J.A.A. Purves

What is 21st Century Education?

108 posts in this topic

So I have been informed by my sister-in-law that public school teachers are being repeatedly shown this video before little motivational meetings at their schools.

They are being told that times are changing, and that they can't just copy the past but need to make their teaching more "dynamic." My sister-in-law was trying to ask what they meant by "dynamic" and the school principle told her that, instead of just teaching the kids how to solve a problem, she needed to give them more room to explore and figure out the problem for themselves. That sounds nice, but, well, she is a math teacher.

Anyone seen this before? Is it perfectly harmless or is there something wrong with this? Thoughts, comments, questions?

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In theory, it seems it's trying to keep the entertainment value in the classroom at least close to what the kids experience elsewhere for their attention spans and so forth. In practice, it's basically just another way to dump everything on the teacher, leaving the kids with no personal responsibility whatsoever. If I'm responsible for kids that fail my class, well, I'm responsible for the ones that excel too, right? I should be the one marching across the football field being congratulated in June because they had nothing to do with it.

Today's kids need more basic skills and less focus on becoming the unique special little snowflake that they are, if you ask me. I get why kids don't care about standard deviation when they were never really taught how to add. They tend to like what they're good at, so of course that doesn't include my class for too many of them, but no one has time to teach what they should have learned already. We're too busy trying to entertain while teaching concepts we know are over their heads currently.

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In theory, it seems it's trying to keep the entertainment value in the classroom at least close to what the kids experience elsewhere for their attention spans and so forth. In practice, it's basically just another way to dump everything on the teacher, leaving the kids with no personal responsibility whatsoever ... We're too busy trying to entertain while teaching concepts we know are over their heads currently.

I'm told that there are audits of the teacher's classroom performance now where the focus is, not on how good the teacher is at getting the students to actually learn the material, but on how excited the kids seem to be "about learning" during that teacher's class.

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In theory, it seems it's trying to keep the entertainment value in the classroom at least close to what the kids experience elsewhere for their attention spans and so forth. In practice, it's basically just another way to dump everything on the teacher, leaving the kids with no personal responsibility whatsoever. If I'm responsible for kids that fail my class, well, I'm responsible for the ones that excel too, right?

I'd also add "parents" to the section I italicized. Someone posted this on Facebook a couple of years back, and I thought it spoke volumes...

2844.jpg

Edited by John Drew

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Yeah, we get this in EN 101, too. We're told that the average freshman has a 15min attention span and that we should plan rotating sections for each class period accordingly. Like, 15min free writing, 15min lecturing, 15min peer activities, etc etc etc. Don't let them get bored or they'll zone out. Don't read straight from the book or they'll hate you.

To which I say...phui.

Well--here's the thing. It depends on the teacher, doesn't it? I mean, several of my peers do online grading, online paper submission, multiple in-class activities, worksheets.... And it works--for them, anyway. They get the results they want. The kids are better writers. But I've discovered during my time in the classroom that--for all my love of technology and all that--I'm essentially a Luddite. I'm talking chalkboard, dusty, stand-up-there-and-talk-style Luddite. I personally think it does my kids good, but I wouldn't say that's a prescriptive thing.

Education--however it's accomplished--should force students to be creative. They should absolutely be in a position where the answers aren't given them (even in math)--where they discover that the process of thought itself is pleasurable and worth pursuing. If that means a more "dynamic" classroom, if the instructor can make that sort of thing work, all the better. What really bugs me, though, is the implication that we should pander to the presumably-short attention spans of the students. They're adults, for heaven's sake. Let 'em sit through an hour-long lecture.

[NB--Classes like English composition and math are slightly different from, I dunno, history, in this: they are almost entirely concerned with process. That is--particularly in the "higher" mathematics, at least to my understanding--they're not about finding answers but about knowing how to find answers. And this does lend itself to a more participatory style of instruction (a more...dynamic?...version of "show your work").]

