EDM 310 Class Blog

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Coal Mining

In the video, Learn to Change, Change to Learn , Education was ranked in 55th place by the United States Department of Commerce by its IT intensiveness. This is below coal mining. Coal mining?
.........Really? Really?
We don't even use coal that much anymore, from what I know. We use our brains much more, don't we? 
......Or do we? 
Maybe that's why Education gets ranked so low. Because we aren't using our brains to reason that not placing an importance on education is doing a disservice to our children's futures.  We can't keep sending them the message of "be all you can be" and "believe in your dreams" and other hoopla if all we tell them is to "get an education" and "work hard". What if "education" does not suit itself to their needs? They will, in turn, have as little respect for the institution as they feel it did for them. 
I think of all the people who devalue education, and knowledge, and then I think of all the people who are working and striving so hard to bring back that value.  For centuries, the idea was perpetuated that knowledge is categorized of the world, of the workplace, of books, etc. You receive the knowledge that suits your station in life- you learn a trade, you learn about the world or about people, or you learn about books and become an esoteric lunatic with crazy hair and wear clothes that look like pajamas or some combination of these. These are the stereotypes.

big wig politicians

esoteric professor with crazy hair and silk pajamas

They still exist.
Even though we don't need them anymore because we live in an age where information is cheap and easily obtained, portable, shareable, consumable. 
For example, in the British Modernist novel, "Howard's End" by E.M. Forster, the young character of Leonard Bast strives so diligently and hopes so fervently to acquire knowledge, to be an "accomplished" gentleman of the world to little avail. His poverty did not allow him the time or resources to read as much or as often as the young ladies with unlimited means or leisure time.  Only now, if Leonard Bast was alive today, he would have little problem overcoming his station in life with his clever wit, resourcefulness, and his determination to be knowledgeable. This digital age facilitates learning and acquisition of concepts like no other has previously.

So, with all of this going on today, why do we still not value education? Why do we not open our eyes and see that learning doesn't have to be just a concept anymore? (That learning is not the Holy Grail, but it is a quest). 
Why do we still say that "those who can't do, teach?" when it is so obvious that imparting knowledge is one of the most difficult professions? Why are we losing respect for our educators? 
One answer is that, if information is cheap, the level of value placed on it goes down. It's like "the law of supply and demand".  Or, as I think it should be referred to in this case, "the law of complacency".  We don't value what we have easy access to.  Also, we don't give teachers much thought because we don't give knowledge much thought. People who don't know better assume things like: "It shouldn't be that hard to stand in front of a board and talk to a bunch of kids and then give them a quiz". *Cue collective eye-roll*
I then think of students who want to be a teacher when they grow up. I believe that to want to be a teacher shows an insight that knowledge is valuable, that information is not cheap (no matter it's monetary cost), and that instruction has to include leadership of these two, modeling of appropriate skills when using technology, and an understanding that you can tell students something fifteen times but they might not get it until they can see it, touch it, or experiment with it.
 It also doesn't help that the media (from local news to national news and social media from Facebook to blogs)  puts teachers on blast for deplorable things without acknowledgement to all of the revolutionary, insightful, useful, and compassionate things that they do.
This is one downside to our age.
We are in an age of "info-tainment". We want to be entertained; we don't want to hear about good things because "good" isn't any fun. It's a scandal that draws readers, consumers, and viewers. What is forgotten is that this has consequences and one consequence is that bashing destroys credibility. The credibility of not just one rotten teacher in particular, or a few burnt-out ones, but all teachers in general. 

Why is coal mining placed above education? Coal is heat. Mining for coal turns a profit. Education is not profitable. In fact, it's more of a drain than it is profitable.  
Most students look back on their years in school or they arrive at school in the morning, and would prefer all day slaving away in a mine to being at school. An education is supposed to be the expansion of the mind, the acquiring of new ideas, the synthesis of new ideas with old ones; but a typical day in a school will exhibit more brain-dead-seeming students than thriving, excited ones. 
coal mining children
The institution of education will turn a profit when it develops an environment that highlights students strengths while improving weaknesses; allows for the use of creative and unique ideas/projects; and implements information not as "downloadable" but as collaborative, interactive, and shareable. Our education system needs to stop sending the message that only what is in a student's textbook, on the SMARTBoard, in the lesson plan, or on the test is what's useful. There is endless information to be discovered if only a person wants to know it and looks for it. 
Without students, there is no school.  But without school, there are still students.  The school comes to the student through the use of multimedia, technology, the internet, and electronic devices.  The student does not have to be at school to learn. 
Our education system will only continue to improve the more everyone (and I am including myself in this) is aware of what is happening. I'm not calling our society a totally capitalist one, but it is driven by industry. If education, like many other industries, does not adapt its goals, products, market place, business strategies and practices, transport of goods, marketing image, and last but not least, its workers, then the consumer will not be interested.  Just like they were shopping for tooth paste, consumers (students) don't really have a choice whether to buy or not to buy, but they might obtain it in a different way according to their wants and needs.  Everyone has to brush their teeth just as everyone has to go to school. (Refusing to brush your teeth isn't illegal, but it should be.)
kid with bubble that says that everyone knows learning must be serious and difficult and you must remain seated at all times with no fun allowed

What I'm saying is, the fault lies not squarely on "society" for education being so low on their radar. It's because of the messages they have been given, the experiences they have had, that caused this. If education were to take itself seriously in a different way, it would yield better results.  If teachers, administrators, super-intendents, legislators, curriculum-makers, publishers, were to approach their "industry" in a more up-to-date frame of mind and with more consideration to their "consumer", you would not even have to be reading this.  You, the consumer/student would know that you are valuable. You would know that your loyalty to the brand is valuable. You would know that the "product" was designed with you in mind, and that your own future was what you and others (i.e.:those who led you to invest in the first place) invested in.  

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