Coming back in time, Voltaire managed to create a new space for discussion concerning public school education in the United States. In modern times, the philosopher’s critical eye did not miss all of the drawbacks that this issue presents. On the contrary, the author called the reader’s attention to his new tale that awakened Washington. Recently, the world has been shaken by Voltaire’s new thought-provoking book Floris dedicated to slavery. Nothing comes to mind when one hears about slavery in the United States of America. However, Voltaire, having come back to this world, experienced a tremendous breakdown that resulted from American education at schools. Seemingly, the title Floris is closely connected with Voltaire’s previous book Candide and its popular catchwords “We must cultivate our garden.” In his new work, the philosopher ridicules American school education and shows all the problems in the light of his biting satire.
The author sheds light on the slavery of public school education in the U.S. His main purpose is to demonstrate the absurdity of the above-mentioned education and prove that an average American public school has become a laboratory of experimentation on the young minds. To accomplish this task, Voltaire creates a six-year-old child-narrator, Floris, who enters school education. Floris’s way at school is not an easy one due to the reason that teachers fetter the children and make experiments on their brains and physical power. Children understand the notion of slavery and treat it in a becoming manner.
However, Voltaire changes his writing style according to the peculiar post-modern features to be understandable, claiming that nowadays people are interested only in post-modern books. The first pages of the book show that Floris cannot write properly because he is a child. Every year, he can write new words and apply them to new contexts. In such a manner, Voltaire shows that Floris’s education is under threat. Then, the author creates another narrator who is a spectator that used to be taught in a private school. His writing is marked with a clear and captivating style. Thus, Voltaire shows the difference between public and private education. He focuses on the fact that although private education has its own drawbacks, the public one is a far cry from convenience.
The first thing that the author criticizes is the school’s law that consists of the prohibition of using books. The school libraries have converted into the experimental laboratories by setting on fire all the books. Voltaire puts an emphasis on the fact that schools actually lack resources and do not have any teaching materials. The author directs his strong complaints to the government by attacking it in a manner that is quite cruel. However, such an attitude can be justified. As a matter of fact, it ought to be said that schools are in terrible condition. The enrollments are greater than they should be, so the classes are held in the hallways. There is no equipment and material to study as there are no libraries that can provide children with the necessary books. The educational faculties fail as well as it is not necessary to learn any foreign language, take courses in Shakespeare, and study American history.
Interestingly, the main character Floris has the opportunity to travel around the world as his parents are welcomed in Finland. As the family travels, he notices a tremendous variety of things that are actually different from American society. His parents provide him with the opportunity to visit some English courses at a local school. The matter is that Finnish education is popular all over the world because of the students’ and teachers’ achievements in the process of learning. It remains the best one because of the PISA results. The interesting point here is that the Finnish education is based on a system that is entirely different from the American one due to a number of significant reforms that were introduced in order to improve the education in the country. Thus, Floris encounters a system that is radically different and child-oriented. In such a way, Voltaire manages to show that American education stands in contrast to the Finnish one.
Apart from the above-mentioned aspects, the author calls the reader’s attention to the hostile environment that prevails at school. Children do not communicate at the level of feeling drawn to somebody. The atmosphere at school is appalling due to a number of reasons. The matter is that coming back in time and traveling to the U.S., Voltaire notices other problems within schools, such as the influence of marketing and high levels of obesity at Floris’s school. It is not a secret that schools, in general, have become marketers’ main target. It means that big companies sponsor educational materials in exchange for consuming their products, which usually leads to different health problems. Companies also conduct market research in the classrooms during school hours and provide children with different advertising features instead of leaving them alone to study.
In addition to the previous problems, Voltaire creates another plotline that describes the military estate in Prussia. Surprisingly, the author shows its obvious links to the school environment. The traditions that seem to be dominant in the military estate are closely connected to the ones at school. Respectively, they deal with establishing fixed habits of reaction to authority, making children as alike as possible, determining the social role of the students, sorting them by role, and training. It is the obvious aim of compulsory education or schooling. Voltaire argues that compulsory schooling can effectively prevent students from becoming independent thinkers. Nonetheless, he provides a sober look at the point, which means that the author is impartial about the deteriorating state of American education and believes that all the people are to blame.
