It is rare indeed to find ideas in education which pan out and work consistently. When the ideas occur they should be celebrated in the same way we honor sports teams. I want to address two ideas which are at the top of my list. Sadly not enough people know about these two GREAT ideas as few people spend the time to be immersed in NPR or the Commonwealth Club, get to work with great teachers who reach beyond the test score drama AND then spend the time to critically analyze what was said and why it is valuable.
The only times I have had anyone in education discuss time related to learning is the following:
(1) Configuring a lesson plan
(2) Debating a 50 minute class period or double block scheduling
(3) How much homework is acceptable to assign to students – in reference to how much time they need for living
(4) Syating that students need ‘processing’ time when you ask a direct question in class.
Other than that, time, the fourth dimension, is neglected in all forms of education as, well, taking up to much time in a world which functions best on instant gratification. So, it was with great amazement at 2:00 AM on 31 July 2010 I found myself listening to a replay of actor Richard Dreyfuss discussing the concept of civics in education and nodding my head in bed in agreement….and then further realizing exactly what Mr. Dreyfuss states which is intelligent beyond mere words is exactly what my friend and teaching colleague Mitch Weathers of Organized Binder fame has been preaching to a select chorus for years. And I became deeply sad that these two articulate and thoughtful people who believe education is a value far beyond test scores have not received wider audience, hence this blog.
So here goes. The basic tenent behind what both of these people are saying is that education is not just a glob of facts, piled one atop another like a poorly built shack. Instead, education is the POWER OF EXPLORATION of the facts and debate, discourse, questioning and deep thinking about the facts and keeping the mind alert to new facts and being able to balance two contrary ideas simultaneously and gleen the best kernals of each. Allof that being written, the real problems with education are (1) Lack of organization – a lesson plan is NOT a form of organization, rather it is a plan of attack for a teacher to get through a set litany of facts in a specific period of time and demonstrate some degree of memory of said information and (2) Lack of time in education and outside the classroom spent THINKING (3) The mediocratic need for instant gratification based on NOW rather than actually digesting and processing facts (4) The acceptance of a non-civic minded public that test scores and ratings such as proficient are ENOUGH. It is no doubt anyone who defies these four problems are castigated and disliked for the very fact they encourage thinking and constructive use of time.
Richard Dreyfuss believes civics needs to be taught in school and practiced in the broader community/world. Mitch believes education is the right of every student/person and not a privelege and not something which is easy. Mitch is old school and believes in thinking, processing, analyzing and metacognition. You put these two ideas together and there is indeed the possibility education can escape the very dark ages it is currently in throughout the U.S.
I encourage you to do four things after reading this piece. (1) Listen to http://www.commonwealthclub.org/archive/10/10-07dreyfuss.html and notice the logic. (2) Look up http://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Organized-Binder/121329426769 and Mitch Weathers. (3) If your childs school does not already practice the Organized Binder, find out why and get it on the agenda. (4) Get your kid, your family, friends, etc. to engage in civic discourse and think. There has never been a better time.
P.S. Mitch does not even know I wrote this – I did not feel compelled to ask permission for sharing a good idea. I was not paid to write this and have never been paid by Mitch to share a good idea – I do this for free because it is the RIGHT THING TO DO.