The American education system teaches students not to think for themselves, New York University Prof. Jonathan Zimmerman said in a lecture yesterday. Zimmerman discussed the problems that have faced America’s education system in the past, advocating that schools embrace different perspectives, rather than just teaching one view.

Zimmerman analyzed the deficiencies of American public schools in the past century and their effect on students’ education.

Teachers should look critically at the questions they are asking their students, Zimmerman said. Parents have the responsibility to “encourage their children to make their own” questions. Not only does education lack independent thought, he added, the nation’s intellectual environment has in general degraded due to its uniformity.

School of Education junior Natalee Rowe said speakers like Zimmerman enlighten the public. “Students should make up their own minds rather than have teachers spoon feeding them information,” Rowe said.

In response to a question on whether teachers should voice their opinion to students, Zimmerman said the teacher has to create an environment in which students recognize that they can disagree with the teachers. Disagreements on the roles of religion and sex education in about how they should be taught, and whether they should be even allowed in schools were also topics in Zimmerman’s discussion. The problem of these two issues in the U.S. lacks agreement. Zimmerman added that many liberals in the early 20th century advocated teaching religion in schools, yet no one could agree on which religion should be taught.

Sex education in schools was seen in the same way, he said. Zimmerman said these issues demonstrate educator’s desire to promote one perspective. “The goal of school should never be to maintain a point of view.”

Zimmerman began by discussing American history textbooks. He said schools have sought to create diversity by teaching about historical figures from different ethnic groups. “I celebrate that diversity,” said Zimmerman, adding that this is only done for the sake of liberty, not education. “It’s not about what he did or does, it’s about the wonderful story of us.”

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