From my experience, administrators and pedagogy-theory people really love talk of a "dynamic classroom"--other teachers, not so much. I'm inclined to at least listen to the Theory people, since studying pedagogy is what they do. Administrators, though? I may be a cynic, but I don't think it's about pedagogical theory with them. This assumption may be a character flaw on my part, and should certainly not be taken as a qualitative--or absolute--statement. Here's the thing, though: I'm not convinced that "dynamic classroom" is really much more than a buzzword. You can only make learning math or composition so exciting. But with education constantly in the cross-hairs, financially speaking, these buzzwords serve an important [i don't mean that in a qualitative sense, but in a functional one] role--they say look, we're doing stuff. Give us money. I think--and I could be wrong--that it's as much about justifying education to [fill in the blank here: government officials, parents, doners] as it is about actually responding to student needs (i.e. this isn't just about making students feel special; it's about making potential sources of funding say "hey, that's dynamic and exciting and prepares kids for the future, so let's not cut funding in favor of [fill in the blank]"). After all, a good public educational system, by definition, would be almost invisible: kids go there, they learn stuff, they emerge and move on with life in a thoroughly unremarkable way. It's not...well, it's not sexy. And it's the sexiness that gets the funds.

Then again, I'm not all into pedagogical theory. I took a compositional pedagogy course and was miserable the whole time. So grain of salt.

EDIT: I should have been more clear above: I don't mean to imply that administrators don't care about students learning. Obviously, they do. I'm just suggesting that all this talk about "dynamic classrooms" could serve a political [in the one sense] end--i.e. it's intended to attract funding so that students can learn more effectively. That it's [possibly] self-defeating isn't really meant to impugn the administrative bodies--as I see it, they're in a bad position any way you slice it.

Edited by NBooth

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EDIT: I should have been more clear above: I don't mean to imply that administrators don't care about students learning.

My experience is that they don't - that they care more about student grades and graduation rates over whether they learned a damn thing. Of course, my experience is limited to a very small handful of administrators, so I'm sure there are some good ones.

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EDIT: I should have been more clear above: I don't mean to imply that administrators don't care about students learning.

My experience is that they don't - that they care more about student grades and graduation rates over whether they learned a damn thing. Of course, my experience is limited to a very small handful of administrators, so I'm sure there are some good ones.

I've little direct experience with administrators, but I do wonder--how much of the concern with grades is connected to anxieties about funding? I can imagine someone getting into administration with an eye toward helping students learn, only to find that "learning"--since it isn't a quantifiable thing--doesn't really help attract funding, whereas test scores (which are quantifiable) give them something easy to point to and say "see, we're succeeding"? It's a bad position any way you slice it, but I can understand why grades and graduation rates might bulk so heavily in their calculations (then, too, with little direct access to students, administrators are kind of forced to look at quantifiable stuff like grades, no?)

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I can imagine someone getting into administration with an eye toward helping students learn, only to find that "learning"--since it isn't a quantifiable thing--doesn't really help attract funding, whereas test scores (which are quantifiable) give them something easy to point to and say "see, we're succeeding"? It's a bad position any way you slice it, but I can understand why grades and graduation rates might bulk so heavily in their calculations (then, too, with little direct access to students, administrators are kind of forced to look at quantifiable stuff like grades, no?)

Another factor here is accreditation, which has a direct bearing on future funding through tuition and other revenue sources. Accreditation processes for certain types of programs (Education, STEM, Business, etc...) typically require that an institution meet specific learning outcomes at specific timepoints in a degree. This means that professors often have little wiggle-room when creating curriculum and syllabi, because their learning outcomes and assessments have been dictated by an accreditation process. The "success" of a program is measurable by a set of metrics correlating student performance in these set assessment categories.

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Yeah, we get this in EN 101, too. We're told that the average freshman has a 15min attention span and that we should plan rotating sections for each class period accordingly. Like, 15min free writing, 15min lecturing, 15min peer activities, etc etc etc. Don't let them get bored or they'll zone out. Don't read straight from the book or they'll hate you.

To which I say...phui.

...

Then again, I'm not all into pedagogical theory. I took a compositional pedagogy course and was miserable the whole time. So grain of salt.

