37 Days ’til 40: Education Attitude Change

15 Jan


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.



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25 responses to “37 Days ’til 40: Education Attitude Change

  1. craftythriftydecoratingwifemom

    January 15, 2013 at 00:27

    Excellent post. I wasn’t allowed to go to college, rather chauvinistic father, but I did have college-prep classes in which the teachers acted like professors and taught college level material. Those were the best classes, hands down, I took.

    • 400daystil40

      January 15, 2013 at 23:05

      Wow, sounds like you had some good teachers – and I am sorry that you were not allowed to go to college 😦 – it is never too late! 🙂

  2. slimpickins

    January 15, 2013 at 01:46

    I am currently going back to school to obtain my Bachelors Degree in Accounting. I have been working in the field for 12 years now. I used to love education and learning, now I am being taught to hate it. I am learning nothing in my schooling to apply towards a job. It is very sad that we are not taught education like on the job training. This would better prepare ourselves for what is to come later in life.

    • 400daystil40

      January 15, 2013 at 23:04

      Wow, congratulations for heading back to school! Yes, I agree that it is so sad that collegiate education and job training seem to be slipping in correlation.

  3. sharonhughson

    January 15, 2013 at 03:39

    As someone who lives to learn, I don’t understand so many of my students (and classmates in college) who are just marking time, doing as little as they can and thinking about what they’re going to do when school’s out. Maybe we have forgotten how to embrace the moment.
    I completely agree that the enthusiasm of the instructor plays an important role in the receptivity of the class.

    • 400daystil40

      January 15, 2013 at 23:03

      Yes, it makes me sad! I feel the same way – I would love to be a perpetual student and I do believe that I always have something to learn. I think we have DEFINITELY forgotten how to embrace the moment – how many students are listening to university professors and how many others are too busy chatting on facebook???

  4. Sid Dunnebacke

    January 15, 2013 at 05:49

    Enduring university – yes. That’s exactly how it was for me. As for education in general, I’m up against it with my older daughter. Each year it becomes clearer to us that she has certain difficulties and has been 95% diagnosed with a slew of ADD/depression/autism/learning disability type things, and I’m really starting to question whether our school is just not the place for her. She’s not thriving, and I don’t fault the staff, and I want her to thrive. Much thinking going on here, and I appreciate your education posts. I always come away with food for thought, at the very least.

    • 400daystil40

      January 15, 2013 at 23:02

      I think, sadly, most of us just endure it. Thanks for reading and always coming with great insights. – and thanks so much for the compliment! It does sound like the system is not working for your daughter….

  5. Spider42

    January 15, 2013 at 09:02

    Great post and a very relevant one at most any time – nowadays I think even more so with the flood of connectivity and information availability.
    I had experiences in school and college that fall in the “endured” category mostly, but there is always that one teacher every now and again who can make it interesting to learn if you are of a mind to do so and I think that part is up to the student – the teacher can be good but you have to want to reach out too. Horse to water and all that…
    And I don’t expect every teacher to be brilliant, we’ve not reached the point as an evolving society and species where we can all embrace a good thing – like all things in life, there is the bad, the average/mediocre/passable and there is the rare good that stands out, none of this ever in equal measure with average being the largest chunk most times.
    It’s like the philosophical argument of needing to know evil in order to understand good – if every teacher was a motivating, interesting wonder it wouldn’t matter because then they’d be average and nothing about any of them would motivate people en-mass, like now, some students would connect and thrive but most would just flow along. It would become average. We are not ready for exceptional or all-good to become the average, not yet.

    • 400daystil40

      January 15, 2013 at 23:01

      Ah, yes I can relate! And I love your good/ evil point and connections!

  6. ahmedfraih

    January 15, 2013 at 11:15

    Well, I do agree with every word I just read. Here in my country the situation is even worse, many of the professors don’t give us a text book for the course but they tell us to listen and write down their words and if we want to know extra information, we should Google it. I actually consider the university as a step we have to go through with the minimum loses then after graduation the real life begins, our professors don’t have the language or the culture of learning, they just want to finish the course and let students fail to prove that we don’t want to study and remove all doubts on their ignorance. As for me, I wish I have a teacher like you, who’s willing to help the students and bring iut the best in them. Besides, I’m working on my language and many other skills, so when I graduate i’ll hopefully be different from my colleagues. Thanks for the post dear, it is worth sharing. 🙂

    • 400daystil40

      January 15, 2013 at 23:00

      Thank you, Ahmed. What you describe happens more frequently than we want to believe it does. I think you will be different from your colleagues and if you do become a teacher, your students will be very lucky to have you!

