Week #9: Education as Commodity & Other Things
I am swamped in marking, so this will be brief!
First off, I want to explore the idea of theory, which was touched on in the chapter I presented. Educational theorizing is often frowned upon by teachers (I know, I was/am one) as not grounded in the reality of the classroom. I agree with Anderson, however, that good theory allows us to think about the big picture and use the ideas to reflect on our own practice. On the other hand, as Anderson pointed out, a theory can also blind us if we subscribe to one ‘pet’ view without question. Going back to the previous weeks presentations/articles, although I did not necessarily subscribe to the views given, I think it is still important to listen to and consider alternate theories and ideas. For example, take the The Computer Delusion by Oppenheimer. While I do believe that technology can offer much to improve education, his anecdotes (although it is interesting how he uses these stories to support his view, yet decries them as poor research earlier in the article) illustrate how NOT to use computers in the classroom. Likewise, Kirschner’s article argues that discovery learning is not advisable. Although I do not think his description of inquiry learning is the model promoted for classroom use, it does remind us of the importance of scaffolding- or guidance - in teaching, all elements of good practice. I guess my point is that arguments that prompt us to question and consider our practice critically are important to our growth as educators. Learning and teaching are messy, they are not easily reduced to theory since they are human endeavors, and humans vary, what works in one situation may not in another. Theory gives us a starting point, ideas to consider and test in the reality of our practice.
Before I move on to my next topic, I recently was watching a few video episodes of Search Engine (from TVO) with Jesse Brown. Take a look at the episodes called “The Luddite” (just funny!), and the ones about saving newspapers (related to Ben’s post a while back about changing media) and about the Internet making us dumber. The videos are funny, but make some good points for consideration.
Now, to finish, I will turn to the some of the ideas Ben presented about the move to education as commodity in the move to corporate globalization. This idea, in particular, was of interest. There has been a distinct trend, especially in the U.S. towards treating education as a business. In some cases, there is a call to have Business Administrators run schools so they are efficient producers. Students are treated like products, throw out the bad ones, churn out good little future workers. We want them to think, but not too much, after all, they might question the status quo! I do not disagree that one of the jobs of a school is to prepare students to become meaningfully employed and enjoy a good standard of living, however, many of the jobs today’s students will enjoy do not exist. There are many other reasons for education as well, like the ability to think creatively and critically, to be ethical, good citizens, to respect other people and viewpoints, to appreciate other ways of thinking and the list goes on. Many of these skills would also be important for employment, but life is more than a job. (As an aside, I came across this wiki recently where the topic of what education is for, is discussed – interesting and something I think all teachers need to think about – why are we doing what we do, teaching what we teach?). Increasingly we see the influence of business, the call for ‘accountability’ – while not a bad thing, is always based on standards set by organizations with a heavy corporate influence and tested by an external, standardized test, that more often than not reduces learning to rote procedures and knowledge. Now corporations might not all be evil, no doubt some wonderful people head up corporations, but their main goal is profit – sometimes at the expense of people and the environment – thus, we need to resist the corporatization of schools – or at least bend them to our will! On that note … I will close up my Apple computer (one of many Apple products, I own), go see if my Toyota is still in one piece and… ) enough of a rant for now and so much for brief!