This is my space to rant and rave, vent and vex about education, my passion. I am calling it "Mining for Hidden Gems" because of the above quote and because as a teacher, my job is to look for those gems. The real valuable ones are not usually on the surface. You have to dig deep to find them.

I am also borrowing from Katherine Bomer's wonderful book Hidden Gems: Naming and Teaching From the Brilliance in Every Student's Writing. It has changed the way I look at not just student work but students themselves and all people around me.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Say No To Drive-through Education

At first it sounds really good, doing college work in high school, entering university with one or two semesters of course work already under your belt.  Why not, if the student is motivated and able to do the work? Wouldn't it be more challenging and engaging anyway?  But then, I hear phrases like "that way you won't have to take English, History or Algebra ever again" or "you can get your basics out of the way for free".  That's when I get scared.  I imagine a generation of college graduates entering the work force as teachers, lawyers and journalists, who last examined the world's history when they were fifteen years old and more worried about where that pimple came from than who built the pyramids and how?!  I think of those entering politics and civic life who read a work like Animal Farm back when they were more pre-occuppied with getting a date to the homecoming dance than with what happens when those who lead think that the end justifies the means.  Do I really want our future teachers to get a "drive through" education with no depth and complex thinking about the subjects they will someday teach?

Education is not something painful and pointless that we should try to be done with as quickly as possible.  Education is the ultimate remedy for all that is wrong with our world.  Bigotry and prejudice are cured when we learn about each other through history, the arts and literature.  Droughts, famines and natural disasters are better managed when we know more about the consequences of our actions and the interdependent nature of our life on this planet.  The causes of wars and conflicts are eradicated when we eliminate ignorance, fanaticism and extremes of wealth and poverty through education.  All this learning cannot be over and done with in the twelve or even sixteen years of traditional, watered down education.  There is no statute of limitation on learning. As a Persian proverb says: From cradle to the grave, seek knowledge.

The irony of it all is that most adolescents long for relevance and meaning in their lives.  They want to belong to a community and serve it.  Faced with our current offerings in public education, they find that relevant meaningful community in violent gangs or superficial and materialistic pursuits.  Imagine if they could spend those precious years getting to know themselves even better, discovering their strengths and talents so that they could embrace a college education as the door to the path of realizing their dreams and their calling.  What a waste it is otherwise!