Response To: Powerful Beyond Measure

Miguel Guhlin posted a great piece today Powerful Beyond Measure that is a must read. In it he states:

“The words of Isaiah, as Bonhoeffer shared them, are, “He who believes does not flee.” The words strike home as I reflect on education today. For those who can, have fled schools. They have fled our schools and abandoned their colleagues, the children, and moved on to greener pastures. And, who can blame them that they chose to take advantage of the active exit strategy to deal with slow death?”

Those who can have also fled to within themselves, their classrooms – quietly doing what they’re told. Many teachers take on the good little girl or boy persona that they learned as students – it’s how they got their positive strokes, how they were acknowledged – by being good, not rocking the boat. They want to do what’s best for their students, but too many can’t or won’t make that decision on their own. So now in a time that they are being told that what is best is accountability (per NCLB) they fall back on being good little boys and girls – not entirely because they agree with the method, but because they haven’t thought about or discussed what might be better and they wouldn’t be “good” then and that is scary. What if I’m not considered good? When your pay isn’t acknowledging your work then having your work acknowledged is what you hang onto. Not being considered good for any reason then is scary.

This might sound too strong, but it is a similar reaction to terrorism or what Bonhoeffer witnessed in Nazi Germany – don’t rock the boat and draw attention to yourself. Don’t have a public opinion about anything because that might come back and be used against you.

What are the examples many teachers have to follow? Are they being in-serviced and trained and encouraged to use problem-based/project-based learning? Not in my experience – so why would they even think about going that way if they don’t understand or know it? When they read headlines like last weeks – “Computers May Not Boost Student Achievement” – Why would they find themselves pondering changing paths?

The early adopters of project-based. Educational technology driven learning are like those that Bonhoefer saw disappear early on in the Nazis rise to power when they questioned things. They saw the power of changing paths but were swept out of the way as an impediment to progress. Wasn’t NCLB promoted that way? I know, invoking Nazism as an example almost always goes too far – no one is disappearing in the same sense as what happened under the Nazis – but that sense of being swept aside professionally is a very scary line to cross.

Learning is messy!


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