Bird Droppings April 10, 2014
The journey starts here now
“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, they decide on schools to build and a place to build them and rules to govern schools. What and 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 and educated as pawns in a society for the society’s own good and many top educators believe this. There are times when I believe that watching new teachers come and teach in a manner that has been that way for a hundred years, as we develop curriculums that are what was and will always be. Occasionally 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 routine keeps popping up.
Today as I do every day I let out our Westie terrier, Lilgirl the dog who at 15 pounds thinks she is a 150 pounds, generally after Lilgirl is up, I get to my reading of emails and writing. I recall only a few years back when we had two dogs and they could not be out at the same time or in the same room or space, I always thought that was interesting as they were raised together. Then I go to the computer and write trying to catch up on emails. Sometimes the Westie will come and sit by my feet and sleep. Today she wanted back out, an alteration to my morning routine and it bothers me. What is of concern as I think is this is a trivial item to be concerned about? We want things to be smooth to run efficiently and effectively and “OUR WAY”; 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 I call it and easy to can and be bottled. Borrowing from Sydney J, Harris “easier to stuff a sausage than cultivate a pearl” The student effectively gets lost in the mandated and regulated manipulations of society. The advent and proliferation of charter schools run by profit seeking entities only adds to this problem.
“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 majority wants even at the expense of free thought. We say individualism on one hand yet want the majority to rule and to dictate. As I was watching the election process in Iraq over the past few years and previously these concepts seemed to be exemplified. One faction has 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. In Georgia it is our state legislators passing laws for charter schools while continually cutting finding to public education, increasing class sizes, and in some cases eliminating funding to special needs. We complain and we are faced with a journey with neither provisions we do not want nor need. We can be often on that journey in a wrong direction for several years till another change, or pathway appears. Far too often we dictate direction in a top down scenario. In our own state a state representative was elected and almost beat by a write in vote for Charles Darwin because no one ran against him.
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. It is so easy to raise an issue; following through with ideas is the more difficult aspect. Where in should the direction be set for example in education? 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, a compass at least. The teacher can be that, facilitating in a guiding manner. But 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.” Dragonfly web site,
If we substitute educators and or students for navigators an interesting situation occurs. 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 whenever but it does start somewhere. As a teacher helps students find a starting point and then provides tools to navigate the journey. I was talking to a young man yesterday and trying to get him to understand it will be difficult to continue as he is and pass the class. His response was simple I am not coming back to school next year so what. So easy to say I quit and why was this kid left behind in a society that has the tools and means to educate and has for so many years. Many times I hear that is just the ways it is. For some time I have been a fan of Dr. Nel Noddings and her relationship philosophy of caring in terms of education.
“Without imposing my values on another, I must realize that my treatment of him may deeply affect the way he behaves in the world. Although no individual can escape responsibility for his own actions, neither can the community that produced him escape its part in making him what he has become.” Dr. Nel Noddings, Stanford University
It is not just the student who is to blame it is also we as an educational system have let him down. We to are to blame, we have supported the concept of No Child Left Behind and continue with the Race to the Top ideologies and in doing so leaving students by the wayside as we go. Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and to always give thanks namaste.
My family and friends I do not say this lightly,
(We are all related)