Bird Droppings August 10, 2011
Filtering into bottles
Starting back to school again today and sitting here on day one and thinking back. I remember how hard I was hit by the impact of No Child Left Behind so many years ago. I was testing or reading a test to students who within their IEP’s were allowed modifications in testing. As I read an idea hit me, a liter bottle holds a liter no less unless you choose to not fill it and no more or it will spill out.
“The path of least resistance and least trouble is a mental rut already made. It requires troublesome work to undertake the alternation of old beliefs. Self-conceit often regards it as a sign of weakness to admit that a belief to which we have once committed ourselves is wrong. We get so identified with an idea that it is literally a “pet” notion and we rise to its defense and stop our eyes and ears to anything different.” John Dewey
Nearly a hundred years ago Dewey developed his ideas and philosophies about education. Much of what he thought was in a different league than where and how education was going at the time. Much of what he thought was ahead of where we are going today. Many months back I saw an interesting head line in our Sunday paper about the current educational mandate of “No Child Left Behind”. “Are we leaving children behind?” was the title.
“Education in our times must try to find whatever there is in students that might yearn for completion, and to reconstruct the learning that would enable them autonomously to seek that completion.” Allan Bloom
“It should be possible to explain the laws of physics to a barmaid.” Albert Einstein
How and why we educate children is crucial. Is it for some greater good or for the individual that we offer and provide education? Bloom states we need to provide a means for students to pursue learning, to interest that child so they actively seek education. Einstein wants learning to be simple enough that anyone can learn, he does not say easy but available for all.
“The secret in education lies in respecting the student.” Ralph Waldo Emerson
John Dewey wrote extensively on the democratic class room, many graduate school programs today teach democracy in the class room. I throw out the word symbiotic in terms of education, but respect is an awesome word as Emerson points out and it is in respecting the student that we educate.
“Nine tenths of education is encouragement.” Anatole France
“I am entirely certain that twenty years from now we will look back at education as it is practiced in most schools today and wonder that we could have tolerated anything so primitive.” John W. Gardner
So often the simplest answer is the correct one. An easy word is encouragement and yet we so often use it to little. We can do better, we have the capability yet sit back and relax letting students in effect suffer.
“The most important outcome of education is to help students become independent of formal education.” Paul E. Gray
“Education would be so much more effective if its purpose were to ensure that by the time they leave school every boy and girl should know how much they don’t know, and be imbued with a lifelong desire to know it.” Sir William Haley
It is a simple concept to teach children to know where to find answers. I have written now several times and reflected often on the idea of filling a liter bottle. Real teaching isn’t so much the filling of the bottle but the filtering and teaching of how to sort the knowledge into groups or subsets. It is that information we absolutely need and can remember, what fills the bottle. For the less significant information perhaps we can borrow a bottle and fill so we know where to find it.
The information we really do not need, it can spill to the ground. It is teaching the difference. It is teaching to sort and manipulate the information. Each child is different and capacities vary but if a child knew how to organize information I feel they would then in turn begin to teach themselves. As Gray states it is to be independent of education and Sir William with having that “desire to learn it”. This is what teaching is about. So recently many children in our area headed back to school, it can be a great day and a wondrous day. Please a reminder to keep all in harm’s way on your mind and n your heart. namaste