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Archive for August, 2008

Just like King and Littky, Eleanor Roosevelt explores the purpose of education.  From the very beginning, it seems that her answer is a combination of both King and Littky: “Learning to be a good citizen is learning to live to the maximum of one’s abilities and opportunities.”  She discusses the necessity of passion in the classroom, both in the teacher and the student, comparable to Littky.  Like King, she emphasizes the need to teach morality and ideals along with information.

I especially like Roosevelt’s opinions on how a good education system creates good citizens, which, indeed, is the crux of her argument: “A nation must have leaders, men who have the power to see a little farther, to imagine a little better life than the present.  But if this vision is to be fulfilled, it must also have a vast army of men and women capable of understanding and following these leaders intelligently.”  I feel her and Littky’s points about passion fit right into this.  As we can see in this article, there was voter apathy even back then.  Many Americans view the past with nostalgia, thinking that things were better back then, and people just don’t care anymore.  Indeed, they are rejoicing currently because they feel that passion has finally returned to politics with this year’s election and the record number of voters expected.  However, there was indeed voter apathy back then, and I predict that at the next election, there most likely will be again.  To keep the ball rolling, however, schools now need to pick up on the passion surrounding the election and channel it into the future.  Schools need to take what Roosevelt is here saying, and create a generation of “good citizens”.  Much talk is bandied about concerning our legacy to future generations, whether it be a world destroyed by global warming or by gay marriage, or a world that is better than the one we have today.  By channeling Roosevelt, King, and Littky, I feel that the scales may begin to tip towards the latter.

While I agree with Mrs. Roosevelt on all of the points I mention above, one thing keeps bothering me: How is it that we can read three articles, each decades apart, that all discuss the same goals of education as a criticism of the current apparent goals of education?  Why hasn’t anything changed in 70 years?  What makes the American education system so stagnant that people – important people! – can point out the same fallacies in the system for 70 or more years?  This just boggles the mind!

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The first chapter of Dennis Littky and Samantha Grabelle’s book The Big Picture: Education is Everyone’s Business is titled “The Real Goals of Education“.  Like Martin Luther King, Littky questions the purpose of education, the definition of learning, and the definition of teaching.  Unlike MLK, he chooses to focus on passion: “the only really substantial thing education can do is help us to become continuous, lifelong learners.  Learners who learn without textbooks and tests, without certified teachers and standardized curricula.  Learners who love to learn.  To me, this is the ultimate goal of education.  W.B. Yeats said it this way: ‘Education is not the filling of a pail but the lighting of a fire‘” (emphasis in original).

I really liked that last quote by Yeats: “Education is not the filling of a pail but the lighting of a fire.”  I agree with Littky that passion is the only way to teach anyone anything.  If the student does not have some sort of interest in what they are learning, then they will never learn it.  This doesn’t mean that all children need to be taught completely different things because they all have completely different interests, but rather that each child needs to approach a subject differently and be allowed to express that difference.  This can apply to absolutely any topic taught in public schools today, whether it be English, math, science, or history.  Once a student can see themselves within a topic, that topic becomes part of them and they want to learn more about it, and this passion will show in their work.  “With their focus on end results, too many schools and education policymakers forget how much the process influences how a kid takes to knowledge and then uses it.  Too many forget how intrinsic motivation and desire are to learning” (emphasis in original).

We talk about different learning styles, how some people learn better by seeing or hearing or writing or touching, but the one thing that is common in any student that is asked about how they like to learn is that they want to be interactive.  Students want to have some sort of connection to the material they are being presented with, they want to know why they should bother paying attention (and “because I said so” is not legitimate!  Just because a piece of literature is a “classic” doesn’t mean that that’s the only reason to read it).  Though the semantics are different, the idea behind them is the same: students want to connect, they want to find their passion in the subject matter, but they need someone to guide them!

Thus, “teaching is really about bringing out what’s already inside people” (emphasis in original).  When a student is presented with material what appears to have no absolute connection to them, then they will essentially shut it out.  I admit, I have done this on occasion, rejecting certain things presented to me in school because I didn’t see why it mattered.  People question what is wrong with our current school system, and I think Littky has hit the nail on the head here: education needs to be individualized.  I don’t mean that there needs to be a 1:1 ratio of student-to-teacher, but classes do need to be smaller so that teachers can connect with each student.  Some students, the ones who excel in the current system, may be able to connect themselves to the material in class.  The others, however, need to be able to approach the teacher (or the teacher needs to approach them, considering the dislike of asking for help that is rampant), and the teacher needs to be able to take the time to figure out with the student the best way to approach the material.  In a class of 30 or 40 or even 50, this is nigh impossible.

