Frosted Cheerios are so underrated. This has nothing to do with my blog, but I am thoroughly enjoying a bowl right now. They are good and good for you!
In our last 504 class we had the opportunity to hear from and question a panel of former U of M Secondary MAC graduates. The hour-and-a-half session was extremely informative.
The highlight for me was when we lighted on the question (loosely restated), “Is school supposed to mimic life? Or is it supposed to be separate?”
Bring in the wine and cheese! (A French Bordeaux and a sharp cheddar if you please.)
Admittedly, we probably need to define a few things if we really want to have an intelligent discussion (i.e. what does “mimic life” really mean), but I have some general theoretical questions/postulates that might add to the discussion.
This is an enormous question with lots of facets that I cannot cover in one blog…but let’s start…
First, the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics states that everything tends towards entropy, that is, disorder. This disorder is ultimately inevitable, but it can be mitigated by intervention. (You put butter in the fridge so it doesn’t melt.)
Does this law apply to our cognitive function? That is, if left unchecked, will our ability to think and reason tend to disorder? I am not sure if proof exists for this, but anecdotal evidence seems to suggest that it would.
If we agree that our natural human tendencies lead us to something we’ll call “disorder,” and if we agree that this “disorder” is something we do not desire (in general) then something must be done.
I would suggest that this “something that must be done” is the foundation for Education, going as far back as you want to in history, to the first group assemblages for the purpose of collective education.
Making a big jump (and feel free to question this jump) I would suggest that the purpose of education is to move kids (or adults) beyond something they already are. That is, that their current state has the potential to be improved, for the betterment of themselves and society, and we seek to foster this “betterment.”
That is why I take issue with a recent New York Times article questioning the need for Algebra in high school.
The question is not about Algebra itself, but what do we see as the purpose of education? If we agree that the purpose of education is to move kids beyond what they naturally are capable of, then why wouldn’t we push them to learn new, and (gasp!) difficult things?
“Difficult” just means things that you can’t do it naturally. It does not mean that it is something you are not capable of. Push yourself! And your students (appropriately).
I believe it is a mindset. The SecMAC courses this summer has given a term to an idea I have had floating around in my head for many years. The term, defined first for us by Ritchhart (still my favorite read of the year), is called “Intellectual Character.”
So while I agree we need to tap into student’s prior knowledge and schema, we do so only as it helps us to move them beyond this prior knowledge and schema to new, often difficult, places.
Education is a lifelong process. Grade school is a big part of this. The purpose of grade school is to get kids out of their comfort zone in appropriate ways and move them to new places of cognitive and intellectual capacity, even if it is hard.
These are some of my initial thoughts. A bit idealistic I will admit. They might change in a year…who knows?
I welcome feedback and counter-arguments…please!!