Since Schools Aren’t Going Anywhere…
Previously Unreleased [january 30, 2010]
De-standardize them. Sure, we all have similarities, but more importantly every person is alone in their existence. Everyone’s inner interpretive world is different even to the smallest degree.
So I was watching Freedom Writers in my former American Government class when I realized what could be done in schools since schools as an institution are here to stay.
This film was about a teacher coming to a school in 1994 that had been recently integrated. The school was Woodrow Wilson high school in Long Beach, California. The integrated caused many disadvantaged “minorities” to come into the school and change the reputation of the school. Many of these kids had tough lives outside of school that left them feeling discouraged and on edge. Through a series of events (I don’t feel like giving a review here, watch the film if you haven’t done so) this young teacher makes it a point to make these kids’ (Freshman English class) school experience personally malleable and relate to their lives. Once the kids started to feel that their lives mattered in ways beyond the daily turmoil of their living, they began to care about other people and their communities. They made a difference; not for the sake of good scores or a reputation from the school district, but because they we’re inspired to make a genuine change in their lives and once they gained confidence, to make a difference in the lives of others.
Ways to make school a relative experience:
Advocate them, but avoid the compulsory aspect of it. People should be allowed to pursue a formal education, NOT jailed or fined if they don’t.
De-standardize and get involved in the real world. A man named Tom Bodett once said, “The difference between school and life? In school, you’re taught a lesson and then given a test. In life, you’re given a test that teaches you a lesson.” It is true that with certain things, like learning music, checking to see how you’re doing is necessary. But if schools are to be about life as I’m suggesting, then tests need to be eliminated and replaced with guidance and evaluation.
Get students to search for good qualities and talents that they can develop.
Make personal goals and and interests the focal point. In Obama’s education speeches I often hear him talk about what students, through their schooling, owe to America and the global economy. It seems that the nation comes before the individual. That’s backwards. If you don’t know what you really want, and if you don’t know and love yourself well enough to do so, then what makes people think that such individuals can contribute to the needs of an entire nation?
A good thing to promote in schools is self exploration. Dabbling in subject matter and trying new things until one thing fits. If people really took time out to think about what they’re good at, or what they enjoy, rather than grasping at ideals that others project onto them, then more people would be happy with their lives. School and youth is a great place and time to figure yourself out.
Ways to incorporate self exploration:
- Having lots of books around
- Allowing students more free form time with their friends and others. Interacting with others can give insight into who you are at a certain period in your life.
- Learning about personality theories and even taking assessments to look for patterns
- Making “extracurricular” activities “curricular” activities.
- Having personal evaluations of a student and his or her progress by a teacher or counselor, rather than putting him or her in a grading competition.
- field trips, field trips, field trips
- Have “homework” be time to develop interests and skills, with the option of reporting to a teacher, counselor or fellow student(s) for evaluation and advice
Teach subject matter that would help students master survival in the first world. This involves concepts such as finance and how to read legal documents. Typing classes. Cooking. Cleaning. The impact certain lifestyles have on the environment. Stress reduction skills and techniques. Effective communication and speaking. Healthy living. To be honest, the abstract subjects and concepts should honestly be left to those that need them for their careers, or simply enjoy them. It would be fine to have secondary classes for abstract subject matter, but let’s face it: most of us are or will be everyday citizens, in no need whatsoever of calculus or advanced physics to live (and I admit that visual art falls in this category too). I suppose that a person would make the argument that learning abstract subjects makes gives a person more intellect (I wouldn’t say “makes you smarter”) or gives you an edge over others, but is that really the point of your individual life?
*My point in this post was realization that traditional education isn’t going to be turned inside out as I would hope. Instead “radical” innovations must be made.