Posts Tagged ‘education’
The Seven-Lesson Schoolteacher
By John Taylor Gatto
New York State Teacher of the Year, 1991
Call me Mr. Gatto, please. Twenty-six years ago, having nothing better to do at the time, I tried my hand at schoolteaching. The license I hold certifies that I am an instructor of English language and English literature, but that isn’t what I do at all. I don’t teach English, I teach school — and I win awards doing it.
Teaching means different things in different places, but seven lessons are universally taught from Harlem to Hollywood Hills. They constitute a national curriculum you pay for in more ways than you can imagine, so you might as well know what it is. You are at liberty, of course, to regard these lessons any way you like, but believe me when I say I intend no irony in this presentation. These are the things I teach, these are the things you pay me to teach. Make of them what you will.
A lady named Kathy wrote this to me from Dubois, Indiana the other day:
“What big ideas are important to little kids? Well, the biggest idea I think they need is that what they are learning isn’t idiosyncratic — that there is some system to it all and it’s not just raining down on them as they helplessly absorb. That’s the task, to understand, to make coherent.”
Kathy has it wrong. The first lesson I teach is confusion. Everything I teach is out of context. I teach the un-relating of everything. I teach disconnections. I teach too much: the orbiting of planets, the law of large numbers, slavery, adjectives, architectural drawing, dance, gymnasium, choral singing, assemblies, surprise guests, fire drills, computer languages, parents’ nights, staff-development days, pull-out programs, guidance with strangers my students may never see again, standardized tests, age-segregation unlike anything seen in the outside world….What do any of these things have to do with each other?
Even in the best schools a close examination of curriculum and its sequences turns up a lack of coherence, full of internal contradictions. Fortunately the children have no words to define the panic and anger they feel at constant violations of natural order and sequence fobbed off on them as quality in education. The logic of the school-mind is that it is better to leave school with a tool kit of superficial jargon derived from economics, sociology, natural science and so on than to leave with one genuine enthusiasm. But quality in education entails learning about something in depth. Confusion is thrust upon kids by too many strange adults, each working alone with only the thinnest relationship with each other, pretending for the most part, to an expertise they do not possess.
Meaning, not disconnected facts, is what sane human beings seek, and education is a set of codes for processing raw facts into meaning. Behind the patchwork quilt of school sequences and the school obsession with facts and theories, the age-old human search lies well concealed. This is harder to see in elementary school where the hierarchy of school experience seems to make better sense because the good-natured simple relationship of “let’s do this” and “let’s do that” is just assumed to mean something and the clientele has not yet consciously discerned how little substance is behind the play and pretense.
Think of the great natural sequences like learning to walk and learning to talk; following the progression of light from sunrise to sunset; witnessing the ancient procedures of a farmer, a smithy, or a shoemaker; watching your mother prepare a Thanksgiving feast — all of the parts are in perfect harmony with each other, each action justifies itself and illuminates the past and the future. School sequences aren’t like that, not inside a single class and not among the total menu of daily classes. School sequences are crazy. There is no particular reason for any of them, nothing that bears close scrutiny. Few teachers would dare to teach the tools whereby dogmas of a school or a teacher could be criticized since everything must be accepted. School subjects are learned, if they can be learned, like children learn the catechism or memorize the Thirty-nine Articles of Anglicanism.
I teach the un-relating of everything, an infinite fragmentation the opposite of cohesion; what I do is more related to television programming than to making a scheme of order. In a world where home is only a ghost, because both parents work, or because too many moves or too many job changes or too much ambition, or because something else has left everybody too confused to maintain a family relation, I teach you how to accept confusion as your destiny. That’s the first lesson I teach.
2. CLASS POSITION
The second lesson I teach is class position. I teach that students must stay in the class where they belong. I don’t know who decides my kids belong there but that’s not my business. The children are numbered so that if any get away they can be returned to the right class. Over the years the variety of ways children are numbered by schools has increased dramatically, until it is hard to see the human beings plainly under the weight of numbers they carry. Numbering children is a big and very profitable undertaking, though what the strategy is designed to accomplish is elusive. I don’t even know why parents would, without a fight, allow it to be done to their kids.
In any case, again, that’s not my business. My job is to make them like it, being locked in together with children who bear numbers like their own. Or at the least to endure it like good sports. If I do my job well, the kids can’t even imagine themselves somewhere else, because I’ve shown them how to envy and fear the better classes and how to have contempt for the dumb classes. Under this efficient discipline the class mostly polices itself into good marching order. That’s the real lesson of any rigged competition like school. You come to know your place.
by adminadam in fiction
Profession, by Isaac Asimov — © 1957
George Platen could not conceal the longing in his voice. It was too much to suppress. He said, “Tomorrow’s 1 May. Olympics!”
He rolled over on his stomach and peered over the foot of his bed at his roommate. Didn’t he feel it, too? Didn’t this make some impression on him?
