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rob's picture

Thoughts about education

The strucure of a classroom shapes the way that people learn to think. If some average twenty five year old is put in front of a group of kids, and they are told to revere his words as divine, then they’ll either end up subservient or they’ll rebel and cause problems.
Seems to me that if you want to get people thinking for themselves, you have to challenge their ideas and get them to challenge yours. I also think it's a negligible difference whether the ideas and values that a teacher expresses are their personal beliefs, or the more widespread beliefs of our society, like that the US is a democracy or that people came to be through evolution. I read an article about the public outcry in response to a school district’s attempt to put labels saying, essentially, “CAUTION: THIS IS ONLY A THEORY” in every evolution textbook. I was like right on, let’s get those in every book in the library. The goal of a good education in my mind is to get kids to think and express themselves, to ask a ton of questions and have the intellectual tools to make progress toward finding reasonable answers.
I believe that grading interferes with inspiring kids to take intellectualism seriously. I don’t believe that teachers should be focusing on making value judgments on students; rather i think they should care enough about the stuff they teach to want to talk about it and listen to what we have to say. Grades give teachers way too much power and prevent honest relationships based on trust and open communication between students and teachers. It’s like one of my friends used to say: don’t say “good point,” say “I agree.” Enlightenment comes only when we move beyond shallow value judments and actually listen to the substance of what we each have to say.
School has to be based on the here and now, not the instrumental value of our work if it’s going to be enjoyable and genuinely rewarding. My grades won’t matter until five years from now if I decide to apply to graduate school. Creating a structure of the masses and the noble leader of the classroom makes actual discussion hard and constructs a system defined by bogus and unnecessary value judgments. Whomever you are, it’s arrogant to think you know what’s up because all you see is what you see. Teachers have got to learn to listen and not just grade if kids are going to learn to speak and not just bullshit.

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