Saturday, September 22, 2007

Correction, and more thoughts...

Just a correction in my last comment to Geoff, concerning the "What is education?" post. Among other things, I said: "If we wait to remove motes from our own eyes, nobody would do anything, for we are never going to achieve a state of motelessness, any of us, individually or culturally." That "culturally" should of course have been "collectively." Sorry. It's been a long, arduous week! I was just visiting jdid's blog, and saw some comments on how much students spend, and how much one "stylist" thought they ought to spend, on clothes. I was heartened to see people agreeing that spending $300.00 on one outfit was ridiculous, and to know that uniforms were being suggested as a great idea. One of the ways that people get to enjoy what they are doing is by paying attention to it. Like, if you don't stop to look at the world, you won't see the good things that are there. If you don't stop to savour your food, you won't enjoy what you are eating. If everybody's preoccupied with what everybody else in class is wearing, it's really difficult to attract anyone's attention. Actually, some very forceful, animated, dramatic teachers may succeed, but not every teacher is going to be forceful, animated, and dramatic – nor should they have to be. In one of today's newspapers, there's a front page article on Islamic schools. The students wear uniforms, and as a matter of religious protocol, boys and girls sit on opposite sides of the classroom, with space (lots) left in between. I'd be interested in observing the dynamics in such a classroom. I went to a girls' school myself, and I know that there is some research that suggests that both boys and girls achieve more in single sex schools. These aren't single sex classrooms, just spaces in which the sexes are segregated. One featured headmaster pointed out that the girls were treated no less well than the boys. I'd be glad to hear from anyone who has taught or observed teaching in such a classroom. Also, I'd be happy to hear any thoughts on the virtues, or otherwise, of keeping the sexes entirely or partially separate – in school, I mean...

11 comments:

geoffreyphilp101@gmail.com said...

Pam, one of the main problems with education is that schools of education often get in the way. For example, I know many good teachers who are barred from teaching because they refuse to take education courses, most of which I've found to be deathly.
I think if we could get people who are passionate about their discipline, then learning may take place.
A great teacher can and should set the pace and after that, depsite students like me in my formative years, some learning may actually take place.

Blessings,
Geoffrey

clarabella said...

Hi Geoffrey:
If I am to believe what you say – and I do believe it – the situation is less and less encouraging, more and more desperate. Can you perhaps expand on what it is about the 'education courses' that is so deathly and that deters these many good teachers from taking them? I'd very much like to know.

P&L,
pam

FSJL said...

People may know and be passionate about a subject, and yet not good at teaching it. Schools of education, however, seem determined to load people down with jargon before sending them out to teach.

If I had a dollar for each time I've heard the term 'student-centred' over the past 15 years, I'd be richer than Bill Gates.

geoffreyphilp101@gmail.com said...

Fragano, hit the nail on the head.

Too much jargon and very little emphasis on the "howness" of teaching--something similar to what has happened in some graduate schools where students are encouraged and end up writing Ph. D theses on scatological references in Henry IV --I know that for a fact--than advancing any real scholarship--titles without thought, stenography that passes for erudition.

clarabella said...

Fragano, Geoff:
Sure, we all would be rich if we collected a dollar for each time terms like student-centred are bandied about. I just am unable to fathom how it is that we certify teachers and send them into the classroom, ill equipped for the task for which we have just said they ARE equipped, bereft of skills in the 'how-ness' – as Geoff so well puts it – of the art, and indeed, the craft of teaching; how we let them sally forth into the classroom, and never mind the PD days, abandon them to bore themselves and bore their students – and that, I fear, is at best. At least – for teaching is as much about attitudes and values as it is about knowledge and skills – it is to have obscenities and abuse hurled at them in class, and on occasion to be physically assaulted, and, in their turn, to fail to guard their students from harassment, sexual and otherwise, to secure them from harm to their persons, and, indeed from loss of their lives. No exaggeration. As for the PhDs, Geoff, we used to say they are encouraged to write on the configurations of the protrusions on the anterior feelers of adult male cockroaches – as opposed to the protrusions on the posterior feelers, of course.

P&L,
clarabella

FSJL said...

I heard of one case where a chap got his Ph.D. on the basis of counting the hemi-penes of snakes.

The key question is always: what is education for? That is to say, how do the powers that be define the purpose of education (beyond those purposes which we've identified). All too often these days, large numbers of children are simply being warehoused until they grow up -- so who cares what kind of teacher they get.

And education must never challenge fixed beliefs -- let's have no teaching of evolution in the schools, or physics, or Harry Potter, or Mark Twain.....

clarabella said...

Well, I hope he enjoyed counting the snakes' hemi-penes! I agree that the key question is always: what is education for? But I think the PROBLEM HAS TO DO with how the powers that be define the purposes of education. I'm deducing that definition from education as I've seen it in operation, not from what they say its goals are. How they operate it doesn't have that much to do with the purposes we've agreed it ought to have, and does indeed, far too often, have more to do with child-minding the very young and warehousing juniors and adolescents. The results are there for all to see: we're producing fodder – fodder for cannon, fodder for consumption (gloss that all of the ways) fodder, fodder, fodder...

FSJL said...

Pam: In two words: you're right.

I'm in the business (inter alia) of providing a liberal education, an education for free people. The powers that be seem to have decided that freedom is a luxury most of us don't truly need. Corporate and cannon fodder, now, are urgently required.

However, this is my garden, and I will do my level best to cultivate it. I owe a great deal to my teachers, and it is my obligation as a moral being to pass that on.

clarabella said...

Fragano:
There was a book I read when I did Dip Ed: TEACHING AS A SUBVERSIVE ACTIVITY. Seems the possibilities for subversion are now severely circumscribed – for one thing, students are now rewarded for reporting teachers whom they suspect of... Well, I'm not sure what. The authors were talking about the kind of 'subversive' education that, we all agree, isn't valued anymore. So I deem your metaphor more apt, for the times, and I affirm it. TEACHING AS THE CULTIVATION OF AN IDIOSYNCRATIC GARDEN! I wish you increasingly good earth. I know you will use organic fertilizers and sustainable methods. May your crops abound!

FSJL said...

Pam: All I can do is my best.

clarabella said...

Hi Fragano:
My father used to say, "When you have done your best, the angels can do no better." Selah...