George’s face was thin and had grown a trifle thinner in the nearly year and a half that he had been at the House. His figure was slight but the look in his blue eyes was as intense as it had ever been, and right now there was a trapped look in the way his fingers curled against the bedspread.
George’s roommate looked up briefly from his book and took the opportunity to adjust the light-level of the stretch of wall near his chair. His name was Hali Omani and he was a Nigerian by birth. His dark brown skin and massive features seemed made for calmness, and mention of the Olympics did not move him.
“I know, George.”
George owed much to Hali’s patience and kindness when it was needed, but even patience and kindness could be overdone.
Was this a time to sit there like a statue built of some dark, warm wood?
George wondered if he himself would grow like that after ten years here and rejected the thought violently. No!
He said defiantly, “I think you’ve forgotten what May means.”
The other said, ”I remember very well what it means. It means nothing! You’re the one who’s forgotten that. May means nothing to you, George Platen, and,’ he added softly, “It means nothing to me, Hali Omani.”
George said, “The ships are coming in for recruits. By June, thousands and thousands will leave with millions of men and women heading for any world you can name, and all that means nothing?”
“Less than nothing. What do you want me to do about it, anyway?” Omani ran his finger along a difficult passage in the book he was reading and his lips moved soundlessly.
George watched him. Damn it, he thought, yell scream; you can do that much. Kick at me, do anything.
It was only that he wanted not to be so alone in his anger. He wanted not to be the only one so filled with resentment, not to be the only one dying a slow death.
It was better those first weeks when the Universe was a small shell of vague light and sound pressing down upon him. It was better before Omani had wavered into view and dragged him back to a life that wasn’t worth living.
Omani! He was old! He was at least thirty. George thought: Will I be like that at thirty? Will I be like that in twelve years?
And because he was afraid he might be, he yelled at Omani, “Will you stop reading that fool book?”
Omani turned a page and read on a few words, then lifted his head with its skullcap of crisply curled hair and said, “What?”
“What good does it do you to read the book?” He stepped forward, snorted “More electronics,” and slapped it out of Omani’s hands.
Omani got up slowly and picked up the book. He smoothed a crumpled page without visible rancor. “Call it the satisfaction of curiosity,” he said. “I understand a little of it today, perhaps a little more tomorrow. That’s a victory in a way.”
“A victory. What kind of a victory? Is that what satisfies you in life? To get to know enough to be a quarter of a Registered Electronician by the time you’re sixty-five?”
“Perhaps by the time I’m thirty-five.”
“And then who’ll want you? Who’ll use you? Where will you go?”
“No one. No one. Nowhere. I’ll stay here and read other books.”
“And that satisfies you? Tell me! You’ve dragged me to class. You’ve got me to reading and memorizing, too. For what? There’s nothing in it that satisfies me.”
“What good will it do you to deny yourself satisfaction?”
“It means I’ll quit the whole farce. I’ll do as I planned to do in the beginning before you dovey-lovied me out of it. I’m going to force them to – to – ”
Omani put down his book. He let the other run down and then said, “To what, George?”
“To correct a miscarriage of justice. A frame-up. I’ll get that Antonelli and force him to admit he – he – ”
Omani shook his head. “Everyone who comes here insists it’s a mistake. I thought you’d passed that stage.”
“Don’t call it a stage,” said George violently. “In my case, it’s a fact. I’ve told you – ”
“You’ve told me, but in your heart you know no one made any mistake as far as you were concerned.”
“Because no one will admit it? You think any of them would admit a mistake unless they were forced to? – Well: I’ll force them.”
It was May that was doing this to George; it was Olympics month. He felt it bring the old wildness back and he couldn’t stop it. He didn’t want to stop it. He had been in danger of forgetting.
He said, “I was going to be a Computer Programmer and I can be one. I could be one today, regardless of what they say analysis shows.” He pounded his mattress. “They’re wrong. They must be.”
“The analysts are never wrong.”
“They must be. Do you doubt my intelligence?”
“Intelligence hasn’t one thing to do with it. Haven’t you been told that often enough? Can’t you understand that?”
George rolled away, lay on his back, and stared somberly at the ceiling.
“What did you want to be, Hali?”
“I had no fixed plans. Hydroponicist would have suited me, I suppose.”
“Did you think you could make it?”
“I wasn’t sure.”
George had never asked personal questions of Omani before. It struck him as queer, almost unnatural, that other people had had ambitions and ended here. Hydroponicist!
He said, “Did you think you ’d make this?”
“No, but here I am just the same.”
“And you’re satisfied. Really, really satisfied. You’re happy. You love it. You wouldn’t be anywhere else.”
Slowly, Omani got to his feet. Carefully, he began to unmake his bed. He said, “George, you’re a hard case. You’re knocking yourself out because you won’t accept the facts about yourself. George, you’re here in what you call the House, but I’ve never heard you give it its full title. Say it, George, say it. Then go to bed and sleep this off.”
