Over at Single Serving Thoughts esther has posted an innocent article about her experience studying high-school science in America. She finishes asking herself a question about whether experiential techniques should be more broadly used in education. So far, her usual territory. She normally gets a couple of comments per post, acknowledgements from friends that take the chance to say hello. Not this time. When I’m writing this, there are 11 comments -unfortunately most in Spanish- and the debate has degenerated from a polite exchange of opinions to undisguised insulting in the space of 3 comments or so.
I’m loving it. I wish I had the same success at generating heated debate here at Hortal.com. Looking at the debate, I guess I side with J!’s view that legislation is not the way forward, although I have to say I’m doubly surprised in that position. I do tend to lean to the right in political views, tendency that J! always reminds me is wrong and short-sighted in his opinion. But here we have a self-proclaimed PP member (PP is Spain’s main Conservative party) rooting for more state control rather than less, and a leftie (J!) advocating for individual freedoms over state rule. Hasn’t the world changed???!!!
Does it matter? Mr Harris’ trip to the PC class was nothing but a stunt, a very effective stunt in getting people’s attention but a stunt none the less. Without a solid foundation in the theory of science Mr Harris would have to resort to stunts like that all through the year, and the children would have learned more about circus-like acts than about any science.
I’m all for experimentation in education formats and for taking advantage of technological development in the classroom. I hear PowerPoint is now an invaluable teachnig aid, and I celebrate that fact, although I’m sure that replacing professionally designed books with amateur PPT slideshows put together by clipart-keen teching assistants will detract from the ability of a majority of pupils to grasp the underlying concepts being taought and their effectiveness at applying the learnings -rather than the narrow teachings- on a wide range of walks of life.
We had a similar debate over at Uni when we were getting our IT degrees (J! will remember it): do we learn programming using Pascal (a highly structured, academic, practically unusable programming language favoured by academia) or do we move on to C (an unstructured, easy to pick up, quick and dirty programming language favoured by business and in great demand at the time)? We stayed with Pascal, which meant that we all had to apply ourselves into understanding arcane structures for programs and data in the classroom plus learn a different language before being of any value to the job market.
I am ever grateful for that decision. While getting your fist job was slightly complicated by the fact you had to learn something else on your own, getting your first managerial role was made infinitely easier by the fact you’d been taught to think abstractly, to develop complex rational arguments, to think before you did.
Education should be made as approachable as possible, but its main purpose is not to form work droids for the consumption of the employment market. It is to help develop critical thinkers, able to understand the world and its complexities and to positively contribute to changing it for the better. Education should give eveyone a chance to become a leader, not just a cog in the machine. An agent of change, not an anchor of immobility. A force. This can’t always be achieved by cuddlying and caressing. However, the prize is too great to let go.