I'm near the end (inshallah) of a PhD in education; I've taught several teacher-training courses -- and couldn't stomach watching the above video, but I've seen many like it. The teacher candidates I've taught were sick to death of them before they got to my course, which was about literacy across the curriculum. They groan when you mention the Ken Robinson TED talk. I get the feeling that they are pretty ambivalent about this movement that somehow integrates technology, creativity, and globalization into a Big Huge Thing We Have to Care About. (The videos often throw in scary dubious statistics like "All the kids in China are smarter and know English better than American students, and India has 50 million bazillion software engineers who work for less and are better than Americans" or whatever.) I have a feeling it's in part traceable to the New Literacies or Multiliteracies movement(s?) which emerged in the 90s -- their ideas (having to do with the use of multiple modes of meaning-making besides verbal, the analogy of writing as design, and some other things) actually make a lot of sense* as long as they're not being breathlessly espoused as The Only Way -- but of course that happens.

What I see from senior professors and administrators who latch on to those ideas is a lot of excitement about iPads and social media and things like that, which isn't totally misplaced, but they don't really seem to know what to do with that stuff. They just seem to think it's "important." What I see from teachers is a dose of skepticism about that excitement, because these tools are definitely part of the way my generation of educators moves through the world, but they/we are reluctant to embrace it the way we're being told to. I feel like things might calm down in 10-20 years when this 'new' stuff isn't 'new' anymore. I could be wrong. There will probably some other new statistics hurled at us.

(* Although they can also be shamelessly geared toward the idea of people as "human capital," which is not cool.)

Edited by Joel

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I've taught several teacher-training courses -- and couldn't stomach watching the above video, but I've seen many like it.

It's the 1:19 mark - "This isn’t your classroom. You aren’t this teacher." - that I find the strangest. It's where I get the uncomfortable feeling that there is something wrong.

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As a teacher who has recently stepped into administration, my opinion is that they key is that students are actually *thinking* during class. And there are many ways that this can happen: in lecture as students try to translate the lecture to their own summary and organizational structure as they take notes and as the teacher requires them to apply their learning as he or she asks questions that provide information as to how well the class is really understanding the lecture content. Other teachers have an approach that we might label more "active," and which done well can certainly lead to results and learning, but activity does not always imply thinking, which is the necessary prerequisite to any meaningful learning.

Now, I would say it's true that a person's "unengaged" attention span probably isn't much more than 15 minutes, and I doubt that many of us could pay attention to something boring for much longer than that. But thinking is not boring: it's challenging. I just finished a classroom observation of a math class that was 100 percent engaged, and the teacher accomplished this through completely traditional methods: asking a provocative question, presenting new information, checking student's understanding of it, and providing them with rapid feedback regarding how well they were grasping the new concept.

Edited by Cunningham

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I know from GoodReads that Jeremy has just finished Who Killed Homer? I've looked at the book on Amazon and, upon seeing the word "jeremiad," decided to give it a pass. Still, it was pretty interesting to read Jeremy's review of that book and then see this video show up on my YouTube feed. There might be some points of contact--as well as points of contact with this thread--so I figured I would stick the video here.

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I know from GoodReads that Jeremy has just finished Who Killed Homer? I've looked at the book on Amazon and, upon seeing the word "jeremiad," decided to give it a pass. Still, it was pretty interesting to read Jeremy's review of that book and then see this video show up on my YouTube feed. There might be some points of contact--as well as points of contact with this thread--so I figured I would stick the video here.

I watched it last night. It's a decent, if rather obvious, argument why classical literature has a richness to offer us that we cannot get with the same level of depth if we were to only stick to modern literature. I wish they'd gone lighter on all those cool sound effects though.

As far as Who Killed Homer? is concerned, I found it to be one of the most interesting books on education that I've read in years. Yes, some are calling it a "jeremiad" but that's because it's been heavily attacked and criticized (mostly because it attacks and heavily criticizes modern Classicist scholarship).

