Friday, July 15, 2016

Week 6 Reading Response

The remarkable thing about experience is that you rarely realize it at the moment what you will carry with you for life. I had no idea when I first saw Fredrick Douglass that he would be a driving force in my education, that his words (which I wouldn't study or read in their entirety until college) would build the foundation of my ideas about education. I had no idea at the time my mother, in her attempts to homeschool her children about slavery, would give me the gift of his words that would later become my feelings about the value of an education.

My parents reasons for homeschooling their 10 children had very little to do with a belief in their abilities to teach or provide a better education for their children and more to do with avoiding having to deal with the demands of others. My older sister struggles with an unseen disability that required greater effort to reach long term memory, it was a problem in a small farming community in the mid-1980s where teachers didn't understand that she literal could not remember what was just said to her. The school wanted to put her in a "special" program. My parents often refer to this as the catalyst for why they pulled their kids out of school but as an adult I came to find it also came from the fact that by the mid-1980s my mother, pregnant with her seventh baby, was depressed. The school asked my parents to come to a meeting in which the issues of neglect were brought up. My older siblings were coming to school in the same clothes day after day, homework wasn't being finished, our hair wasn't brushed and we had lice and other issues. My mom felt completely overwhelmed and my dad's solution was to homeschool us so that we wouldn't have to worry about teachers or other people from the school judging their parenting.

I mention this because it's hard to explain the feeling of affinity I had with Fredrick Douglass and others who didn't get to go to school either. It's hard in today's society where generations have been unimpressed with public schools to explain my burning passion to support and improve this institution. It is by going back to the words of educators like Mary Jane McLeod that I start to find the words I would like to use to illustrate why we need public schools and what they are for.

I bring up this foundation and belief of mine because this week's readings again illustrate the areas in which education is falling behind, "current approaches to teaching and learning are out of sync with what is needed to prepare populations for their future lives." Lankshear and Knobel (2011) In a climate that is increasingly exhorting charter school success and condemning public schools for their failures I know I am not the only one demanding that if something is successful than that is what we should be doing in our public schools. Winning the lottery so you can go to a better charter school is bullshit. Sure people with more money should be able to buy a better education but the point of a public education is in fact to secure for the masses and poor and "undeserving" the best possible education. And we already know that doesn't mean rote memorization or passing a standardized test.

Lankshear and Knobel again stated, "Keeping up with institutional change was an important catalyst for the related ideals of lifelong learning, learning how to learn, and transferring knowledge and training." The struggle in education is how do you quantify if a school is being successful, how do you hold educators accountable for creating environments that are safe for students to learn in, how to you meet the individual needs of hundreds or thousands of developing people in an artificial environment like a public school?

Heather Wolpert-Gawron Has a wonderful conversation with another teacher on exactly this topic. What is the point of a public education today. What are the things we are hoping to impart to our modern day students. 

What is the purpose of public education?
1. Teach the skills for passionate advocacy
2. Prep the students for their future participation in our democratic process
3. Educate them with the skills to function in the future world
4. Grant equal opportunity and access to the same high-level of learning
5. Develop the skills to have options in life
6. Teach the love of exploration
7. Teach the awareness and maturity of self to be one’s own advocate later in life
8. Create a civilized population
9. Prepare students to contribute to an ever-evolving society
10. Fill a student with a sense of service and belonging
11. Foster personal responsibility
12. Create critical thinkers
13. Develop the ability and confidence to question
14. Nurture the skills necessary to participate in the exchange of ideas
15. Develop students who function autonomously
16. Teach social skills
17. Give students the skills to compete globally
18. Create lifelong learners
19. Teach students what it takes to achieve their professional goals
20. Teach them reading, writing, and math. 
Angie Peifer, National Connection Consultant for the School Boards Association also asked this question and came up with a very interesting response to the question of what public education was intended for.
Finally Lanshear and Kobel state that, "knowledge is always an outcome of sociocultural practices in which people use mental and material tools, acquire and employ skills, and draw on forms of existing understanding and knowledge and belief, to undertake tasks and pursue particular purposes and goals – including knowledge-specific purposes and goals. The goals and tools they use, and the beliefs, understandings and extant knowledge they draw upon are not individual, private possessions but, rather, are social." 
Individual schools have been successful. Amazing teachers have inspired their students and all these wonderful things we know and understand about human development can and need to be used in our public schools. We need to stop bad mouthing the system because all it does it convince people public schools are not necessary. It sends a message that teachers are ignorate of how to teach, that school is meaningless to our lives, and that we should only be self reliant in educating ourselves. I did teach myself a lot on my own, I was able to follow my curiousity and discover things all on my own outside of the school system. And I still value a good teacher. I still understand that there were things I could not teach myself. And I am dedicating my life to creating those schools that will be these amazing institutions that meet the changing needs of society and create opportunities for every child to learn in.

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