Filtering into bottles

Morning Bird Droppings July 8, 2011
Filtering into bottles

“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

Over a hundred years ago John Dewey had ideas about education that were considered progressive. Much of what he thought was in a different league than where and how education was going at the time and has gone since. Much of what he thought was considerably ahead of where we are going today. Interesting head line in our Sunday paper about current educational mandates and cheating on required tests all based on “No Child Left Behind” legislation. The title was, are we leaving children behind?

“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

I have not been a fan of Allan Bloom’s thinking but this thought caught my attention. How and why we educate children is crucial is it for some greater good or is it for the individual that we offer and provide education. Bloom states we need to provide a means for students to pursue learning and 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 and being a fan of Dewey’s and The Foxfire Approach to teaching this thought of Emerson’s ties right in. In some graduate school programs today they have classes teaching the idea of democracy in a classroom. I throw out the word symbiotic in terms of education where teacher and students are mutually involved in learning. 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 correct be it an easy word encouragement and yet we so often use it far too little. We all know we can do better and yet we also have the capability yet sit back and relax letting students in effect suffer and not learn.

“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 the answers. Often this simple thought gets left by the wayside. Several days ago I reflected on the idea of filling a liter bottle, it only takes a liter. Real teaching isn’t so much the filling of the bottle but the filtering and teaching of how to sort knowledge into groups and condense so the bottle is not just filled but contains the crucial pieces. That is information we absolutely need and can remember that is filling the bottle. That which is left who knows but maybe perhaps we can borrow a bottle and fill with information we know where to find. The information we really do not need, can spill to the ground. It is teaching that makes the difference, that teaching of how to sort, use 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. Gray states that it is to be independent of education and Sir William says with having that “desire to learn it”, this are the keys. This is what teaching is about. So today many children in our area are home from school forgetting what they learned last year. As I came into the school today a little girl was registering for the upcoming year. She had dropped out and did independent studies while she had a baby and now is heading back to school. Today it will be a great day and a wondrous day and a reminder to all to keep all in harm’s way on your mind and n your heart.