Saturday, May 10, 2014

trivializing the educational experience...

It is less important to have the right answer, than to have asked the right questions. Children left to their own devices are alive with interest and curiosity, and schools have a way of dulling that interest by trivializing the learning process. Schooling is made trivial by its artificiality. Children know that lessons are contrived according to adult expectations and to meet artificial standards of knowledge, not skill and ability. Even when lessons are devised to take multiple intelligences and individuality of learning style into consideration, the teacher is put into a position of making stuff up. And most kids are smarter than schools are willing to give them credit for.

The simple solution, of course, is for kids to do real things in compliance with their own interests, and in service to their families and communities. That's where wood shop falls into the picture. By doing real things, students gain greater sense of self, and learn the interrelationship between all things, including physics and math. When children do real things, the feedback doesn't wait until its test time, and children don't necessarily need adults to assess their growing success.

In the interest of building a Beaufort Scale of educational assessment, we can begin with what its like when a student is faced with an unstimulating and artificial learning environment. Where do they sit when what the teacher is asking them to learn can be deemed irrelevant and uninteresting? Might they not sit at the back of the class so that they can either sleep and explore their own notions or observe others in the classroom setting? If you remember that the Beaufort Scale was based on direct observation of real things, are there not real things that a teacher can observe that would make a direct impact on his or her success?

One of my daughter's teachers in public high school had observed that those sitting in the front row at the beginning of the year were the ones most likely to succeed with A's at the end of the semester. Second row was for B's. He invited students to be aware of the relationship of classroom seating with school performance, and to choose their level of participation and seating accordingly. In any case, where students choose to sit in class, offers the teacher information. On the Beaufort scale, he or she might be hoping for the gentle flutter of a leaf in a very slight breeze.

When we were building the Gaga court last week, the student interest was palpable. We will finish it on Monday, and the students will have plenty of chance to play in it before the end of the school year.

Today, my small town of Eureka Springs, Arkansas is in the statewide news. On Friday, a judge overthrew a ban on gay marriage. Eureka Springs courthouse is one of the only ones in the state open to provide marriage licenses on Saturdays, thanks to our large wedding industry. A rogue deputy county clerk decided that giving marriage licenses to gay couples is against her religion, so she forced the courthouse to close rather than provide licenses. In any case, and however one feels about the issue, there is an interesting news story playing out in my home town, while in the meantime, 32 schools statewide are being challenged by the board of education for failing to meet "standards."

Make, fix and create...

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