Bird Droppings October 7, 2010
Looking at why we are not succeeding
Very early this morning I walked out into the chill although not quite as cold as yesterday a few crickets and tree frogs greeted me as I took our dog for her morning reverie. The sky was clear as a bell stars blazing away over my head. Orion was the major force as I peered skyward. Never have quite figured out how someone came up with each of the constellations although perception perhaps is a key. My wife reminded me it was my middle son’s birthday even though my outlook account has it on the fourth. A simple error I need to fix since you get what you put in.
It has been over a year since I went to a Georgia Tech football game and as I often do I took a camera. I adjusted the settings for the light. I set the film speed. I actually used film and not a digital camera so I had to be sure everything was set since I could not see photos till they were processed. I took pictures actually many pictures as I so often do. Not to brag but they did turn out super one or two are floating around in Georgia Tech websites. My experience in using this camera and lens paid off. I knew what settings and what exposures would give me the best pictures and my reflecting begins.
In graduate school we discussed the history of education and how history is so often has been tainted or subjected to the views of the historian and or politics of the time of that event and then the perspective of the historian, a double whammy. I began pushing this idea further and to how and what we learn. So often it is what we are told to learn not what we want to learn and or need to learn. It is but various pieces of reality in a perception of that we are told to learn and I wonder for whose gain.
“Suppose that we are wise enough to learn and know — and yet not wise enough to control our learning and knowledge, so that we use it to destroy ourselves? Even if that is so, knowledge remains better than ignorance. It is better to know — even if the knowledge endures only for the moment that comes before destruction — than to gain eternal life at the price of a dull and swinish lack of comprehension of a universe that swirls unseen before us in all its wonder. That was the choice of Achilles, and it is mine, too.” Isaac Asimov
Neil Young blaring away on my stereo it is early and being alone at school has its advantages I can crank up my tunes. “Old man take a look at your life I am a lot like you are”, lyrics from Neil Young circa 1971 when he bought a ranch and an elderly foremen came with it. On another thought it amazes me to listen to students say I am passing I have a seventy percent and that’s good enough. I sometimes wonder if students really learn anything from day one till day seven hundred or eight hundred or do they simply regurgitate data and information to pass tests. It has been a few years since my son commenting as he took the SAT’s several times the more he was in math classes the better his scores and conversely one semester he did not have an advanced or AP English he dropped a few points on language section. So even for a good student is school simply a memorizing forum.
“Do not seek to follow in the footsteps of the wise. Seek what they sought.” Basho –
“True wisdom lies in gathering the precious things out of each day as it goes by.” E. S. Bouton
I found when I began looking for answers that learning became easier. When answers were being given to me in a mandatory sort of way in the process of going to school I learned less. Even in college for many years learning was considered mandatory. I have observed many students and what they learn. If they want to learn a topic they read about it, they look up information about it, and there is a desire to learn more about that topic.
“The real difficulty, the difficulty which has baffled the sages of all times, is rather this: how can we make our teaching so potent in the motional life of man, that its influence should withstand the pressure of the elemental psychic forces in the individual?” Albert Einstein
For many years previously I have tacked this quote on the end of my morning Droppings. I continue to ponder how can we make our teaching so potent? How do we get the information we teach to be what students want to learn?
“Knowledge comes, but wisdom lingers. It may not be difficult to store up in the mind a vast quantity of face within a comparatively short time, but the ability to form judgments requires the severe discipline of hard work and the tempering heat of experience and maturity” Calvin Coolidge
“Wisdom is like electricity. There is no permanently wise man, but men capable of wisdom, who, being put into certain company, or other favorable conditions, become wise for a short time, as glasses rubbed acquire electric power for a while.” Ralph Waldo Emerson
I have not always been an Emerson fan sadly I wish I had begun reading his words sooner or I should say paying attention to the fact I was reading his words. In high school I do not recall even considering reading Emerson and know I did sort of see the page and it went by and I read Emerson. Now in my infinite wisdom do I see the folly of my high school days? Hindsight is only good if you build from it however. As we look back it is so easy to say I wasted time or I should have done this or that. Start today and take advantage of the daylight pack as much in as you can for tomorrow there will be just as much if not more coming your way in the next.
As I think back a few days to the concept of a democratic school where students pick and choose topics for discussion and learning each week. It would be difficult to plan for a standardized test, especially thinking did we cover that for example (in Georgia we had QCC’s (Quality Core Curriculum) and now we have advanced a bit with GPS (Georgia Performance Standards) which cover all curriculum that is to be taught. Being so we might have that section II item number 123a is the classification of segmented worms which is to be covered. Somewhere someone determined in Biology that that item was crucial. It may be a history item about the urban myth of were George Washington’s false teeth made from wood, hippo ivory and or ceramics.
“Where there is charity and wisdom, there is neither fear nor ignorance. Where there is patience and humility, there is neither anger nor vexation. Where there is poverty and joy, there is neither greed nor avarice. Where there is peace and meditation, there is neither anxiety nor doubt.” St. Francis of Assisi
“Wisdom is the supreme part of happiness.” Sophocles
How would we know what it is we need to know and how would teachers know what it is we need to know in order to teach us? That is a significant question. Using standardized tests provides the vehicle to measure, but then do we teach to that particular test or do we not teach to it and is that measure truly of what a child knows? If most teachers know what students need to know to take a particular test before I start the class then I will gear the class to that understanding before the test. So in effect we teach to the test. We teach what some one somewhere has deemed necessary for a student in that grade and time and that may or may not be what that teacher or student wants to learn. This brings me back to students tend to learn best when it is something that they want to know and realistically teachers teach far more better something they want to teach. It would be a sad world if parents were told they had to teach their kids so and so today and tomorrow it would be this and that. Now that I think about it maybe that is not so bad in some cases. Except that then someone somewhere will be saying this is what children will be taught and when it will be taught. That system just closed down in Russia a few years back. So if our goal is to train socially acceptable consumers and workers to fill the factories as Karl Marx once indicated the goal of education was we will have accomplished that. Somehow we need to bring back creativity and critical thinking.
“If you wish to know the road up the mountain, ask the man who goes back and forth on it.” Zenrim
I can set my lenses and camera on manual adjustment and or on program mode. I could fine tune and make adjustments and or set on program mode and allow the camera’s computer to do adjusting for me. I started to think about the P words, program, perception and politics although maybe there is a connection as I think a bit more. So often in life politics determines how we perceive by providing the program setting and far too many people choose to use that since it is easier and simpler. It requires little effort and you always get the same results no matter who uses it. Could it be that in learning the same material the results on a test is the same no matter who takes it. They all conveniently know just the right stuff and just the right answers and just who to vote for and to keep in power. So on a day when war and conflict are part of our vernacular and those in power struggle to keep their seats please keep all in harms way on your mind and in your heart.