Thursday, December 27, 2007

A Response to LT's "Movies and Education II" Post

I agree with LT that we're likely to end up in the same place, though I feel like I've been a bit misunderstood. So, some clarifications.

1. LT says:

RW takes issue with our statement that we should push our students to achieve as much as possible to get as much education as possible.

RW wants to take the view that students should be free to decide whether they want to learn or not, whether they want to go to college or not, whether they want a particular kind of job.

Yes... with qualifications. While I do think that it's a good idea for people to achieve as much as possible and get as much education (defining 'education' as something almost completely different than 'schooling'), I don't think simply telling people - students - that's what they should do is a good idea, for the simple reason that telling people what to do, even with the best of intentions, is not as good as encouraging people to discover for themselves what to do.

It might seem like a small distinction, but I think it has substantial ramifications. I always react far better when given an option as to what to do (thus retaining my sense of agency, my ability to control my own life) than simply being told exactly what I should do. I have noticed that the students I worked with are much the same way - suggesting that much of their resistance to schoolwork is not the work per se, but the lack of control they have over their own lives.

A compromise, given the nature of the education system: That students are free to have substantial choice over their own learning within some broad parameters (language arts has to stay language arts, etc). Yes, I know this runs up against state and federal standards. The standards suck.

2. Anyway, LT says this:

We do believe, however, that there is some level of reading, writing, math, and reasoning skills that all adults should obtain if they are able because these are gateway skills to virtually all jobs that produce a living wage. We think that RW probably would agree on that point as well.

And LT is right. I agree.

3. LT says:

Unlike RW, we do not think that there are students who voluntarily choose not to be educated. Instead, we think that unsuccessful students see the value of education, want to be educated, but do not believe that they can be successful in education. Given that we view this as the cause of failure, we advocate for pushing students, not letting them to choose to fail.

Maybe this is a quibble, but I want to raise that distinction again between education and schooling. I think schools - especially high schools - are not set up to deal with the whole range of people they are responsible for. As a result, lots of students don't get much in the way of education while in school. The two - the school and the student - do not see eye to eye, sometimes in some very fundamental ways (and we can debate why this is, where it comes from, and how to deal with it, but that's another post).

I guess I say the above because I see this: That students (most of them, anyway; some of them actually seem to think that learning and intelligence are bad things) want to learn and want to be learned human beings, but do not understand school as a place where that's possible.

Yeah.. LT and I are ending up in the same place, all right; we're just using different words to get there.

Though I do think there are many students who do not see the value of education - and in fact do not see the value of being in school at all. This was a huge shock to me, and I tended to respond by asking students to tell me what the point of school was as far as they knew. Some of them claimed there was no point - which is different than not knowing the point. They actively claimed that education - not school, education - was a bad thing. That was hard to swallow.

So on that point I suspect LT and I differ. I think those students have internalized a very anti-intellectual message that is floating around America (and has been for a long time, really).

Anyway, this post feels too long, so I'm stopping here. Plus, I am unhappy with the writing and revising it doesn't seem to be getting me anywhere.


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