Here's a few excerpts:

Most Classics professors know that when they retire they will not be replaced - their billets given over to social, therapeutic, or vocational studies ... (pg. xxv)

The death of Homer, looked at in historical perspective, has come about with considerable swiftness. Just thirty years ago Classics was still an important part of Western education ... For over two millennia the educated and enlightened in the West had been dragged through “the Classics” from an early age. The study of Greek and Latin languages and literatures was acknowledged to be the perfect training for nearly every profession, whether one was heading towards business, law, medicine, the voting booth, or a constitutional convention. What, then, has finished off at the millennium this tradition of liberal education, one that for two thousand years served its constituents so well? (pg. 5)

... University administrators caved in to the complaints of young and often self-righteous students. Curricular “reform” followed, resulting in the virtual abandonment of core courses - important, basic classes which required students to gain at least some familiarity with the literature, grammar, philosophy, history, and language of Classical antiquity. (Even the Vatican gave in, dumping Latin as the Church’s universal language.) Professional “educators” and social scientists leaped into the vacuum, spreading therapeutics through the university, metastasizing their “I’m growing” and “Tell us about yourself” like cancer cells in a weakened system. The seeds of the “feel-good” curriculum were planted, the crop of which we are harvesting in today’s pressing concern for institutionally imposed self-esteem. This new, ultrasensitive curriculum and its appendages - diversity training, journal writing, gender and racial sensitivity, multiculturalism, situational ethics, personal growth and self-indulgence, and the politics of commitment - ran directly counter to Greek wisdom ... (pgs. 82-83)

But, Hanson and Heath don't argue that we shouldn't study other cultures, much less that we shouldn't be aware of race or gender issues. The problem they argue against is a specialized kind of social studies, that imposes political ideology onto classical texts and inevitably ends up focusing on how the student feels or reacts to the work, rather than on what the work has to offer that is new and different from anything within a student's very limited personal experience. The end result is a class that that has blinders on, ignores the context of the text, and avoids teaching new ideas as much as it ends up being about the students themselves. It's a nuanced argument, because it essentially comes down to the assertion that recent attempts to make the Classics more relevant and less boring has resulted in the exact opposite.

Which reminded me of a comment made by Cicero Bruce in this Introduction to Crowd Culture by Bernard Iddings Bell -

... At the modern university it is virtually impossible for a young soul to get a genuine “critical, literary education,” remarked Allen Tate in a 1940 essay. The student of mass education is unable to discuss a work of literature “in terms of its specific form; all he can do is to give you its history or tell you how he feels about it.” (pg. xvii)

... What is more, students are also presented with the idea that one kind of experience is as valuable as another when it comes to reading. The experiential theorists who cultivate this idea insist that a student better “relates” to a poem or piece of fiction when he brings to it his own personal experience (no matter how provincial). They may be right, but they fail to see that there is more to reading books than relating to them on a personal level. One must wonder how the theorist could continue to promote this superficial kind of reading in the face of rampant cultural ignorance, when students grow ever less conversant with the seminal works that shaped the minds of those who founded their country. Are the theorists trying to occlude these works? What students ought to be bringing to literature are experiences of a literary kind. Students cannot fully appreciate a classic like Heart of Darkness, for example, unless they have some prior experience with Dante, whom Conrad invokes ... (pgs. xxxiii-xxxiv)

And then, Neil Postman just reminded me of this thread again, while I was finishing up Amusing Ourselves to Death:

... We now know that “Sesame Street” encourages children to love school only if school is like “Sesame Street.” Which is to say, we now know that “Sesame Street” undermines what the traditional idea of schooling represents ... Yet “Sesame Street and its progeny ... are not to be blamed for laughing the traditional classroom out of existence. If the classroom now begins to seem a stale and flat environment for learning, the inventors of television itself are to blame, not the Children’s Television Workshop ... This does not mean that “Sesame Street” is not educational. It is, in fact, nothing but educational - in the sense that every television show is educational. Just as reading a book - any kind of book - promotes a particular orientation toward learning, watching a television show does the same ... (pgs. 143-144)

