What It’s All About
Last month I had a compelling conversation with 21 educators in Moodle. I’m still rather reeling from the whole discussion.
I posed the question, “What is the goal of education?” Much as I did in this post. I received 21 profound, comprehensive, thought-provoking responses. I, in turn, crafted my response to the question. The following is what I replied to the teachers, and what I believe on the issue.
“First, an observation. This class is replete with incredible educators from all levels, experiences, and frames of reference. There isn’t one person in this class I wouldn’t hope and wish for my child to have the honor of having for a teacher. Yet, with all the experience, knowledge, and excellence, there is one fact that strikes me as indicative of the entire educational institution of today. So many people have so many different goals.
Yes, some are very related to others, but think of the implications of this fact. We all struggle and fight to give the very best to our students. We argue, advocate, rejoice, are brought to tears, and simply care beyond caring for our students. Yet, in what direction are we all pulling the rope? It’s as if we’ve entered a desperate game of tug of war, and we struggle against the rope, and we pull against what we believe to be that which stands in the way of our students’ progress, but I fear we might just be pulling destructively against each other.
How can we change that which needs changing if we aren’t all going in the same direction? Of course there will be some who push back against this notion. ‘We must retain academic freedom and the ability to adapt based on student needs,’ some will argue, and to that I would say, ‘absolutely correct.’ The problem is, those issues are tertiary. Those are subcategories belonging to the whole.
What is the goal in education? Simply put. Learning. That is our goal. Not teaching, not testing, not content, not citizenship. It’s all about learning. It has to be.
I know it seems too simple, but stop and think about this. How often do we fail to make it about learning? How often are we racing to cover content? Content that will be lost on a child far too quickly. Once the phrase, ‘I have to get through the content’ is uttered, it has become about the content and no longer about the learning. I know some will say, ‘but they need to know all this content, and by doing so, they’re learning.’ But in this given context, the content has become the focus, not the act of learning. We get caught up in performance, and competition to see how many kids can all perform at the same level, and whose class had the most kids meet standards, and we forget about learning. Really, we do.
Try this. This week as you engage in educating your students, gauge everything you do against this idea. Is the focus and goal of what you’re doing learning? I think you’ll be surprised at how often (frequently as a result of something out of your control) you have to answer no.
The way our grading system is built, the way our intervention system is built, even the way our grouping of students by age is built given what we know about the variance of development in children, it all loses focus on learning.
What if our true, absolute goal was simply learning? I do believe so many, many things would be different.
I’m completely open to discussion on this.”
I know it may seem rather simplistic and rather obvious that our absolute goal is learning, but is it really that simplistic? Is focusing entirely on learning really that easy? Could it be? I fear too often we take that which could be simple and add complexity to it thinking we’re making it better, but in the end, we simply ruin it. I think it’s time we change that.
Thanks to Steffe for the Flickr image.