Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Problems In Education

This year I have been trying to do a little more general research in the field of education. Having now worked as a teacher for four years, I am starting to get a handle on teaching. New classes are still lots of work (1 to 2h extra per class per day), but I am coming to the point where not being able to create anything substantial and lasting is getting more frustrating than the extra work involved with being bumped around.

Being split between two schools obviously hasn’t helped things. It has put my goals of working with student teachers on the back burner. In return, this has thrown off a possible time line for getting my Masters. However, I have started working more with the local and divisional professional development committees. I am also presenting at Teacher’s Conference, and have a couple of demo trial projects on the go for our division (in addition to my regular unstaffed tech hours). What this means, is my eyes are getting more opened to what is going on around me.

As I have been going through and seeing what other educators do, I am a little dismayed by how much flying by the seat of one’s pants there is. Perhaps this is not as much in lesson prep as in overall vision. Now obviously some people are better able to grasp the whole picture than others. Some just like to plod along, content to let someone else choose their path. However, education has some real problems. Just look at some of the personal education blogs that are floating around here and here. It is hard to imagine many other jobs where professionals work through such harsh conditions. And yet the difference between a successful classroom and a failing one is huge. As any teacher knows, classroom dynamics has a balance point that is tangible. As much as we may fool ourselves, there really isn’t any middle ground. There are only successful coping strategies, disguised as classroom management. And yet all the extra expectations that are thrown into the mix really only serve to water down the ability to break over the top. In military terms, education is suffering a division of force.

What education seems to be based on is re-enforcement of weakness. More effort is spent on remediating efforts than on anything else. Obviously education doesn’t work if competency levels get spread too far. This, however, shouldn’t mean that success comes by preventing the spread of competency. And yet, I think this is precisely the (un?)intended consequence of education today. Let’s do things that look like they encourage diversity, but make sure that no spread in society occurs. Eventually intelligent people reach a point where the fundamental axioms of these methods get rejected. To my mind, this is where tribal tendencies starts to occur.

The “goth” dogma as I call it seems to be what society really wants – an appearance of uniqueness with rebellion that never makes it out of the old status quo.

I think this is the light by which many people interpret the gospel. It is made into something that is really not revolutionary. Jesus really didn’t mind an emphasis on the letter of the law rather than spirit of the law. Doctrinal mysteries are more about finding the correct cannon than they are about getting us out of our comfort zone. Obedience is a means to itself. Orthodoxy is a fine alternative to orthopraxy because at least one will let you fit into an established group that supposedly is going somewhere.

Once in a while don’t we eventually have to accept the fact that the evolution of some structures make them counterproductive to their original aims? Or perhaps I just had a taste of too much kitsch and self-righteousness at my local bookstore. After all, how can someone, educators or saints, ever be missing something as long as they are working hard, sacrificing and feel good about what they are doing?

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