School is back in session, and the blog has suffered as a result. I've been focused recently on student writing and my own WIP. I'm working on my time management skills, and I'm optimistic I'll find time for everything. (I write fantasy, and sometimes I fall prey to wildly impossible ideas.)
I posed a question to my students recently, and I feel compelled to share some of their responses. My pre-AP freshmen read Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451 over the summer, and so we began with that when school started. I love starting with Fahrenheit because of its focus on thinking for oneself. We use that idea in everything we read and write all year long. Following is the prompt I gave them.
"Remember, the firemen are rarely necessary. The public itself stopped reading of its own accord." (p. 87)
What kind of education is necessary to create citizens who recognize "quality of information," take "leisure to digest it," and "carry out actions based on what [they] learned from the first two?" Do you think our current educational system does this?
The responses were varied, but a third of the class hit on a common theme. They believe the system fires information at them in the form of unrelated facts because the state says the material has to be covered. They don't ever have time to do more than memorize facts or understand ideas at the surface level.
One student said, "Our system crams it in without giving any leisure to digest it. This cripples our ability to learn due to the rush."
Another said, "Teachers always say 'hurry, hurry, hurry for the CATS test[Ky's statewide assessment].' We always seemed rushed."
Finally, the most telling, "It would take a system that could slow down so that students could process information. It would take a system that allowed students to form opinions based on an un-biased discussion. Lastly, it would take a system that was okay with confronting deep, controversial topics. In some ways, and in some classes, our education resembles this. In some classes, though, the useless memorization of facts seems like 'a lot of water and a lot of funnels.'"
These students have a point, and I'm not sure how to fix the problem. The scope of knowledge we are asked to convey in a 10 month period is broad, but which things would you delete? Do you let individual teachers decide? Honestly, that idea makes me nervous even though I like having autonomy in my own classroom.
I suspect the answer is in how the content is delivered by individual teachers. We have pacing documents that tell us we should be at "X" point by "X" date, but all of us quietly make decisions to touch on some of the content more deeply. Always hanging over us, though, is a sense of move, move, move. We don't want to let the kids down by not covering content on which the state will test them. At the same time, most of us believe it is better to truly understand something than to brush over it because it's on the test.
Maybe the problem is societal. How many adults recognize "quality of information" and take "leisure to digest it," let alone "carry out actions based on what they learned from the first two?" We live in a hurry, hurry, hurry world. Bradbury was correct. "The firemen are rarely necessary."
I love my job. The kids always make me think to the same degree I ask them to think.