Education seems to be in America the only commodity of which the customer tries to get as little he can for his money. ~ Max Leon Forman
Education … has produced a vast population able to read but unable to distinguish what is worth reading. ~ G. M. Trevelyan
We are shut up in schools and college recitation rooms for ten or fifteen years, and come out at last with a bellyful of words and do not know a thing. ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
You can lade a man up to th’ university, but ye can’t make him think. ~ Finley Peter Dunne
The principal goal of education is to create men who are capable of doing new things, not simply of repeating what other generations have done. ~ Jean Piaget
I have never let my schooling interfere with my education. ~ Mark Twain
I spent four years prostrate to the higher mind, got my paper and I was free. ~ Indigo Girls
I really appreciate the comments that readers placed on my blog regarding my last post. I expressed my concern that schools are failing the students and that the system is not working – at least not in our current postindustrial age. Individuals agreed with me, disagreed with me, and some blamed the students.
I find the quotes I listed above very interesting – they show a difference between schooling and education. This is a difference many of us know all too well. Without a doubt, my masters degree did very little to prepare me for my work in education – my experience that came after my masters degree was the best education I could have had. I had to earn my masters degree in order to have the right to obtain the position where I REALLY learned how to be an educator, but it was well-known that the real education we would gain would not be through the university classrooms, but in our own classrooms. University gave us a foundation, basic knowledge and building blocks and then we created our own, arguably more meaningful, learning experiences after.
In most cases we endured university education – yes ENDURED, instead of embraced. We endured so that we could receive the reward of our career after. Imagine what education might be like if more students were in a place to wholeheartedly embrace their education devoting themselves entirely to the learning process. How would education change? What if students began to understand that education is not a means to an end, but a powerful journey that provides great rewards? In order for this to happen, both students and professors have to change – the system that limits students and professors also needs to change.
I remember a social science research methodologies course I took during my masters degree program. I remember it well as it ruined my GPA (my only B+ in the entire program – I was an “A student”). This course will forever be cemented in my mind. Actually, the course itself was rather irrelevant to me and I do not remember much of what was taught – what I do remember was the speech that the professor gave during the first fifteen minutes of the semester. It went something like this, “In this course I do not want you to think. I do not care about your ideas. This is a memorize and regurgitate course. Learn everything I say.” Wow, he lost me at “hello” – or at least very shortly after. In the first moments of the course I was told that I was not allowed to think, not allowed to make connections, not allowed to relate the course content to my life and the greater world, not allowed to challenge any thinking – the professors or my own (well, I suppose there is no way to challenge my thinking if the professor does not want me to think). I showed up in class, I listened, I read the materials, studied and did okay on the tests and papers, but I only got a B+ because my heart was not in this course. I was not impressed with the teacher – there was no bond or inspiration and he was NOT a role model for the way I wanted to behave as an educational professional. I wrote him and his class off as something I had to endure in order to proceed through my program to my educational credential.
Imagine if he had presented himself and his course differently – imagine if he said that this course was challenging because there were concepts that must be memorized by rote, in the context of challenging research methodologies? What if he encouraged us to find ways to link the mundane content with the excitement of the new challenges researchers face? There is always a way to ignite passion for learning, if we are willing.
Perhaps the professor was too scared – allowing students to think means opening yourself up so that your own thinking will be challenged. I find this to be a huge gift, but some find it very threatening – perhaps this professor could not handle the thought of losing control of a class while participants took over in lively discussion and debate (so much can be learned when this occurs!)
Today, 37 days ’til 40, I am well aware that in order to change student attitudes toward learning, we must make sure that teacher/ educator attitudes towards the educational process are such that they inspire learning. I hope and pray this happens sooner then later.