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Ian Morton's picture

reform in the classroom will be a social reform

Your point about fundamentalism vs. relativism is an major one, one which I have been struggling with throughout my summer research with Paul. Your question, "How does one make a decision as to what is 'less wrong'?" is exactly what I've been stuck on, and I suppose the best we can expect is for consensus among a majority. Isn't that what "Truth" really is anyway -- a belief held by the majority at any given time?

As to social justice, I agree that "climbing the social ladder" may not be (and probably isn't) the best solution to the injustice inherent to the education and socio-economic system. I do believe that the ideal approach would be intellectual and through reform and not on terms in accord with the system with which we find fault. I would be much more satisfied with a reform that nurtured our inquisitive nature, thus promoting intellectual growth and freedom of thought, freedom to question and the freedom to make change. However, to bring about this reform will require a huge push on the part of students, parents, teachers and policy makers alike. Thus my concern is that we not limit our focus to a few classrooms in Philly. I do not mean to suggest this is a poor idea, in fact I firmly believe that the teacher symposiums are a valuable place to start re-thinking these ideas. I only want to stress the importance of recognizing just how much energy there will be opposing a social reform, and that consequently, the changes we wish to make in inner-city classrooms may not be as directly accomplishable as we may be lead to believe.

Again, I do not want to suggest that we should consequently cease efforts to make change. I rather want to stress that in order for these changes to truly manifest we should be entertaining a wider point of "attack." If we send teachers into Philly and have them jump right into new teaching methods, the effort may be made in vain. Teachers could lose their jobs, students could be deprived of an opportunity to otherwise make it out of the city to a college like Bryn Mawr where they can begin to adopt new learning methods and ways of thinking (and while college is an unfortunately late time to start such learning, unlike an impoverished city classroom, it is a space much more capable of nurturing this kind of growth). For this reason the dichotomy between nurturing inquiry versus transmitting skills to climb the social ladder is a much more
difficult one for me to personally pick any one side. I am reluctant to make any judgment about what is ultimately best for students living in the inner-city when I myself cannot fully understand the big picture of what that environment entails.

To return to my main concern, I believe that in order for the efforts of these symposiums to be effective, we should take our time to really consider what we're up against. In so doing, perhaps we can reach a more complete understanding of the situation and from there draft a more comprehensive approach to making reform. Opening teacher's minds to inductive methods of teaching is absolutely a necessary step, but it may not be sufficient. For reform to occur, the most important factor is numbers. To return to where this began, truth is merely what the majority accepts as true. So yes, we should be talking with teachers to offer them a chance to
accept a new truth, that inductive methods used to promote our innate inquisitive nature could benefit the intellectual and personal growth of students, but we must also be convincing the policy makers, the parents, and the school administrations.

Yes, teachers can spread these ideas to students, the next generation of policy makers and thinkers, but they will have a much more difficult time doing so if they are forced to do so on their own, in the face of a social energy that will strive to preserve itself in the face of reform. To more effectively aid teachers in implementing these new methods, I believe we must strive to involve parents and eventually policy makers. However, then we are faced with more sociologic problems that complicate how we to involve parents. As was voiced in the meeting, many parents are apathetic when it comes to education, having to deal with a whole wealth of other difficulties such as money, TIME, and prejudice. I hope to make clear that these issues we are dealing with are thus not solely reconciled within the classroom, and that we should recognize just how complicated a topic we are dealing with.


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