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The Economic Downturn an Upturn for Learning?

The Economic Downturn an Upturn for Learning?

It is unfavorable within educational and teaching circles to say that public education receives too much money…or “wasteful spending” happens in the educational system, but could it be true?  My initial reaction is to say that education should be the number 1 spending program (above military and even health) of our government, but what if less money, equaled more learning? 

                Those unfamiliar with my current graduate school, Goddard College, should be informed of what it is and what it is not.  It is a place where minds come together to create, innovate and critically think of new, courageous and different solutions to problems and application to theory, it is NOT a prestigious university with deep donor pockets or even upgraded, properly ventilated rooms or independent professor offices…my point?  These economic disadvantages do not stop the learning from happening, they do not stop innovation from thriving…in fact, the simplicity seems to enhance the thinking and limit the distractions.

                One of the original quotes from the first president of Goddard College Tim Pitkin was, “Goddard is a place for simple living, hard learning.”  I take this to be true and to the heart and wonder if an economic downturn helps individuals free their minds to where and how authentic experience and gained learning happens. 

                This notion, of course goes against every fiber in my bean, and I know the reality is that schooling does not exist within a progressive, rural college bubble, but rather as large infrastructures that face thousands of students each year and millions countrywide, who are all in need for at least the basic elements to thrive in learning, but, let us think for a moment?  Is it possible that even though education is in a crisis with economic downturns, we as teachers, administrators and students are still distracted by the richness, which is afforded to us in this, the richest nation on the planet? 

                Individually, I search for environments of peace, safety and vitality, in order to further my exploration on subject matter, knowledge, and experiential learning.  I have found that schools, without this space and environmental characteristics, are usually filled, instead, with plenty of distractions and compartmentalizing of where learning happens.  I hope to never lose the enthusiasm and passion for the gaining of knowledge and learning from experience regardless of surrounding economic conditions. 

                I would suggest, that our ‘learn thinking’ inside the classroom or without, the simplifying of using what resources we currently have and the disregarding ones that are not edifying, of even distracting, will lead to innovation and creation of new ideas, new solutions and an imagination which, for many of us, has been lacking since our childhood.  

                Trying some “simple living, hard learning” may lead to some interesting, new results that previously were forgotten due to the cluttering by the advancements, distractions and richness we had before. 

In educational solidarity,  

    Casey K. Caronna


About caseykcaronna

A 27 year old Master of Arts in Education Degree holder from the progressive, liberal arts school, Goddard College. I am interested in Holistic, Community, Progressive, Democratic and Student-Centered Education. I am currently a part-time employee with the Boy Scouts of America. I am writing my first book on holistic education and looking for full time employment in education, throughout the United States and Canada. I am interested in all things education and hope to make trans-formative changes to the educational system(s) in America and in the process help to improve the lives of the individuals in whom it serves.


6 thoughts on “The Economic Downturn an Upturn for Learning?

  1. Casey, I like the idea of using the perceived crisis as an opportunity for shedding distractions.

    I wonder how lean we could go in thinking about teaching and funding it. I wonder if a school system could contract with a teacher edupreneur, give the teacher a budget equal to his or her per pupil allotment, let the teacher try to beat the division’s bottom line by using open source and social media content, and then let the teacher and students work together to manage leftover moneys as micro-loans to local or global start-ups. I first read about students managing micro-loans on Bill Ferriter’s (@plugusin) blog.

    Then money saved out of bureaucracy might be used to help people around the world fight poverty in their communities.

    Imagine if school systems shed enough distractions to regain some fiscal weight. Where would you like to see the money reinvested? Given back to tax-payers? Used to build living, learning campuses? Used to provide philanthropic venture capital to student community organization start-ups? Sent to pay off the national debt? To pay students for internships? To be put into a portfolio for a required financial literacy class? To provide 1:1 broadband wireless Internet access for students and their families? For what else?

    Best regards,

    Posted by Chad Sansing | April 22, 2010, 6:52 pm
  2. Hi Chad,
    Funding and teaching it? Throwing out the history books..hehe (joking..kind-of). There are several ways that this would be possible, including the idea of lowering adminstrative costs by cutting salary and positions of authority that do not contribute to the learning process, cutting costs by the admissioning of standardized tests, of if you can’t do that with the funding of each district, then at least teachers cutting their own wasteful spending in classrooms, especially in terms of paper usage, rubric, handouts, and bubble tests. There are lots of ways to create simpler forms of learning, focused on the individual and collective, rather than on discipline principle belief systems.