If we are to blame “Sesame Street” for anything, it is for the pretense that it is an ally of the classroom. That, after all, has been its chief claim on foundation and public money. As a television show, and a good one, “Sesame Street” does not encourage children to love school or anything about school. It encourages them to love television. Moreover, it is important to add that whether or not “Sesame Street” teaches children their letters and numbers is entirely irrelevant. We may take as our guide here John Dewey’s observation that the content of a lesson is the least important thing about learning ... In other words, the most important thing one learns is always something about how one learns. As Dewey wrote ... we learn what we do. Television educates by teaching children to do what television-viewing requires of them. And that is as precisely remote from what a classroom requires of them as reading a book is from watching a stage show ... (pg. 144)

... The consequences of this reorientation are to be observed not only in the decline of the potency of the classroom but, paradoxically, in the refashioning of the classroom into a place where both teaching and learning are intended to be vastly amusing activities ... Teachers, from primary grades through college, are increasing the visual stimulation of their lessons; are reducing the amount of exposition their students must cope with; are relying less on reading and writing assignments; and are reluctantly concluding that the principal means by which student interest may be engaged is entertainment. With no difficulty I could fill the remaining pages of this chapter with examples of teachers’ efforts - in some instances, unconscious - to make their classrooms into second-rate television shows... (pgs. 148-149)

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Susan Shapiro teaches writing at New York University.

Make Me Worry You're Not O.K. -

When Kenan, the Bosnian physical therapist treating my back injury, saw me grading student papers between leg lifts, he asked, “What I did on my summer vacation?”

I told him that, actually, the first piece I assign my feature journalism classes is something a little more revealing: write three pages confessing your most humiliating secret.

“You Americans.” He laughed. “Why would anyone reveal that?”

“Because they want to publish essays and sell memoirs,” I said ...

Over 20 years of teaching, I have made “the humiliation essay” my signature assignment. It encourages students to shed vanity and pretension and relive an embarrassing moment that makes them look silly, fearful, fragile or naked ...

“We need to worry you’re not O.K.,” an empathetic female memoirist told me.

After I coughed up my deepest dismay, my memoir found a good editor and good reviews (except from the male columnist from Texas who still felt sorry for my husband).

I was recently worried that, as a still happily married middle-age professor, it might be time to stop making a fool of myself on the page ... To update a quote by the 19th century poet Matthew Arnold, “Journalism is literature with ADD.” You have to grab the reader by the throat immediately, which is why I launched my second memoir with the line “In December my husband stopped screwing me" ...

The stark, painful, inappropriate confession is the most essential part, the meat and potatoes, the soul and the sound bite, the raison d’être ...

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Joshua Glenn offers what might be considered "the other side" of the "old paradigm/new paradigm" discussion:

Decades of research confirm that making and doing things cement knowledge in ways that lectures can't. "Think about the driver and the passenger in a car," says Adele Diamond, Ph.D., a professor of psychiatry at the University of British Columbia and one of the founders of the field of developmental cognitive neuroscience. "The driver is hands-on and the passenger does what students normally do in class, which is sit passively. The driver will learn the route better because she has to actively use the information."

Making mistakes and trying again and again (and often again) until you succeed also encourages what's now being called a "prototyper's mind," an asset that many experts believe will be key to the 21st century job market, where the majority of careers today's kids will pursue have yet to be invented. "Facts can be looked up," says Diamond. "What students need to be learning is how to reason and problem-solve and be creative. Kids should get rewarded for taking a chance and trying something new and not always have to be so worried about making a mistake."

Unfortunately, engaged and enlightened tinkering is disappearing from contemporary American childhood. State budget cuts and the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 have narrowed many schools' curriculums to prioritize math and English, sometimes at the expense of science, music and art -- all of which provide students with the opportunity to experiment and make things from scratch. Even shop classes have almost completely disappeared from American middle and high schools

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This piece plays a little into the hoary old "China vs. US" thing (a topic I find increasingly wearying), but there's a snazzy infographic attached, so here we go:

A new survey from Dell indicates there are quite a few things the U.S. can learn from China when it comes to meeting students’ technology needs. According to the findings:

  • China is more likely to integrate technology into all curriculum,
  • Chinese students spend more time using technology in school, and
  • Chinese teachers are more technologically savvy according to students

china-us-edtech.jpg

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The assumption that a "survey" (a popular poll) about how well something, like the use of technology, is working in the schools can tell us much of anything is questionable. These surveys have been given for decades now.

