Although, not inseparable from politics/economics/culture/kinship/etc., I think it would be useful to have a place to imagine and discuss with ZForum users issues related to education. For instance, discussing/interpreting/debating what is called education reform in the United States, and issues of education in other parts of the world, and imagining what an ideal school/classroom/educational institution would look like. Or discussing what we can advocate for or do in our communities or schools to help transform the lives of students and the institutions themselves.
I am particularly interested in critical pedagogy, and I suspect other Z-readers may also be too. So what do you think? What is the context we are dealing with considering schools and how can education be framed or understood in order to make it easier for us in striving towards a better, more just world?at #722445
Hi Jbuckrop: I think education at its core should be about giving back. I would like to go straight to MIT and get a program started where I can have 5 people a year come up from Mississippi and Alabama, to get an education of a lifetime they would never had had otherwise. I will donate 10% of my income for the rest of my life to accomplish this goal (just have a contract stating such), so the 5 or so people from the deep south can get a good education. I am certainly not looking to live off of anyone or anything else — I think it’s a reasonable vision and a good one. I have an old friend from high school who teaches at the high school level herself now in Texas and she probably has fantastic on-the-ground ideas. One thing that has endlessly annoyed me in college is the test taking. It always feels like I am pressured and I don’t understand everything and I am so quickly rushed into a test. I really dislike that. Essay tests in philosophy were much easier, even though it was more work, but we had more time to deal with all the subject matter. The rushing of tests is not productive, even in foreign language classes the ferocity of the lessons is so rapid that I just cannot comprehend most of it, so what is the point?at #722656
It’s an interesting topic, and well worth exploring. Why is it that there are so few posts here and few exchanged about education vision and strategy? Seems like everyone could benefit from the discussion.at #722669
I’m not sure Billie, but now that we are here, that is a good thing!at #722675
True enough. I’ll write up some thoughts and get back on here, and I’ll share some ideas that have been percolating, assuming you and others would be interested in the exchange. Cool beans.at #722725
Maybe later I’ll write something longer about what I think, but right now I’ll just give a few thoughts that have occurred to me in my time as a teacher. Perhaps I’ll change fields later, but I’ve been an English as a second language (ESL) teacher for about five years now. The largest challenges that I have faced have been on three fronts: (1) how to to respect students’ individual freedom and not unfairly extend my authority over the student, (2) how to motivate the students to learn a subject most of the students might not be interested in learning and what to do about the students who do not want to learn, and (3) how best to make use of the institutional framework (the university expectations of what the courses I teach are supposed to accomplish, the grading expectations, the classroom environs, and so on).
These three areas, (1) respecting freedom and maintaining legitimate authority, (2) motivating students, and (3) making use of what I have, are a lot more difficult to triangulate than at first blush they might seem. In a perfect world, universities and schools would be institutions people attend not out of a desire to get a degree–even though that’s the expectation of the societies we currently live in–but because people genuinely want to learn. Also, in a perfect world, students wouldn’t need grades but would instead understand if they grasped something by their ability to demonstrate proficiency in what they have studied. In my case, if the subject is remedial English, the student merely needs to show her grasp of remedial English by being able to understand and use remedial English. But in the world we live in, the situation is quite different. Since many students are taking courses they don’t want to take, they are not interested in what they’re learning, no matter the amount of teacher effort. And in the real world, people care a lot about the appearance of the teacher, so this plays a role in evaluation. Examples could be multiplied. In any event, they all make it seriously difficult not to violate any of the above three.
I’ll give you some more clear examples of how violations occur. Suppose, like (1) above, I want to respect students’ freedom and use my position qua teacher in a way that would not be an illegitimate use of authority. It becomes immediately difficult to do if students do not participate in the classroom, distract others during the lessons, or refuse to do work because they do not want to learn what I am teaching. I could let them do this, in which case it disrupts the learning environment, or I could dismiss some students or penalize students for nor participating. In these instances, the students’ freedom might be violated but I don’t know of any other option. Also, my authority is being extended because now I am telling people what to do in a way that I am not comfortable with and that I do not think is necessarily a legitimate kind of authority, in the ideal sense.
Examples like the one above suggest that optimally classes would be taught to those who want to learn by those who want to teach in an environment that allows the teacher and all the students to function freely and equally and where they could make progress toward proficiency in some subject at a reasonable and enjoyable pace with a fun, relaxed atmosphere. Incidentally, I should say that I have taught courses that have more or less approximated to this ideal but they have not been compulsory courses but rather additional, extracurricular English language learning courses that are open not only to university students but community members. As much as possible, I teach all my courses like this, but just as soon as compulsion and coercion are introduced, as is the case with mandatory courses that not enough people actually want to attend but who nonetheless must attend, the spirit of the classroom and of the students as individuals themselves is harmed.
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