Saturday, March 03, 2007

It's about ideas

Boy, have I been reading lately. There's so much going on out there that I can't seem to focus any kind of critical thinking for too long. I suppose this is an attempt to get some focused thought out on what's been bumping around my brain for the past few weeks.

First, Miguel Guhlin posted an interesting thought on the job of education and the type of product we tend to manufacture. I use those words because it seems as though that is the way the thinking is turning. Many posts I've read as of late are concerned with the outputs of education - as we all should be.
Before getting to Guhlin, David Warlick commented briefly on NCLB, and had this to say:
...I believe that No Child Left Behind has done far more harm to education in the U.S. than good. It is an industrial age solution to an information age problem. But NCLB is correct in that schools, teachers, and students must be accountable to their communities.
Warlick's is a thought I'm running into more and more frequently. It fits nicely with Guhlin's post:

To teach real life problem-solving in schools would result in children becoming aware that their work in school lacks authenticity, only brainwashes them to trust authority without question, make them dependent on consolidated, controlled media sources that filter the news, even censor it if you believe some alternative sources to protect the ruling elite, and serve as the lower caste of people who must do the menial jobs. The creative class of people--those who populate our private and charter schools--also are indoctrinated in specific dogmas and ideologies, allowed freedom on a rope only after, like baby elephants whipped since childhood, restricted by a heavy chain, achieve freedom of movement, but not of mind.
Decidedly, Phoenix is part of the former system. This is not say I haven't any experience in the latter. Being able to recognize both models and identify their products leads to a better understanding of the problem. It is a problem.
The roots of many of my students' problems with education can be found not in inability to do work but in unwillingness to play the game.
I was luck when growing up to have teachers in a small rural school who could press against the rules in order to find ways to educate that met students' wants, needs and (I hesitate to suggest a link between education and this last one) passions. My English teachers knew what they were talking about and made their classes maleable for those of us who had an interest in words and their role in shaping society.
Equally available to me, but something I chose not to avail myself of was a top-notch agri-science program. I could be certain that the students in my English class who did not find the same artful beauty in the words we read would be enriched by...whatever it was that happened in the ag classes. Because each of us had a place where we could do the learning that interested us most, we were more willing to do the learning that interested us least.
Without any outlet, I would be extremely weary of letting anything in. My students have, by and large, lacked an outlet.
While my class may not be the outlet of choice, I'm working to do all I can to help them align themselves with whatever they need to unstop their creative impulses.
This isn't an argument of tools; it is an argument of ideas. I don't think a blog, wiki, podcast or laptop is required for a student to find the best opportunity for developing passion. It is about ideas. I remember when those were things we were encouraged to have and investigate.
More later.


Jason said...

We had a great conversation about school size last evening that goes well with your post. Given the fact that we are both products of small schools, we know their benefits and wish that our nation would move towards having smaller settings for children to learn, socialize, etc. But...with economic factors, schools (like most businesses) need to be large in order to absorb high operational costs; I doubt we will see a small school movement any time soon. Maybe the large schools will be able to create “functional” small learning communities within them, as is being attempted in Sarasota, but success in this county will be based on many external and more importantly, internal factors.

Mr. Chase said...

I agree. Economic factors do come in to play, but they cannot be roadblocks to educational evolution. You mentioned a factory in your hometown that operates on a business model that pays for its workers to earn advanced degrees and helps to fund their children's college funds. Those two aspects should not be "economically feasible" but it happens. The same thing must happen in education. The sheer amount of information combined with ease of access have opened the door for some real progress.
What must happen now is the awakening of "internal factors" to the idea and need for a true renassiance in education. And I'm not talking a pizza party when we have a good quarter.