On the other hand, you can also probably safely assume that no survey about the use of technology, conducted by persons whose job it is to sell us technology, will ever conclude that technology may be harmful to the classroom. Am I wrong in thinking that the natural conclusion to draw from that headache inducing multicolored mess up there is that Americans need more technology and more technological training in school?

The assumption that we can learn anything by polling the students themselves about how much technology they think should be used in the classroom is ... well it's ... I can't ...

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I don't think parsing the meanings of "survey" is particularly helpful here. The information here operates more as a "point of interest" (leaving aside the origins of the poll) than anything else. I posted it as such, not under the conviction that it proved anything.

Yoinks. Stupid iPhone. I'll clean up the post later; apologies. I will add, though, that the question of technology--as I implied earlier--is one of supreme indifference to me. If a teacher can work it, s/he should work it. I can't, so I don't.

Edited by NBooth

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I posted it as such, not under the conviction that it proved anything.

Yes, I wasn't thinking you agreed with it.

On another note, the comparisons worth making between the U.S. and China (or between the West and the East) do involve science majors in the universities. Science majors have been decreasing in the U.S. and Europe and increasing in Asia for over a decade now. Discussions or interpretations of why this is and on whether it is good or bad are to be easily found. So, as a point of interest, this chart is probably related.

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I will say that in China things tend to be a lot more fluid with copyright and digital media as well. In my experience students (and teachers) in China are much more likely than their American counterparts to do things like download textbooks from the internet, take part in school-sponsored online forums (every Chinese university has a very active forum, or BBS as they call it), etc. The legal grey areas with copyright also make it easier to find and show videos in class.

But overall, I echo the skepticism about this cool looking chart. It doesn't seem to really be saying anything other than "people are using technology in school."

Oh, also, in general the discourse in Chinese education is so heavily skewed toward technological, scientific, and economic development that I'm not surprised to find the Chinese numbers being higher on most questions.

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The Awl: Venture Capital's Massive, Terrible Idea For The Future Of College

Can you go to college on your computer? Some say yes, and others respond with a resounding no. But one thing is for sure: there is a boatload of public money to be vacuumed off an overcrowded, underfunded educational establishment desperate for at least the appearance of a quick fix.

Enter Udacity, the foremost provider of Massively Open Online Courses, or MOOCs. Does what's above look like college to you? Or rather, is this how college should look now?

They've been described as "a relentless force that will not be denied," revolutionary, "the single most important experiment in higher education." Also MOOCs are getting a drubbing from academics and others who believe there's more to higher education than can be provided via "distance learning."

Now California state universities are set to begin enrolling students in MOOCs for credit. Earlier this month, the president of San Jose State University, Mo Qayoumi, announced that his institution will commence a pilot program: 300 students will receive course credit for online classes in remedial algebra, college algebra and statistics. Qayoumi was joined at the press conference by California Governor Jerry Brown and Sebastian Thrun, the controversial ex-Stanford prof and co-founder of Udacity, which will supply classes for the program at the cost of $150 per customer, er, student.

From the conclusion:

Let's put ourselves in the undergraduate student's position. Someone eighteen years old, embarking on an academic career, might well ask: Will this world welcome me, welcome my potential abilities? Or am I being trained for a life on a hamster wheel? Is my value simply the value of a hamster that can run, a bioform for the Matrix to plug into and extract my essence for the benefit of a larger machine? Is this world full of possibilities, is it asking me to contribute, welcoming my contribution, valuing me for the things known and unknown that I may one day be able to contribute? Or am I being wronged from the start, treated as a "customer," which all too often means, alas, someone to fleece?

Is the world full of smart and welcoming adults who are interested in what I have to say, encouraging me to work hard and learn and try things, or is it full of thieves and charlatans who are out to rip me off and saddle me with debt and enslave me before I even get a chance to start my adult life??

Long article, but worth reading.

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Thanks for posting that, Tyler. I get to work with a lot of people who view higher education merely as a business (with students as customers), so...yeah.

