ‘configuration’.  When Bernie graduated from High School in June of 1960, he had completed his K – 12 American compulsory education experience.  A ‘college education’ was not, and is not, compulsory in America.  That could change.

View of San Diego college (looking east, not north) from the air as seen on page 5 of Del Sudoeste1932 (now San Diego State University).

Having grown up in California and Nevada (in the west) where things are not necessarily done as they are in Brooklyn and much of the east, I kept looking to find which ‘Junior High School’ Bernard Sanders attended.  In the west, traditionally, one first goes to Elementary School, then attends Junior High School, then graduates and moves on to High School.  Often the 8th grade graduation from Junior High was a very big thing.

The idea behind the Junior High School concept was based on the easily observable fact that it was not a good idea to have first and second graders on the same campus (in the same school) as 7th and 8th graders.  It was along the same lines of thinking that suggested that girl and boy scouts should not share quarters with frat houses and sororities.  You get the idea.  ‘Different ages, different sizes; one size doesn’t really fit all.’

Originally, in America, High School was like a College education is today.  Not that many students attended a high school ‘back then’ (say circa 1912).  And far fewer attended college, unless it was a “teachers college.”  High Schools in the 1930’s were like colleges (today).  They had fraternities and sororities active on campus, fashion was often important, parties and clubs, even club life, were always de rigueur.

The whole process of socialization, or job training, depending upon one’s perspective, began in Kindergarten.  Kindergarten was conceived as either a free ‘day care’ program so that working parents could work (two parents, both working outside the house) or as a ‘transition’ experience to get very young children used to a life away from the home, i.e. to get the child used to ‘society wide’ values and socially dictated accepted behavior.

Even in the 1950’s and 1960’s, in America, Kindergarten was usually only half day.  American Exceptionalism still often maintained a standard of living (or lifestyle expectations) where only one parent needed to work to support a family.  As America became less exceptional the need for the ‘free day care’ aspect of Kindergarten increased, so today in America there is not only full day Kindergarten, but also ‘Pre-K’ programs that even feed, clothe, and ‘daycare’ the very young all-American child, all at public expense.

In Bernard Sanders day Kindergarten was probably not compulsory.  Bernie’s mother did not (apparently) work outside the home.   She probably stayed home and cared for, trained, socialized, Bernie at home, teaching and training the traditional Jewish working-class religious and cultural values; often including Marx, Freud, Einstein, Stalin, and the often obvious others.

Compulsory education in America, in most states, is now K – 12, with a few minor exceptions.  Provision for ‘home-schools’ and ‘home-schooling’ has always been allowed.  Usually there is a requirement for testing.  Bernie Sanders was apparently never home-schooled, per se.

There are, and always have been, variations on the ‘middle school’, ‘intermediate school’, Junior High School, configuration and experience.  Often middle school lasts for three years, 6th through 8th grade, or 7th through 9th.  The last possibility creates the 3 year High School program (configuration), which was the plan at the high school I went to, Reno High.

Reno High School (RHS), in Reno, Nevada, before it first opened in September 1951.

Front entrance to Reno High School (RHS), still standing, many years later.

Bernie Sanders plan is to effectively integrate American colleges into the ‘free public education’ plan that characterizes the present ‘free K -12’ system, a ‘free K – 16’ educational system, with ‘college included’.  It would take a lot of preparation and planning to do this.  It might even include a necessary and proper clarification of what the national education agenda really looks like, where it is going, and who is it designed to really serve.  What is clear to me, is that the current ‘student loan‘ system does not serve any agenda but free (subsidized) job training for the large corporations, and big money for the banks.

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