But I have diverged from the original topic: passion.  Passion is what drives education.  Indeed, one might say it drives everything.  In education, passion drives the teacher to chose a subject area and share it with others.  Passion is what drives the student to accept the knowledge conveyed by the teacher and use it to explore further.  Littky’s goal of lifelong learners is apt.

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First off, I am not a quitter.  I have done things before that have been uncomfortable and out of my regular zone, and I understand completely the need to wait something out until you can get a good handle on it.  Therefore, that is not the reason that I feel the way I do.

I am currently in France, studying abroad.  And it is the last place I want to be right now.  All I want to do is return to the States, even if that means having to take this semester off from school.

I realized that I am here for all the wrong reasons.  From the very beginning of the study abroad process, way back in February, I tried to sabotage my chances of being accepted to this program in various ways such as not handing in a revised essay from the one that I wrote to apply to a different program (I had originally wanted to apply to go to Prague, and then switched to France).  When that didn’t work, I kept waiting until the very last minute to do things, hoping that I would get rejected before I would actually need to do it.  This entire summer, with people telling me right and left that I would have a fantastic time, all I felt was dread, but I put on a happy face and tried to appear excited, which apparently worked since my parents were totally blown away by these same admissions.

The most frustrating part about this is that the people I have told (my parents and el boyo) have done practically nothing but try to convince me that I am wrong.  They all admit that I never make a decision, especially a big one such as this, without thinking about it and understanding it, yet they all think that it’s cold feet or something and that I need to just wait it out.  My father even wants me to stay the entire semester, even if it means being miserable the whole time.  I mean, he’s trying to be supportive and all, but I just wish that he, and my mom and el boyo, would just see my side of the story and not just assume that it’s culture shock or something.

I am finally going for something that I want, and all anyone can do is say that what I want is wrong.  I almost never stick up for what I want, I always try to please others first.  Which is what got me into this mess.  I wish I had had the strength to say no to studying abroad months ago.  As does everyone else involved, I know.  But I didn’t.  But I am now.  And it’s not working.  And that frustrates me to no end.

All I want to do is book a flight this weekend somehow and leave.  The logistics are a pain to think about since my bags were so heavy coming in that I could barely move them by myself (I mean, I was able to, but it was a challenge as they are both 50lbs plus a huge backpack with my laptop on my back).  I got over here with my uncle’s assistance, but now I am too ashamed to try to ask for help from him again.  I would really want my mom to come over here and help me bring everything home (plus, she could bring an extra bag to distribute the weight a bit better), but I severly doubt that is going to happen.

And now I have to stop and go to a class that I would love to be able to just stop going to since I know that I’ll be leaving in just a few days, but since I don’t know that for sure, I just have to keep going.  This sucks.

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Sometime between September of 1946 and January of 1947, Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote an essay that is believed to be the draft of an article later published in the Morehouse newspaper, The Maroon Tiger.  As the title implies, King discusses what he believes the purpose of education should be.  From the tone of the pieces, it is evident that he feels that our current education system is flawed and has left the noble goals he outlines here far in the past, and instead repurposed education to “equip them with the proper instruments of exploitation so that they can forever trample over the masses.”

King states that “[e]ducation must enable one to sift and weigh evidence, to discern the true from the false, the real from the unreal, and the facts from the fiction, “with the caveat, however, that “education which stops with efficiency may prove the greatest menace to society.”  With this in mind, then, King finally concludes, “Intelligence plus character – that is the goal of true education.”

Both of these seem to be the areas that modern schools are struggling with.  What is ‘intelligence’?  Is is facts and numbers?  Or is it learning how to think for one’s self, and draw informed conclusions from facts and numbers?  King seems to agree with the latter, while the American government seems to agree with the former.  After all, you can judge facts and numbers and use a computer to compare them.  Evaluating independence of thought is subjective at best, and therefore essentially impossible to compare across city, county, or state lines – or even country borders!  How can one measure intelligence (without giving credence to the ever-popular IQ test), or more specifically growth of intelligence if it is not a number?

This then goes to the question of King’s second goal: character.  How does one teach ‘character’?  What is ‘character’?  King seems to be defining it as “moral excellence and firmness”, Merriam-Webster’s 6th definition for character.  Well, what is morality?  Whose morality do we teach?  With the separation of Church and State we enjoy in the US, we can’t justifiably teach Christian morality.  Even if we did teach Christian morality, whose would we teach?  Catholic?  Protestant?  Morman?  Again, morality is not quantifiable, and so many feel it has no place in our education system.