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I'm thinking through some stuff related to Wendell Berry, globalization, and language education in preparation for a talk/longer paper I'll try to finish and submit to a journal this year, if anyone's interested -- it has some intersections with what we've been discussing here.

Thanks for sharing this, Joel. This is a fascinating subject.

In general Berry is against "specialization" in language and knowledge, i.e. the way universities arrange disciplines. I think this has to do with uprooting human action from community/place. But the issue here, as Berry rightly notes, is that the globalized industrial economy has created a situation of "destroyed communities." Two related problems for language education: genuine community life is barely possible, and the motives and purposes people have for language learning are frequently not based on being rooted in a place.

I don't know if I could blame the global economy for increased specialization and advanced vocational training in education. Industrialization and capitalism combined with progressive and utilitarian thinking are all to blame for tossing out the old curriculum long before there was all this talk about globalization. Dorothy Sayers was trying to combat the replacement of the trivium with isolated "subjects" back in 1947. Progressive reformers were arguing that classical education was indulgent and impractical in the early 1900s. Business influence was encouraging schools to begin teaching "useful" subjects like Accounting and Management in the late 1800s. During the early 1800s, the Romantic poets were decrying the destruction of local community by industrialization.

Yet it is clear that most English teachers and students buy into globalization pretty wholeheartedly, either because we see it as offering good possibilities for human flourishing on an individual scale (though again, Berry would probably rightly suggest that it does not allow for community flourishing, which ultimately is detrimental to individuals and humanity as a whole), or because we see that it is an inevitable organizing principle of who we are and what we do. I'm concerned that we can't necessarily escape having a "global orientation" to our language and our profession because of current material conditions -- concerned because, as Berry writes, the idea of a "global community" or "global village" is a metaphor that could (should!) never actually exist. This may result in a rejection of "imagined communities" at a conceptual level (even though we should certainly allow students to be motivated by their own desires).

We certainly have this idea of "progress" to which globalization seems to have been one of the ends. But, I think you are right that there is no escaping it now (not without becoming a hermit or a cult member). As far as language is concerned, however, I don't think it is only rooted in local community. I think it is rooted even more strongly in the past. Our economics can be as global as the market likes, but that doesn't mean we have to ignore the literary wealth of the past.

The question I'm left with is "How can we integrate the slow, the small, the permanent, and the communitarian into a world where the fast, the large, the transient, and the cosmopolitan are basically the rule?"

Before you work too much on answering what is a very good question, I'd be interested in seeing you develop the connections between the breakdown of local community and the failure of modern education a little further first. They certainly do seem to be related, but I don't think everyone is going to see how.

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I don't know if I could blame the global economy for increased specialization and advanced vocational training in education.

...

As far as language is concerned, however, I don't think it is only rooted in local community. I think it is rooted even more strongly in the past. Our economics can be as global as the market likes, but that doesn't mean we have to ignore the literary wealth of the past.

...

I'd be interested in seeing you develop the connections between the breakdown of local community and the failure of modern education a little further first.

I'm not necessarily saying globalization has made education go bad -- I'm just trying to connect Berry's critique of globalization and the subsequent breakdown of local community life with some idea of what English language teachers can do to have a more humane and community-oriented approach. Our discipline is saturated in 'global village' thinking and I have a lot of reservations about that.

When I'm talking about language, I'm pretty much exclusively talking about my field, which is teaching English to speakers of other languages (I use Berry on poetry as a way to get at the idea of language in general), so I'm trying to critique the mindset which says "English is a magical international language, mastery of which will allow you to get higher-paying jobs, have access to anything in the world, make you a better person, etc." and seeing if I can use Berry to do that. I'm interested in both our view of the English language and what it means to teach/learn it, and how we can teach students in a way that doesn't encourage a view of humanity based on economic value.

So at the moment I'm not quite interested in showing that modern education is a failure per se, so much as I am wanting to find a way to reconcile the obviously global nature of English and English teaching with the (probably, I think) harmful effects of globalization, and seeing what I can find in Berry to do that.

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