George gritted his teeth and showed them. He choked out, “No!”
“Then I will,” said Omani, and he did. He shaped each syllable carefully.
George was bitterly ashamed at the sound of it. He turned his head away.
For most of the first eighteen years of his life, George Platen had headed firmly in one direction, that of Registered Computer Programmer. There were those in his crowd who spoke wisely of Spationautics, Refrigeration Technology, Transportation Control, and even Administration. But George held firm.
He argued relative merits as vigorously as any of them, and why not? Education Day loomed ahead of them and was the great fact of their existence. It approached steadily, as fixed and certain as the calendar – the first day of November of the year following one’s eighteenth birthday. After that day, there were other topics of conversation.
One could discuss with others some detail of the profession, or the virtues of one’s wife and children, or the fate of one’s space-polo team, or one’s experiences in the Olympics. Before Education Day, however, there was only one topic that unfailingly and unwearyingly held everyone’s interest, and that was Education Day.
“What are you going for? Think you’ll make it? Heck, that’s no good. Look at the records; quota’s been cut. Logistics now – ”
Or Hypermechanics now – Or Communications now – Or Gravitics now –
Especially Gravitics at the moment. Everyone had been talking about Gravitics in the few years just before George’s Education Day because of the development of the Gravitic power engine.
Any world within ten light-years of a dwarf star, everyone said, would give its eyeteeth for any kind of Registered Gravitics Engineer. Read the rest of this entry »
Tao De Ching #17: Rulers
The best rulers are scarcely known by their subjects;
The next best are loved and praised;
The next are feared;
The next despised:
They have no faith in their people,
And their people become unfaithful to them.
When the best rulers achieve their purpose
Their subjects claim the achievement as their own.
Largely consistent with modern educational philosophy: The students are the center, more so, each student his or her own center. The teacher is a loving conductor, adviser, and commentator. Management is essential, but only up to a certain threshold; individual autonomy dies under the iron fist.
by adminadam in home
- Read 100 novels (and enjoy them!)
- Read 100 non-fiction books (and enjoy!)
- Speak at least 2 languages (and translate for someone that only speaks one!)
- Understand the conditions where you live by seeing other places.
- Understand the lives of others by living and working with as many people as possible.
- Lead a life, any kind of life, as best you can so that children may grow up with role models.
- Be ready to share your heart, be ready to be hurt, be ready to forgive and to move on.
- Keep your chin up, shake hands with conviction, be assertive, follow your dreams.
- Contribute your talents to educate, entertain, and nurture others.
- Take care of your mind and body: Never stop learning; never stop moving; never stop meeting new people.
Now I believe you are ready!
by adminadam in education
Katie Salen on creating a school that teaches through games.
Wish I could have gone to her school…
Wait. Katie – Can I teach there with you?
From the Quest2Learn website: An Overview.
“Mission critical at Quest is a translation of the underlying form of games into a powerful pedagogical model for its 6-12th graders. Games work as rule-based learning systems, creating worlds in which players actively participate, use strategic thinking to make choices, solve complex problems, seek content knowledge, receive constant feedback, and consider the point of view of others. As is the case with many of the games played by young people today, Quest is designed to enable students to “take on” the identities and behaviors of explorers, mathematicians, historians, writers, and evolutionary biologists as they work through a dynamic, challenge-based curriculum with content-rich questing to learn at its core.”
1) YOU DO NOT NEED TO LEAVE YOUR ROOM
“You do not need to leave your room. Remain sitting at your table and listen. Do not even listen, simply wait, be quite still and solitary. The world will freely offer itself to you to be unmasked, it has no choice, it will roll in ecstasy at your feet.”
– Franz Kafka (at advicetowriters)
~ HOWEVER ~
2) WRITERS HAVE TO HAVE TWO COUNTRIES
“Everybody who writes is interested in living inside themselves in order to tell what is inside themselves. That is why writers have to have two countries, the one where they belong and the one in which they live really.”
– Gertrude Stein (at advicetowriters)
So hard writing about China
five thousand years old
the width of their culture
not to mention mass
America, at only
The concept is flabbergasting
yet awfully trite
i.e. unimpressive generally,
but if that’s your subject matter
then you gotta write about it,
and how better than in the form of a long detailed documentary.
Or you could weigh the culture using a modern scale.
by adminadam in articles
1. Are you healthy in body?
(If not, go sleep.)
2. Have you taken account of all classroom and teaching variables?
3. Do you know students have diverse learning styles?
(Haven’t you heard?)
4. Have you spiced things up lately with a variety of activities?
(What spice describes your class dynamic now?)
5. Have you included humor and fun in your plans?
(Are you fun and funny with your class?)
6. Are you intentionally having fun teaching?
(Does fun just happen randomly?)
7. Have you clarified your expectations lately?
8. Did you make clear those expectations from the start?
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