I agree whole-heartedly with Dr. King in these essays, but it saddens me to think that his vision of education, or even anything remotely close to it, is nigh impossible in our public education system.

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This is it.  My last night in the States.  Tomorrow I’m off to France!  Allow my to indulge in a little freak-out:

EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!!!!

Ok, I’m done.  It’s out of my system (haha, yea right).  Tomorrow is going to be super crazy!  I love you all and will see you on the other side of the Atlantic as soon as I get internet!  Bises!

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Last night I was up until 2am finishing Breaking Dawn.  Noticing the time, I figured it wouldn’t be too hard for me to get to sleep despite my normal issues with this task.  Boy, was I wrong.  I started thinking about how I am leaving on Friday to go to France for a few months and how I will be in uncomfortable situations, living in a stranger’s house for a few weeks before moving to a dorm, trying to find my way in a strange city where everyone speaks French much better than I can currently even hope to comprehend.  I will gladly admit it: I am a homebody.  I don’t like new experiences until after they are over with.  Yet at the same time, I couldn’t imagine even attempting to explain to people why I pulled out of this program and cowardly returned to my home university.  Thus, I was in a bit of a stressful bind.

So, I broke down, sobbing and hyperventilating ever so slightly.  Not knowing what else to do, I decided to call el boyo, who has always promised to be available for me whenever I might need him.  Of course, this one time I would really appreciate his help in calming down, guess what?  He doesn’t pick up.  And the second time I call, his phone goes right to voicemail, so I know that the battery died after my first call.

Allow me to explain that this is a normal occurance.  El boyo regularly does not charge his phone.  El boyo currently has a phone that does not accept my texts.  El boyo has a phone that needs to be turned off then turned on to even make a phone call.  But does el boyo get a new phone?  Of course not.  Does el boyo realize that this week is extremely stressful for me and therefore it would be nice to pay attention to where the hell is phone is and to keep it charged?  Of course not.  Instead, he calls me today from his brother’s phone and when I ask where his is, he tells me he put it down somewhere in the house and lost it.  Again.

I.  Cannot.  Stand.  This.  I cannot understand why he takes such a cavalier attitude towards things like keeping track of methods of communication or answering emails or anything that even remotely represents communication.  I cannot count the number of emails I have sent him in all the time we have known each other that he has not responded to, even a quick sentence or some other sort of response.  I don’t send him these things to listen to myself type (that’s why I have this blog 😉 ), I send them to get his feedback, to start a conversation, to establish communication.  Yet he only rarely answers them.

We recently had a long exchange about this, in which I expressed my frustration, yet it left me even more frustrated.  Why, you ask?  Consider his response: we communicate differently.  Right, so if I were to start communicating like him, nothing would ever be said and bam! no more relationship.  Nice knowin’ ya, see ya, bye!

But to come full circle to my original rant about the phone, you’d think that since he prefers the phone over typing (considering his atrocious typing skills), he’d actually pay more attention to that than email.  But no, that’s not how it works.  I think that if it were one or the other (i.e. he only communicates regularly with email or phone, but not both), I could handle it.  But not communicating via either medium?  That simply does not work at all.

Am I crazy?  Am I putting too much on him?  Relationships are stupid.  That is all.

PS I ended up restarting my computer and playing games online until I had calmed down enough to let the sleeping meds kick in.  Lovely night.

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Hello, dear readers!

My sincerest apologies for not having updated this in so long.  I had a good reason, I promise!  For one, el boyo came to visit for over 2 weeks, which meant I was spending time with him and not hanging out on the internets with you lovely people.  The other main reason is twofold: I was trying to get ready for going to France for 4 months, which meant working diligently at my job so I could finish it satisfactorily before leaving, which I am proud to admit that I was able to do!  Yes, my main summer job ended yesterday.  I still have one day left at the library on Monday (which I will be sad to leave, unlike the other job), and then I will be completely finished working for the summer.

My time with el boyo was fantastic, thank you for asking.  Much to ruminate on in a later post, for to attempt it now would drive both you and me crazy with all the intricacies and length.  I will say, however, that it is going to be very hard to be thousands of miles away from him for 4 months.  But I really, really, really shouldn’t get into that now, or you shall find yourself with a tear-stained blog post.

On to happier/scarier things: I picked up my visa for France on Thursday and now have to face the truth that I am leaving in less than a week!!!  I promise that I will continue to update this blog while I am over there, and will regale you with my hilarious attempts to butcher the French language past the point of any understanding.  And maybe a few pictures.

And so, dear reader, I shall say adieu for now.  Have a wonderful day!

❤ Undine

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