The thematic aspect of Voltaire’s tale concerns the concepts of slavery and experimentation. Presumably, his main intention was to show a dystopian education that brings into focus the worst things that may happen to children. Coming back to the main problem of the tale, the children learn to submerge their individualities. Although schools may preserve an educational function, they stimulate a particular code of behavior or social role, thus precluding critical thinking and self-determination of children. Due to this fact, a school converts itself into a laboratory where the experiments are held, on the young minds in particular. Generally speaking, Voltaire portrays the current state of American education as a menace to people, putting an emphasis on the government’s inability “to cultivate their own garden” as education bureaucrats and political leaders do nothing in order to improve the process of studying, so it results in the general decline of the educational system. In fact, it is the main thread that is worth attention.
Children, as they go to school, have their own expectations of the surrounding that stimulates thought and speech. Nevertheless, they are forced into the educational routines that provoke boredom and avert inspiration. Thus, even teachers became experts in boredom, as they are themselves the products of the same mandatory school programs that bore their students. The question is as follows: where is the way out? Teachers should bring reality to the classroom and encourage children toward discovery processes that are not dull.
Nowadays education is considered to be quite a controversial issue as there are many thoughts regarding the mechanism of its purpose, functions, advantages, and drawbacks. The matter is that it has an obvious influence on the conception of the world, people’s convictions, and further actions. In the contemporary world, Voltaire did not lose his ability to satirize the things that are worth discussing. He remained a free-thinker, and his book Floris exerted a tremendous impact on my interpretation of the educational problem in the U.S. The topicality of his new book consists in the fact that the main drawbacks of school education regard imposing a kind of regime that destroys the children’s self-determination and critical thinking. Such a regime should be abandoned, and new methods are to be introduced.
“The cultivation of our garden” as interpreted by Voltaire impresses everyone who reads his book, Floris. It possesses a hidden meaning directed particularly to the government and the president of the United States. The matter is that the authorities have to do something in order to improve the situation so that nobody could make endless experimentations on the children’s minds. Therefore, a child’s code of behavior or social role cannot be obtruded as it is up to nature to decide. Apparently, Voltaire attacks not only public schooling institutions but also the government.
Concerning the state of education in the United States, it is beset by various types of problems. Apart from the above-mentioned issues that Voltaire dwells upon, it is worth mentioning the aspect of teaching. The authorities have to understand that their country is in need of better secondary education, as the current one has a number of disadvantages and fails to respond to people’s needs. The obvious solution to this problem concerns the technical requirements for teaching. In fact, there exists a knowledge-based approach that is quite a useful one when it comes to educational value. A teacher has to possess three kinds of knowledge: substantive, pedagogical, and pedagogical content. Substantive one concerns particular skills in the subject, while pedagogical one demands the awareness of the ways to teach. Pedagogical content knowledge consists of the students’ understanding of the subject and responding to different mistakes. These components are the key points to success in teaching. Unfortunately, American education lacks such professionals.
The authorities have to give autonomy to the students and encourage the best qualities of youthfulness, such as curiosity and adventure. They ought to come up with a more viable approach to education that will be based on creative tasks and will lack structural issues so that the children could obtain education rather than merely receive a schooling treatment. Moreover, the USA has to borrow some ideas from the countries where the international rankings are considerably high – Canada, Finland, Japan, and South Korea. As nowadays the expectations of a good education have increased, the potential persons who are responsible for the educational breakdown are the authorities, parents, and teachers. It may be explained by the fact that the former ones put pressure on the latter so as to achieve the desired effect of creating the nation of mediocre people, and parents whose children are treated badly do nothing but observe. In order to prevent educational subservience, the schools should present new methods of teaching that will leap forward desires for becoming a leader.
In conclusion, Voltaire’s book demonstrates his ability to use biting satire in the context of public school education. Indirectly, it relates to his Candide by mentioning that the authorities have certain responsibilities towards the citizens of the United States of America. Interestingly, Voltaire sheds light on all the drawbacks of contemporary education viewing it as a government’s responsibility.