    I like several ideas on what do once the shedding of distracts happend in order to regain some fiscal weight. I would love to see the money be used to create living, learning campuses, providing philanthropic venture capital to student organizational start-ups and for broadband internet access for students and their families, these three ideas are great. I am focused on the future of education as a means out of “giving back to tax payers” or “paying of the national debt.”

    I believe if the shift in shedding these distractions became a reality, the latter would follow. Complex distractions have taken away from the learner, the JOY of learning, not only would simplifying things cut costs and regain some economic stability, but its reinvestment in continually simplifying the education system (not dumbing it down or necessarily lessening good resources) but creating the environment, using technology to make this clearer and crisper, could create a sound financial picture for decades to come.

    Often times people tend to equal simpler with stupid, or simple with dumb, when in reality, simple may be simply using the resources you have to best highlight the most important part of your activity. In education we do this all the time, we believe that new, flashy resources, or updated books every year is what is going to keep us “ahead of the game” and keep us relevant, but this is also based around the idea that students are prepared to be good capitalistic clones, rather than good human beings. Why can’t we turn an economic crisis, into a simpler, crisper mode of focused, authentic learning? This is a total shift and transition in thought as well as action.

    Chad, I believe the most important way to reinvest any money that becomes more sound, wehther we do it through financial literacy class, internship, community organization for students, national debt repayment, internet access, campus improvement, whatever the case may be, is to reinvest the continual CONSERVATION of schooling economics so that learning can be embolded rather than distraction.

    Thanks for the comments and questions,

    Posted by educationalrevolutionist | April 22, 2010, 10:19 pm
  3. Ask any post-secondary institution about their enrollment during recessions.

    In bull markets, people are too busy making money but during bear markets, they can’t learn enough.

    Posted by Joe Bower | April 22, 2010, 11:34 pm
  4. Hi Joe,
    Yeah, this is very true. My post isn’t about enrollment, per se, but more about the culture of doing more with less in learning. I use the economic downturn as a psychological perscription to change the way individuals interact in learning and how authentic learning can be hightened.

    This is not to say that colleges are not making money during bad economic times, you are correct, quite the opposite, but it is also true that classrooms become overburden and at any of the k- 12 levels, budget constraits are in fact, largely impactful on resources.

    Goddard College started during the depression of the 1930s, they did not have a flood of individuals wanting to come and learn, they grew gradually, but Pitkin recognized an opportunit to tap into people’s desire to learn, by simplifying what the college/university focused on, so that other, materialistic distractions were lessened.

    Posted by educationalrevolutionist | April 23, 2010, 1:17 pm
  5. Great thoughts here. I like Chad’s idea of giving teacher’s their own budget to manage and utilizing professional level scales of learning including social media and PLN’s. I see this working well for the middle and high school students, but less so for elementary ones.

    The idea of shedding waste is of course always an attractive idea, and more so when money would be made available for specific purposes. Micro-loans for student entrepreneurs, or paid internships, or upgrades for living and sustainable campuses, or community improvements that incorporated students in project-based learning?

    I like the idea of school like a beehive, where everyone is coming and going and different times, using various forms of communication to stay connected and informed of what is happening. Teachers more as guides then instructors. Utilization of community (local and on-line) resources to further learning. I think there’s a lot that can be stripped down in schools while increasing the quality of learning. But that will be difficult to do while testing is the preferred evaluating tool. Perhaps we can convince administrators and politicians to ditch tests if we can demonstrate how money can be saved by doing so.

    Thanks for the good conversation.


    Posted by Adam Burk | April 24, 2010, 11:13 am
  6. Chad, Adam and Casey, I’ve been off the blog for a couple of days doing my day job, so I’m just catching up here. Sorry.

    Chad, I love the idea you expressed of contracting with a teacher entrepreneur and seeing what they could do, or Adam’s image of a beehive. I’ve proposed organic gardens as my metaphor for elementary school (lots of compost for each one), and a town square for the high school, with lots of opportunity to argue and discuss in the square, and lots of social media and resource support in the cafes that surround the square. The current system, with all its entailments, seems largely about supporting adults (literally), rather than engaging children in learning.

    Would the teachers in your school support this kind of leanness? Are folks who are generally drawn to the profession ones who would want to run their own shops, as Chad describes? What is your sense of your colleagues?

    Casey, what is “learn thinking” in your second to last paragraph?

    Posted by Kirsten Olson | April 24, 2010, 1:43 pm

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