Bird Droppings July 17, 2011
I wonder if you can get moon burn
trying to get pictures of moonflowers
I was up early in the morning taking the dog out and remembered I had several blossoms opening on my datura plants, jimson weed or moonflower. This flower only opens for one night and only at night. I get many photos early in the morning if you can get there before the heat of the day wilts the blossoms. When I went out I was thinking it will not be long if the clouds let me go out and watch as the moon comes up. Earlier today I was sitting out behind the trees and a near full moon was hiding this morning behind patchy clouds. After a night of working on my research paper and falling asleep the back yard was glowing from the hidden light. I know from my science classes that it is simply reflection from the sun, but it is hard to talk of the moon without attributing to it its own glow. Sort of like a student and a good teacher one could say. We may never see the teacher only the reflection of the knowledge and wisdom passed on. I find myself wandering lonely in a pedagogical desert at times.
“Now nearly all learning space is occupied by an elaborate testing apparatus that measures the student’s progress in ingesting externally imposed curriculae and more insidiously provides a sorting device to reproduce the inequalities inherent in the capitalistic market system. …In turn the teacher becomes the instrument of approved intellectual and moral culture, charged with the task of expunging destructive impulses and fueling the empty mental tank. The student must be permitted no autonomy lest the evil spirits that lurk in everyday life regain lost ground.” Paulo Freire, Pedagogy of freedom, Ethics, Democracy and civic courage
Many great thinkers and writers attest to democracy and education going hand in hand. John Dewey wrote extensively about this as does Freire. John F. Kennedy I borrowed from in recent days, Thomas Jefferson and so many more believed democracy and education are intertwined. But as I read Freire’s statement above I wonder if what we call democracy is truly that. How can a society manipulating its students into a market place albeit into consumers truly be a democracy?
Many historical writers of education address the incorporation of higher education. I went to get a water bottle yesterday from a vending machine and only certain ones were on and able to be purchased. So I could only get specific drinks and specific brands. In our school it happens to be all coca-cola products. I thought it interesting as we have the Cola wars even in schools. It has struck education and today as I walked through the gym I glanced at our score board and the huge coke logo. It was free I have heard. We have a regular coke man who many kids know by name.
Each week we buy over ten thousand dollars in Coke products. Essentially everyday he provides sustenance for nearly 2000 students and faculty just in this building. It is interesting as you add and subtract figures, two drinks and one snack per day per student and teacher equates to over one million dollars in sales per school year and three high schools in our county and over a hundred counties in Georgia. No wonder corporations want input in education.
I was noticing how what seemingly doesn’t happen and is not supposed to happen does, students tend to group by ability. Several times I have noticed lower functioning students and students who have failed a class particularly math and science will be grouped together and often with a younger less experienced teacher in the classroom. This happens all over not just in our school. Obviously Honors and advanced placement classes are taught by better teachers with experience and in most cases they have specific certification, “gifted” qualifications. A simple observation, the best teachers are often in the best classes with the best teachers and or in classes of special education special needs students.
I have been watching again the promos for a film coming on cable again, The Ron Clark Story. Ron Clark was the 2000 Disney Teacher of the year has been featured on Oprah and interviewed by Katie Couric. In his teaching providing context to content is a major theme in his teaching and now with the advent of The Ron Clark Academy in Atlanta he is taking his philosophy to a new standard.
“Before going to the bowling alley, Mr. Clark visited himself, measured the lanes and used the dimensions on worksheets. He also used the bowling pins to teach fractions, and took the prices from the snack shop and used them in math class. On every trip, whether it is up the street or across the globe, the Ron Clark Academy will make every moment a learning opportunity because as Mr. Clark has learned children must have a connection to something before they will appreciate it. After preparing our students so thoroughly for each trip, they will truly get the most out of the experience and internalize all they have learned.” The Ron Clark Academy, Curriculum, http://www.ronclarkacademy.com
Here is a teacher in our time stepping up and using ideas from 1915. John Dewey proposed such things many years ago.
“Only in education, never in the life of farmer, sailor, merchant, physician, or laboratory experimenter, does knowledge mean primarily a store of information aloof from doing.” John Dewey
However it requires a teacher to go to the bowling alley and go to a store and go to and do work and additionally out of the school stuff and more work in school and doing word walls and doing stuff and …..on and on. Much more than getting the teachers manual off the shelf and using the packaged transparencies and materials provided by McGraw Hill or whatever publisher is approved by state and federal guidelines and conveniently has aligned their text with your state curriculum and or had advisors on your state committee for curriculum. It is no coincidence textbooks are expensive and a big business, every school buys textbooks. College texts are notorious about price but what if priced at fifty dollars each and many especially in elementary reading classes are disposable it amounts to millions of dollars a year in each school district. Last year over $188,000,000.00 was spent in California to purchase books in order to keep up with curriculum standards. So if you multiply by fifty states and many more countries and we are talking billions of dollars at stake.
“We naturally associate democracy, to be sure, with freedom of action, but freedom of action without freed capacity of thought behind it is only chaos.” John Dewey
Friere and so many others are fearful of education being too incorporated and losing the freedom of thought which in reality is when we lose according to Dewey our democracy. Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts.