Education and Expectation

Rather than launch into a lengthy diatribe about education, I’ll stick to one thing. Skills must be taught. The purpose of education is not to stuff our heads with everything from the first 40 lines of the Caunterbury Tales in Middle English to the reproductive cycle of an apple tree. We can look those things up, calling them when they are needed. This is the purpose of Wikipedia. Education must provide context for the content of the material.

In thinking about why I look something up on Wikipedia, I decided on three reasons. 1) To waste time with quick barrages of facts. 2) To satisfy the desire for knowledge of pop culture items. 3) To gain a broad overview of a thing. These cases illustrate the relation of content and context — No. 1 would not exist without boredom, distraction, etc. No. 2 would not exist without a reference to some pop culture item to lead me to desire further clarification. No. 3 would not exist without the need/desire to have information about a thing.

An important point emerges here. It would seem that context is more important that content, but I argue a different point. I argue that the challenge for students must be to fit content within context. Such is the challenge of an essay — read a book, take facts from it, write an essay about x. The possibilities go far beyond that of a simple essay, certainly. The important matter, I feel, is that skills are learned that facilitate adaptation. Here I do not say that students must be changed, but that they must have the capability to change.

But sometimes there is a right and a wrong way of doing things. Example A (of the wrong way!) is the following Onion article. I think we could replace “Montessori” with “John Dewey’s Progressive Model,” but that gets a bit prolix.

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