Friday, April 20, 2012

Schoolhouse 2025: Page Two

We had a lively discussion last week and I thank all who participated. There seems to be some divergence of opinion on our schools, and that is to be expected. This week, I’d like to touch on what I think are the necessary ingredients for learning to take place.
As I see it, there are two main elements needed; a person who has knowledge and is willing to impart it, and a person who has a thirst to learn. Place those two under a tree or in a multimillion dollar edifice and learning can take place. Obviously this is an oversimplification but it illustrates a great truth. The teacher and the student are the only irreplaceable elements. Everything else is tiered somewhere lower on the have to have scale.
I’m hoping for a bit of mind stretch here. Consider what other elements you will need to teach any academic subject; perhaps something to write on, something to write with. Equipment comes next. In some areas of study, you must have teaching aids to be successful. Without going into the individual disciplines, let your mind range over what kind of devices it takes for a teacher to impart science facts. Books for reading classes. Perhaps maps for history and geography. Musical instruments for music (yes, music is an academic discipline, incorporating mathematics and auditory science in an art form). This is a sample starter list, and you can fill in specific subject requirements.
Now it’s getting a bit complicated, and we need a place to house all this stuff. A comfortable, well-lit classroom isn’t a bad idea, either. And, ta-da, we have the beginning of controversy over how big a building, how big should classes be, and on down the time-trodden weary road to compromise. Remember two facts of life; one, each generation sees normal as what he/she experiences it early in life; and two, we have all been subjected to countless barrages of social engineering.
Consider the first point if you will. Because man is a generational beast and tends to build a history as he goes, we tend to believe that tradition will protect the great truths we discover along the way. We do, until we’ve become sufficiently careless that we don’t continue to teach those truths, but believe each generation will simply accept them.
I came along nearly eight decades ago, into a world that had a crude radio system, telephones that hung from a wall and required an operator to connect you to someone, a transportation system recently moved from the horse and buggy to self-powered automobiles, small transport airplanes that seemed sleek and modern but were archaic by today’s standards. And the only individual communication device consisted of the Dick Tracy wrist radio that cartoonist Al Capp dreamed up. That was my norm.
My first-born son, Michael, came into a world that was viewing the first successful color television sets, had experienced the first atomic explosions and the ramifications of that technology, transport planes that sported jet engines and held several times the number of people able to fly together in the past, increasingly efficient and comfortable passenger autos, a post-war America awash in commercial success but threatened by warring factions in the two most powerful nations on earth. This is just a little cross-section of life for either of us, but it is clear to see how we could easily grow up expecting different things from life.
Even when Mike was growing up, what was being taught in his schools had changed markedly from what I learned. And what I didn’t learn. Fast forward a generation to his first child, Jessica, and check out the radically different curriculum she learned from, and you begin to understand the importance of what I said above. Unless we insure that certain universal truths are constantly taught, and not constantly revised, each generation will develop its own norm and the ultimate result is what the world has experienced for thousands of generations, chaos. A new civilization is born, matures to domination, achieves great heights, and collapses when it loses its original foundation, leaving the world in a new dark age.
I know that many of you will disagree with me, and that is fine with me. Primarily, I want to evoke a serious discussion of where we are, and how our kids and grandkids are going to cope in their own generations. Till next time.


  1. Your points this week are exactly what I was trying to impart last week -- namely, that above all, we must preserve in our children an ability to THINK and to REASON. Technology is wonderful. But it comes to a standstill at the point when its users can only punch preprogrammed buttons to operate it, and do not have the ability to understand it. Because eventually, it will break. And then who knows how to fix it? Well, duh. Nobody. Which reinforces my other major point. No one last week advocated child abuse or hitting a child or beating a child or otherwise mentally or physically abusing a child. However, teaching self-discipline by definition means that an individual is taught that every act has a consequence. And I'm sorry, right now, the majority of the educational system (and a good many family structures as well) have no consequences for any action. A child does not just hit eighteen and automatically become a self-motivating, self-driving, self and other respecting individual. It starts in the cradle. It is a parent's life long work in progress. So that when that child enters the educational system, that child is not a screaming wildcat running through the classroom throwing things at the teacher and other children whose parents don't just say, "Well, guess they're having a bad day," and then proceed to blame that child's behavior on the teacher and the principle. But the thing that scares me? Parents who do just that are becoming the majority.

    1. Precisely because we've failed to maintain those truths about personal responsibility and allowing something greater than personal desires to be in control of our lives.

  2. Pat,
    I hope you realise just HOW big the can o' worms you've opened here really is ...!
    Credentials: 30+ years at the 'chalk face' before the family gremlin (arthritis!!) forced me to accept early retirement from teaching.
    I taught from pre-school to university entrance during that time, starting and ending my career in the UK but spending almost 20 years as a 20th Century 'throwback' equivalent of the mediaeval Paripatetic: the wandering teacher travelling throughout mainland Europe.
    Warning bells SHOULD have started to chime at one of the first Parent-Teacher meetings my FATHER attended when I was in what you'd understand as "First Grade" [1955]. I'd filled a school eercise book(4 of them, according to Dad!) with my first attempt at novel writing - allegedly it was called "The Invisible Man" and he claims to have a copy 'somewhere' but he can never find it when I ask to see proof ...
    I digress. He wanted to know why Miss Gregson hadn't corrected my SPELLINGS (I'd conssistently used the US "color" instead of the UK "colour" throughout. Her reply? "Paul spells much better than I do" AND SHE WAS BEING SERIOUS!!
    Fast forward 20 years or so to the time I was just starting my teaching career.I was appalled to discover that this was TRUE: some of the OLDER members of staff - not just the NQTs like myself - were what I would describe as "barely literate".
    I'll make this ONE major point and return later in the day with others: I've several things I want to argue about!

    If the Teacher isn't "up to the mark" how can we expect our children to be educated to an acceptable standard?

    The word "Discuss" would at one time have been printed on the page of an exam paper, along with this caveat:
    "Do not spend more than one hour answering any question. You must writean essay on THREE of the following subjects."

  3. Dammit, can't get back to Edit a couple of 'typos'I just spotted! LOL

  4. Part the second ...

    I've seen and had to cope with too many problems in classrooms caused by lack of DISCIPLINE.
    Average class size in the UK will be c.35+/- (all ages).
    It only takes ONE troublemaker wh doesn't WANT to work to destroy the classroom environment for everyone else. Such pupils are invariably 'clued up' by their Social Worker/Probation Officer who has made sure that they KNOW what their "Rights" are: by contrast, the teacher has NONE.
    There are children leaving school in the UK barely able to write their own name - a skill which they're going to need when they o to sign on the unemployment register and collect Benefit.
    Scary? Wait until come back with my THIRD comment ...