kitchen table math, the sequel: knowledge is good, part 3

Thursday, April 23, 2009

knowledge is good, part 3

Text just pointed me to this comment left at the end of Tom Friedman's column Swimming without a Suit. 174 readers have "Recommended" it thus far, as have the Editors, and you may want to do so as well.

In fact, I Recommend you do.

April 22, 2009 9:23 am

I spent the vast majority of my teaching career in the States, but have been teaching abroad since 2003. In my opinion, the problems with the US educational approach are legion, but the most serious among them can't be fixed with money. That problem is the lack of understanding of the fundamental goals of education.

One gets an education not just to make more money and grow the economy. One gets an education in order to have a foundation in real knowledge about the subjects that have evolved over centuries and have a direct bearing on our society today: not only math and science subjects but also history, one's own and foreign languages, and yes, even philosophy, or the history of ideas. All of this knowledge constitutes the essential property held in common by the citizens of a society, a common bond, and must never be taken for granted but rather continually renewed.

Over the past several decades in the US, the unifying body of knowledge, and the discipline required to attain it, has been deemphasized. Education has become 'student-centered', in an effort to stay 'relevant' and continually innovative so that students are never out of touch with the purpose or usefulness of their learning. Ironically,or perhaps naturally, this emphasis on the student has led to the alienation of said student from his own learning process because he becomes less receptive to input, less respectful of the expertise of authorities in their subjects, ie his teachers, and less likely to meet challenges when they require a cooperative effort.

I recognize the difficulty of creating an educational program that can provide foundation knowledge and serve to unify so vastly diverse a population as ours, but lowering expectations is no way to avoid misunderstandings between ethnic groups. In fact, as I know from my personal experience of teaching in the US, the young members of the ethnic minorities in my state were desperate for a denser, more packed curriculum in all subjects as they felt this was the only way to attain any kind of equality with more established Americans.

Thus I think that we should pursue a national initiative to return teachers to their role as experts and students to their role as learners. This will not threaten our national strength as independent thinkers but only restore it. Lately we have become too fragmented and preoccupied with surface effects to think at all.

KP, Secondary school teacher presently working in Europe
— Michaela, Portland Maine

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I posted a very similar musing a while back on my blog.

We're creating too few critical thinkers who are then charged with voting for the latest panderer and don't realize they're being had.