The Journey Part 1

Bird Droppings October 27, 2009
The Journey Part 1

I borrowed yesterday from John Dewey and had a response on my facebook site sort of how most administrators and teachers really do not want to allow students to have said so and input into their education. The post actually used South Park and Family Guy as references and how in many situations children are more intelligent than adults and it is we who should be learning from them not the other way around. In many ways I agree but as I am reading a book by Kent Nerburn, his latest dealing with his own journey with a Sioux elder. There is also that aspect of wisdom that comes with age. Although Dan the old man Nerburn is journeying with, mentions to Nerburn that wisdom is not related to age but to how you see things.

“Who, then, shall conduct education so that humanity may improve?” John Dewey

A very deep and broad question, I was thinking back to my own community and associations. We elect school board members who hire teachers and principals. This group decides on schools to build and places to build them and rules to govern the schools. So in effect we select peers from the community although they are not educators at the time. They could be former educators retired and now involved in political endeavors. I am curious as to how does Dewey the great educator answer his own question?

“We must depend upon the efforts of enlightened men in their private capacity. ’All culture begins with private men and spreads outward from them. Simply through the efforts of persons of enlarged inclinations, who are capable of grasping the ideal of a future better condition, is the gradual approximation of human nature to its end possible…. Rulers are simply interested in such training as will make their subjects better tools for their own intentions.’ Even the subsidy by rulers of privately conducted schools must be carefully safeguarded. For the rulers’ interest in the welfare of their own nation instead of in what is best for humanity, will make them, if they give money for the schools, wish to draw their plans.” John Dewey

We are manipulated maybe educated as pawns in a society for the societies own good. There are times when I believe that in watching new teachers come and teach it is in a manner that has been that way for a hundred years. We develop curriculums that are what was, and will always be education. Occasionally there is a bright note, a light on the horizon, a student of education or two sees a different view a different point and follows a different path. Here I am thinking and the routine keeps popping up, but an alteration to my daily routine and it bothers me. We want things to be smooth to run efficiently and effectively and OUR way. Sadly the further up the chain of command the bigger the OUR WAY is.

“The new idea of the importance of education for human welfare and progress was captured by national interests and harnessed to do a work whose social aim was definitely narrow and exclusive. The social aim of education and its national aim were identified, and the result was a marked obscuring of the meaning of a social aim.” John Dewey

Teachers and administrators like routine, sameness it is easy to can and bottle. Going back and borrowing from Sydney J, Harris, it is “easier to stuff sausages”. The student effectively gets lost in the mandated and regulated manipulations of society.

“Is it possible for an educational system to be conducted by a national state and yet the full social ends of the educative process not be restricted, constrained, and corrupted?” John Dewey

I find irony in the concept of a democratic classroom which I do believe can be successful. I find paradox in our efforts to be so democratic in our own country and yet we tend to bow to where the majority wants even at the expense of free thought. We say individualism on one hand yet want the majority to rule and to dictate. Going back to watching the first election process in Iraq, one faction won and another literally did not vote in protest.
As I look at education and our own country how often do we do this and then when that which we did not elect nor even cared about happens we whine. We complain and we are faced with a journey with provisions we do not want nor need. Far too many times we are on that journey in a wrong direction for several years till another changes path. Far too often we dictate direction in a top down scenario. On the path, the one on the journey is being told go this way and go that and should be the one directing the effort. Maybe students should be running the schools.
It is so easy to raise an issue following through with ideas is the more difficult aspect. Where in should the direction be set? I approach students in a manner that may be contradictory to some and way wrong to others. I offer here is where we need to go and ok class how do we get there. At first that is a difficult proposition many want a map, a guide, or a compass at least and the teacher can be that, facilitating in a guiding manner. However for learning to happen students have to be engaged and interactive in the journey each day.

“To get where they’re going, navigators first need to know where in the world they are.” Miami University, Dragonfly project

If we substitute educators and or students for the word navigators in the quote above it presents an interesting situation. Any journey needs a starting point and how we find where that is often is the hard part in education. A journey starts at the beginning, where it is going is wherever and when ever but it does start somewhere. As a teacher I help student’s find a starting point then provide tools to navigate the journey. Please keep all in harms way on your mind and in your hearts.

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