I like essay questions, compare and contrast, thought experiments.
Binary questions set us up for binary answers, unless we’re smart enough to just use the question as a jumping-off point for all sorts of open-ended, fuzzy logic and systems thinking.
So my definition of education depends on good questions rather than good answers. (Binary true-false, yes-no, on-off, this-that questions and answers don’t fit my definition of “good.”) Here are some good essay questions in play this week, bonus points for Thinking Parents who integrate them into one big gloriously unclear yet inspired theme!
What does it mean to be black?
Many people insist that “the first black president” is actually not black. . .Intermarriage and the decline of racism are dissolving ancient
What does it mean to be Republican?
“You know, in all due respect to the Republican National Committee and anybody — right now, I think we should try to be working constructively together, not only on an issue such as this, but on the economy stimulus package, reforms that are necessary. . .”
McCain. . .has almost never been popular within deeply partisan Republican circles. . .
What does it mean to reform education as opposed to further defining it as school?
If we taught babies to talk as most skills are taught in school, they would memorize lists of sounds in a predetermined order and practice them alone in a closet.
— Linda Darling-Hammond
[Arne] Duncan would bring to Washington an agenda based on Renaissance 2010, which Chicago education activist Michael Klonsky describes as a blend of “more standardized testing, closing neighborhood schools, militarization, and the privatization of school management.”
Duncan’s philosophy is shared by [Joel] Klein, who is despised by educators and parents in his district perhaps more than any superintendent in the nation
. . .Duncan and Klein pride themselves on new programs that pay students for higher grades or scores. Both champion the practice of forcing low-scoring students to repeat a grade–a strategy that research overwhelmingly finds counterproductive.
Coincidentally, Darling-Hammond wrote in 2001 about just such campaigns against “social promotion” in New York and Chicago, pointing out that politicians keep trotting out the same failed get-tough strategies “with no sense of irony or institutional memory.” In that same essay, she also showed how earlier experiments with high-stakes testing have mostly served to increase the dropout rate.
. . . Darling-Hammond knows how all the talk of “rigor” and “raising the bar” has produced sterile, scripted curriculums that have been imposed disproportionately on children of color. Her viewpoint is that of an educator, not a corporate manager.
What does it mean to defend and protect purity?
We prefer to remain prisoners of purity. We’ve taught our young adults to cherish their purity and to wait until their wedding day and a ring is on their finger. That advice sounds a bit old-fashioned. And it is. But some fashions are timeless classics that never go out of style, even in the technology age. Purity is one of them.
What does it mean to be “well-educated”?
A well-educated child is one who knows and loves the Lord their God with all their heart, mind, soul, and strength; and loves their neighbor as themselves. That’s not proven by a standardized test score, but demonstrated daily in a life lived in obedience and service to Him.
How do you define education for your own kids, for the future rather than the past? Shall children go by the book (or Book) and prepare to carry on all our ancient tribal fights, by the ancient rules of engagement, to “defend purity” in word and deed, body, mind and spirit, to see their purpose as keeping everything separate and clearly divided, to build and guard the walls, keep the Other out and the Ours in, both under strict patriarchial social controls so we don’t get them mixed up?– or did we try that only to see it fail miserably, so now Education has switched sides and is claiming new territory, blurring lines rather than defending them?
Is home education successful because it is pure, the ancient way we defend — or because it is shattering assumptions and opening up new ways of thinking about education for everyone? When we are thrown off-balance and forced to rethink old comfortable lines of demarcation we’d previously just accepted as immutable, doesn’t that mean we’re thinking and learning and progressing in depth of understanding? Isn’t THAT the definition of education?
Debate over whether to call this son of a white Kansan and a black
Kenyan biracial, African-American, mixed-race, half-and-half,
multiracial — or, in Obama’s own words, a “mutt” — has reached a
crescendo since Obama’s election shattered assumptions about race.
Obama has said, “I identify as African-American — that’s how I’m treated and that’s how I’m viewed. I’m proud of it.”
In other words, the world gave Obama no choice but to be black, and he was happy to oblige.
But the world has changed since the young Obama found his place in it.
What will your kids learn about old definitions of purity in this new world, and about the new, not-purebred president’s place in it, and their own place in it, whoever they turn out to be and whether that identity can be reduced to short answer form for standardized testing and government reporting?
When they’ve learned some answers the public will accept, will they be “well-educated” and will they be pure, and who will they be? And where will they stand — inside the gates shooting out, outside fighting to get in, building something new somewhere else, for some other purpose altogether?