60 seconds on what’s important in education

I won’t step on the toes of the great folks who filmed me giving a 60 second lecture today by giving away their work, but I was asked to talk about why education is important and as a teaser, I’m including the text below.

It’s amazing how hard it is to say anything that matters in a short time. I thought the experience was valuable. Like it or not, there is clear utility in being able to essentialize ideas and make them palatable to mass audiences. At the same time, reductionist thinking tends not to be that useful and often obscures rather than illuminates the truth.

I do not believe that education is important, as some argue, because all people should be able to recall the same set of basic facts? Cultural capital matters and is one tool for accessing power, but all students will never know and be able to do the same things—that’s not the way our species is built.

Great schools are places where rather than learning our founding facts, students learn our founding values—places where students learn these values by experiencing them. For example:

–          Students learn to work and live together when they collaborate together in work that is purposeful and meaningful to their lived experience

–          They learn to be responsible to community when they are cared for by community members and when they practices caring for each other

–          They learn to participate, to be engaged and interested, when they are empowered and supported both to make decisions about their own selves and futures and when they are empowered to take part in determining the structures that effect their learning and living

Students learn to challenge, inquire, and question—they learn to learn, when they are given even the slightest opportunity to do so. The educator’s job is to give students a chance to do some worthwhile learning.

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2 comments

  1. Well said, Gabriel. I am always astonished at just how much my students CAN DO when they are put in the driver’s seat. Too many times we teachers struggle with handing over any kind of power to our students. What will they do? What might they say or not say? Will they reach OUR goals and expectations? With a little bit of mindfulness, we can notice this fear, and hand over the reigns… For me and my students, it’s a risk worth taking.

    1. I completely agree Jenny. I think it’s really hard for teachers to make the conceptual switch from a teacher-centered to a student centered classroom. Even though I wanted a student centered classroom from day one of my practice, it took me a while to figure out how not to be at the front of the room using my voice to control the potential chaos. You have to come to understand that it’s easier to get students to work and grow together, to support each other, if you are in their midst, helping and guiding and giving real support to students who actually need it.

      (For the same reason, as an aside, it makes me crazy to see teachers stand around the walls at an assembly. If you sit amongst the students, you can actually help them stay focussed. If you stand at the edge you are no good to any but the children sitting right on the edges).

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