  7. veronicahaunanifitzhugh

    January 15, 2013 at 16:51

    Howdy! Congratulations! I nominated you for the Inspiring Blogger Award. Please see

    • 400daystil40

      January 15, 2013 at 22:58

      Wow, thank you so much for thinking of me – you made me smile today!!! 🙂

  8. Heather

    January 15, 2013 at 17:24

    Love that Indigo Girls song – that quote also captures the reason I keep resisting grad school. 4 years was enough. This is an interesting blog – good luck with your quest!

    • 400daystil40

      January 15, 2013 at 22:58

      Yes, and that is my favorite IG lyric of all time – and I sang it all the way through college, and my MA, and now perhaps it will get me through a PhD one day!

  9. Samantha

    January 15, 2013 at 20:37

    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!)

    This paragraph just stood out to me. It is a complete disservice to students to not allow them to think for themselves to come up with their own conclusions, is that not the point of attending college/university in the first place? Those were the classes I enjoyed the most in college; they were the ones that opened up discussion and each student could announce their opinion, listen to others’, and come up with logical rebuttals or agreements to them. It was the best part by far.

    • 400daystil40

      January 15, 2013 at 22:56

      Yes, I agree with you 100%, it is a disservice to students when we discourage thinking. I also think that challenging one to think it the beauty of the collegiate experience.

  10. Another Thousand Words

    January 17, 2013 at 20:34

    Wow, 400, that prof sounds almost just like a few I had to deal with…except I went back to university at 30 years old, to study Art and Theatre. When they found out–quickly–that I was not as malleable as others 12 years mu junior, they tried to become “friends”…which just did not work, as I had more than enough ‘life experience’ at that point…I actually told a tenured Art prof that his own celebrated work was ‘hack’, that he should be striving to be more creative, instead of drawing the same things as he had been doing for 35 yrs! I then dropped his class, and he came to me, begging me to return–which I refused!

    Sometimes, I wish the ‘educators’ would look deeply into their mirrors, as you do…and search their souls. But I guess complacency rules their days, yes?

    • 400daystil40

      January 17, 2013 at 21:52

      Sadly, yes, complacency does tend to rule at times? Good for you and your strength re: your professor!

      • Another Thousand Words

        January 18, 2013 at 05:02

        Aw, shucks…thanks so, 400! I was raised to know right from wrong, and have kept my promise to my Dad to do well in life…so when I run across these ‘over-stuffed shirts’, I do tend to give them a bit of my mind! They don’t like it, but Truth never lies!

  11. jeaninerenzoni

    February 7, 2013 at 22:13

    I like how you expressed your thoughts. It is also reasonable to think that actually students/teachers and that whole system isn’t in a vacuum. There is a multiplicity of things that impact the learners experience and whether the learner thinks of it as an opportunity or as a foolishly unimportant burden. As Another Thousand Words said judgement by the student is required, which is difficult to support and achieve at the lower age levels, but maybe also at advanced college level – thinking of your experience and the ease with which that prof stopped your cognitive questioning abilities.
    There seems to be a lack of making the pathways and connections to what will be done after school and if they are not stated/shown/demonstrated it’s as if they are not there (what I see is all there is) as opposed to what is identified as ‘education’ which obviously had the connection smack in my face. Part of the reason the apprenticeship/learn a job type system was not seen as generally desirable was its narrowness and limits. Part of the reason its not the best idea to just let people learn to teach children or anyone by just doing it is because of the lack of depth of understanding that tends to result (ie one year of learning, repeated 20Xs, missing the advantage of history and others experiences).
    Blame game with monetary benefits…perhaps what we are seeing now is the desire for ready-to-work individuals so that businesses can avoid having to put time into training there-by saving a huge amount of money and time (effective and efficient at least for the business) and putting the burden onto tax funded institutions and the potential employee. The unfortunate side-effect of this blame game is the denigration of all educational efforts and the teachers that offer them (except for biased favorites)…so it is good to have some introspection, but it is not good to let others set all or most of the parameters.
    Perhaps what we are seeing is the side effect of the studies/best sellers that showed that ‘not’ following the generally accepted rules makes more $. Perhaps since now more women than men are getting college educations there needed to be a reason why it wasn’t worth the money. Perhaps…perhaps. In general what we are given, surrounded with, is less desirable than that which we work to have access to, we are given basic schooling, required to attend and it’s the teachers job to inspire us, except there are 20 or more of us and almost as many things that we would need to be inspired. Good luck 🙂


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