Saturday, May 8, 2010

The Argument Itself is Dated

Almost 11 months in to raising our first child, I am finally getting back to doing some blogging.

...and regretting not doing better spell checking...

I am child-myopic these days, and the influence on my thought, actions, and writing will undoubtedly focus on how he, to borrow from Gert. J. J. Biesta, comes into the world as a unique singular being despite the forces that would shape and construct him otherwise.

As this is a policy blog, and an educational policy blog in particular, I will do my best to relate our son’s unfolding to schools, schooling, policy, and policy implementation. If I drift too much into “raising baby,” I trust my colleagues will reel me in.

I woke up this morning thinking about schools as a type of technology, one created to serve a specific function: to educate.

What that means is obviously debatable.

If it’s a public school and you’re asking the current, or previous administration for a definition, to educate is to ram facts into a child’s head and then test the child to see how much fact has stuck.

School is a hammer; knowledge the nail; the teacher is a carpenter and a child the entity under construction. Said differently, school is a needle; the teacher a nurse; history, English, math, beauty, and Truth are the medicines administered in various doses according to the doctor making the rounds.

This is a simplistic way to “educate” as we live in a world where appropriation of fact is a quickly satisfied task for anyone with access to a laptop (or a phone, but not MY phone) can find and appropriate almost any fact desired without having someone nail or inject it into one’s psyche.

Applying that fact is an entirely different matter, as is bringing new facts to bear (sp?) on those committed to memory, evaluating both sets of facts (old and new) and then acting to make a change in one’s life, family, or community in light of reflection on what’s been tried, what’s worked, and what has not.

As a space for achieving all of the above (imagining, testing, critiquing, reflecting, resisting, creating, and attempting) I believe schools as we know them now, the schools I’ll be sending my child to perhaps, are ill suited technologies for encouraging the higher order thinking and intelligent behavior that I want my son, and indeed all children, to engage in.

This brings me back to my phone...which also happens to be our son’s favorite new “toy.” My phone is 4 years old, a veritable dinosaur in a world of eagles. Texting is impractical, as I have to hit the same button several times to scroll through choices before finding the letter or symbol I desire. I cannot access the net from my phone, and if I could, I imagine surfing it would be akin to realtime-surfing on crutches.

I am limited by my 4 year old phone as to how I can interact, learn from, and change my world. Imagine if it was 40 years old. Imagine carrying a 40 year old cell phone around in your pocket.

How about a computer?

This laptop is 5 years old and cannot keep up with my wife’s new machine, which cost us half the old one and has quadruple the power (but it’s a Window’s device and I make myself feel better by noting I have a much cooler marketing apparatus behind my aging iBook™).

Imagine using a 50 year old’d need a much bigger lap, one the size of a bedroom. Now imagine using a 100 year old computer. Harder to do because they weren’t around. 100 years ago few people could imagine the processing power we’d eventually have quite literally at our fingertips.

To finally make my school-related point...A 4 year old phone and a 5 year old machine help me function in the world and make life livable and workable, but they have their limits. I’d buy a new phone and new computer if I wasn’t thinking more about my child’s education.

In 5 years there’s a good chance I’ll be sending my son into schools still wedded to designs over 100 years old, technologies that use the basic hardware and operating systems from the 19th Century. Yes they help people get by, and yes they can train children to function in particular ways, but the walls, the bells, the goals, the end of the day desires held by most of the people constructing "schools" will not work in an era that demands more advanced operating systems.

So I’m sitting here thinking to myself:
"Self, are you going to leave your child’s education up to people employing dated technologies, and if so are you prepared to reap the cosmic consequences of reducing Asher’s opportunities for robust exploration and growth as part of an organic-democratic-whole in the name of standards and accountability, themselves dated artifacts?"
I have to answer NO.

Advanced operating systems to be discussed below or outlined next week...


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