Sunday, January 17, 2010

Teaching as a Subversive Activity

I used to blog for my old company, but they took the blog down. I am
not actually allowed to own the writings I put up on that blog, but as
I reference them on occasion in my writing I am putting those articles
up in my archives here for reference sake. I'll put the tag GS on those
articles noting that they were originally published on the

Teaching as a Subversive Activity

September 3, 2008 – 6:46 am by Brendan

I have too many blogs to read. The problem with the Google Reader is that I don’t see enough of my list of blogs. So I end up reading them in alphabetical order. This isn’t so bad except that the blogs at the bottom don’t get read as often. I usually make up for this because many of those blogs are referenced elsewhere and I navigate to them when I follow stories. I like this lack of a system when I read sometimes, but then again there are some bloggers I should be following more often than I actually do. With that thought in mind I had some extra time yesterday afternoon and I decided to try to catch up on my reading. It wasn’t long before I noticed a trend. (besides the fact that I have too many education blogs and not enough parent and student blogs in my list)

The trend I wandered into yesterday was the thought of Teaching as a Subversive Activity. The idea that our education system is based on the industrial revolution model and we are living in an information revolution world.

It started with Clay Burrell and Beyond School, who has retired from teaching and is now diligently, perhaps feverously, attempting to teach the rest of the world the lessons in great literature that he felt he had to gloss over when teaching in public high schools in the U.S.

Just as a warning Clay starts with Gilgamesh and questions the very foundation of Judeo-Christian faith, not to mention sex scenes. Then he moves on to point out that Socrates and Jesus were killed for teaching students critical thinking.

From Clay I moved on to Dr. Scott McLeod and Dangerously Irrelevant as he disagrees with Jeff Utecht. But it is better to read Jeff Utecht and The Thinking Stick first.

Jeff teaches in an American school in Shanghai, so he still likes to comment on the state of American education. Though personally I think his students have many advantages that no student in country could have. He also has the chance to see things we here in the states often can’t or won’t see.

In this particular post Jeff is rightfully upset that the New York Department of Education would like to spend $400,000 giving kindergartners a 90 minute test. I think I have mentioned before expecting students to sit still and learn is difficult at the best of times. I have no idea how anyone expects a five year old to sit for a 90 minute test.

Jeff points out that in emerging countries like China and India students there have a pretty good educational system where they are drilled in amassing knowledge. The leaders of the education systems in those countries are attempting to change the focus of education from knowledge based towards thinking based education. The idea is that the leaders of tomorrow’s world will be the people who can create and design. Here in the U.S. many feel that the leaders of the education system would like to regress to a simple knowledge based system and choke off any creative thought.

Dr. McLeod disagrees with Jeff in that he believes the innovative thinkers in the U.S. learn in spite of the educational system and not through the system. I tend to agree with Dr. McLeod in that the majority of people in the U.S. would like our schools to be little learning factories.

It is time like Victoria Davis, the Cool Cat Teacher, says to Throw Down the Gauntlet.

· Reduce paperwork

· Create commonsense curriculum

· Commonsense leadership

· Digital citizenship in schools

· Reject ethnocentrism

· Look at the whole mind

Yes, our children need to learn the basics, reading, writing, and arithmetic, but those basic skills are just the beginning. Sometime around middle school and high school students need to shift the focus more from practicing basic skills toward understanding and applying those skills in the real world.

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