What the Answer is Supposed to Be

Synchronous serendipity strikes again. This week, a conjunction of ideas about schools and teaching.

Here’s Prince Ea‘s YouTube video — What is School For? — which I found through a Seth blog on the importance of inconvenience in education.

Here’s Ted Dintersmith’s TED talk in Fargo ND, with a call to action related to his documentary, Most Likely to Succeed.

Here’s Jim Taylor’s blog about teachers, with the best joke ever about teaching:

A Sunday school teacher wanted to stimulate participation, so she asked,
“What’s furry and climbs trees?”
None of her students ventured an answer.
She tried again: “It collects nuts for the winter.”
Still no answer.
“It’s red, or grey, or black, and has big front teeth.”
“I know the answer is supposed to be Jesus,” the bravest boy finally offered,
“but to me it sounds a lot like a squirrel.”


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4 Responses to What the Answer is Supposed to Be

  1. I learned both in school and at home how to think logically and carefully. I learned self-control. I learned to speak respectfully and to consider the differences in other people, whether of my age or of the older people I met. The much-maligned math courses in these videos were one such avenue for learning logic and problem-solving. In fact, the Pythagorean theorem has frequently allowed me to solve practical problems in sewing, house repairs and construction, art, gardening, and other situations. Every so often I use the algebra I learned and I occasionally wish my math extended to the calculus. Studying Shakespeare, which came after studying less encyclopedic writers, expanded my understanding of personalities, circumstances, and social systems. School subjects introduced me to the geographies and histories of the countries to which I would travel. In school, I learned to become disciplined in learning, which is necessary to continue to be self-taught. I learned the principles of conducting research. I learned to love learning. I learned about religions, philosophies, and political viewpoints. I learned to disagree with people without condemning them.

    The people who welcome the proliferation of technologies do not impress me. The replacing of people with machines to perform necessary work is not necessarily a benefit to the society. The geniuses who are responsible for the current image of “success” are measured by their wealth by the number of gadgets they sell, not by their contributions to the common weal. An impoverishment of values in religion and spirituality, in the potential riches in language, and in the compassionate understanding of their fellow humans are their defining personality characteristics.

    Education alone cannot provide the self-actualizing process that leads a person to a sense of fulfillment in life, but it remains the best alternative that has been found for raising the mass of humanity from the morass of self-interest that prevails without disciplined thought and behavior.

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Laurna – Would that everyone were so thoughtful about their learning. Would that all schools and teachers were able to impart general purposes along with the specific learnings. I learned lots of things I still use, and lots not. In Grade 8, I obediently memorized the Commonwealth countries and their capitals and major exports, without hearing a word about the impact of colonialism. Within 5 years, most of these countries had obtained their independence and changed those names committed to memory for the end of year test. Another 15 years on, I remember an interviewer asking me what was the most important quality in a teacher. Without hesitation or any forethought I answered, “Enthusiasm for the subject.” Fostering a love of learning is, I think, one of the most important contributions a school or teacher can make.

    • Laurna & Isabel — Eleanor Roosevelt said that if she could wish one quality for a newborn child it would be curiosity.

      I’ve come to believe education is learning how to learn — a good teacher won’t be needed by the end of the course. An enthusiastic teacher can be the key, esp. if she inspires the love of reading.

      Gaining an understanding of our own & other people’s thinking/behavior takes a lifetime. It is what every good & great book is all about. For me, it’s what makes life so interesting, at any age.

      • Isabel Gibson says:

        Barbara – Nice quote. A good teacher or curriculum can expedite our progress and broaden our perspective by fostering curiosity, it would seem to me. It’s not quite as tidy/easy as delivering fixed content, though!

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