The question this week relates to how I see the possibility for the creation of authentic learning experiences during lean political and financial times. My colleagues have done a brilliant job articulating approaches varying from first approaching one’s self as what needs to change, to making deliberate decisions about where to exert your energy, and lastly, taking account of the larger picture of education reform in the last 30 years as to not get too worked up about tests and standards.
I appreciate Chad’s sentiment and series of questions. It’s one thing to talk theory and ideals, it is another to enact them. It pushes out of the safety of conformity–to systems and ourselves. We put ourselves at risk at least for criticism and at most for termination. So how’s this? I want to be put out of a job. Here’s my story.
Public education does not live in a bubble, it is rife with all the troubles of society today. So while Paula put the changes of public education on a timeline, let’s look at what else has happened. Addictions have risen, the number of people with mental health disorders has grown, our jails have become overfilled, the number of children born to the parents who fit within these categories have increased and overall our population as exceeded the planet’s carrying capacity. Yet, we can’t get enough of “Octo-mom,” and “Surprise, You’re Having a Baby!” We have moved from wholesome home cooked meals to microwave dinners, soda, and drugs as the primary things we ingest. We spend more time in front of a screen than doing nearly anything else. The rich have become disgustingly more wealthy while the middle-class has evaporated into debt, and the poor are perhaps more oppressed than ever with legal mechanisms to keep it that way. We cling to our illusions like infants and think a damn test is going to solve the problem. We talk about accountability but think about this: Wall Street just received billions of dollars of tax-payers’ money for putting millions of people out of work, out of their homes and into bankruptcy. Not one banker will go to jail. Politicians are pandering to said bankers because they bankroll their campaigns.
Our economy is built on poverty; exploitation of the planet, its plants, animals and people; and building and selling weapons to kill each other. I’ll put it simply, the world has gone crazy. THIS IS MADNESS!
So while we are clamoring over losing a field trip or having to give a stupid test, it all pales in comparison to the big picture we are in. The world is run by a technocracy that continues to supplant work from millions of people. Those millions of people are largely killing themselves with drugs, nutritionally poor diets, or literally killing themselves and each other. And technology is supposed to increase quality of life…(and it has in some medical applications for sure). Meanwhile the elite, the intelligentsia, think that they are simply inherently better, made of stronger moral fiber because they have money and aren’t crackheads. Meanwhile, the means by which they make their money is enslaving their grandchildren in debt and destroying the planet. Nice work. <sarcasm>
I love my #edtech friends, but seriously, no wiki is going to fix these problems (prove me wrong, I would love it!). Our mainstream culture today has two predominant traits–crazy as hell and morally bankrupt. Yet, believe it or not, I do believe people are inherently good.
Thus the subversion needed is not one of standardized testing, nor standards, it’s about doing sanity instead of insanity. Our children our surrounded by insanity-their parent(s), media, advertising, reality shows. We have to make damn sure that we are not part of that insanity.
We must be architects of character, before curriculum, before assessment; character.
Youth of today are on more drugs than any generation before them, they have higher rates of personality disorders (persistent impairment in interpersonal relationships), and stand before one of the largest problems humanity has ever faced. Uh-oh.
Our primary concern must be sanity if we ever want to move away from the cliff of nuclear war. Our primary concern must be sanity if we want clean water to drink. Our primary concern must be sanity if we want to reduce the inevitable effects of global weirding. I don’t care how many kids graduate high school or go to college if they are all crazy. I don’t care what the techniques of champion teachers are if they are crazy.
Show me students who know how to take care of themselves, others, and their environment with genuine concern and compassion, and I will give you a diploma, now that sounds like a reformed system to me. Show me someone who can conceive of an economic system that creates robust communities without poverty that don’t degrade ecosystems, and he can have a PhD.
So I said I want to be put out of a job, what did I mean? I mean that I want to cultivate such a high degree of sanity that a public school certified teacher is no longer needed. Parents would again have the time to rear their children. They would be trusted to be sane enough to provide the experiences needed for a chid’s proper development. Other adults would willingly contribute to children’s enrichment, whether that is learning how to farm and all the complexities involved in farming with your neighbors, or designing self-regulating buildings with your buddy that is a real natural building architect.
If our focus moved from chasing money to cultivating character and community, public schools may be obsolete. Since our focus would be on the quality of our lives as interdependent with the quality of neighbors’ lives and the ecosystems within which we are a part, so much of the crazy that drives our systems today would be gone. A degree in education would perhaps also disappear, because what is mastery of education other than knowing how to be a mature adult mentor and role model to others?
The system I envision looks much like the home school networks of today. But in order to get there we must focus on sanity, we must give up our addictions to money, stuff, and convenience. We must begin to wear the clothes of virtue that lay dusty and molding in the bottom of our closets.
So my subversion is sanity–Not subscribing to or persisting in seriously flawed systems and thinking. Flawed is perhaps best defined in Aldo Leopold’s Land Ethic, “A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability, and beauty of the biotic community. It is wrong when it tends otherwise.” And by this definition I will make progress in sanity by promoting what is right through my own perceptions and actions.
How are you contributing to sanity or insanity?