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The Future of Education is Evolution

 If art is a measurement of truth, our interpretation is our truth. 


Truth 


Often, when discussing ‘school’ with someone, they side sympathetically with the teachers. “Aw, well, their hands are tied?” they say. “Right?” they add. 

Generally (not everywhere), educators are taught what to teach. Many schools (in the US) have curriculums they have bought, books that have been purchased, and supplemental works to aid in the teaching of the greater WHAT which is (reportedly) the State Standards. Then every Fall these ‘standards’ are ‘tested,’ but, let’s not get into that right now. Let me just say, that word ‘tested’ does not mean what (most) people think it means. 

Generally, not everywhere, educators are not taught how to implement these purchases unless it’s with a dry, stiff upper lip, a figurative ruler in their left hand and a red pen in their right. Most of the time one needs only to open the book and then repeat, “Look at the top of page 4, 5 or 6 and follow the instructions….,” every day, all day and until 180 days have passed. 


This is where the issue lies. Most curriculum does not require a person to have gone through teacher school. Any curriculum worth its sticker price is written in a way that anyone could use it to ‘teach.’ Curriculum is written, stamped and sold so that anyone could walk through the steps A, B, C and D, and the kids will ‘learn….’


Supposedly. 


Theoretically. 


That’s what the data says….


So sorry for all the italics and quotations and sarcasm, but honestly, teaching is soooooo hard to explain, because more often than not, it really, really, really isn’t what people think it is. 


The Dying Art 


To teach means, to impart skill or knowledge. Many want to replace the word teach with facilitate which means, someone who helps bring about an outcome. The greater issue is, no matter what term we use, we must allow (not force) the opportunity (not requirement) for someone else to discover (not be told) what we know, or we’re doing it wrong anyway. The word that describes this act is heuristic, but again, it’s just a word (a complicated one at that), but what is teaching, really? 


Here’s the real kicker, teaching is absolutely anything and everything you think, do and say at any time, always, every day of the year. 


Right? 


That’s heavy, isn’t it? 


Now, SOME of those thoughts, actions and words go unheard, unnoticed and unrecognized, but when we are thinking, doing and saying we must know that it all matters because we are all teachers, some more often than others, some more visible than others, some more intentional and some less, but we are all teachers( and, interestingly, we’re also all students, but more on that later in another post).


The key to purposely teaching in a classroom, to EVOLVING EDUCATION, the real, true key is to know, if you’re paid to stand in front of a bunch of people, you are teaching. Yep, all the time. Not only are you always teaching when you’re standing but when you’re walking down the hall, when you enter the teacher’s lounge, when you go to the parking lot and get in your car, when you go home, when you feed your dog, when you walk your dog…if you drink…if you smoke….if you lie or tell the truth…if you eat ice cream every night…all the time, you are who you are and THAT is the teacher. YOU are THE TEACHER. All of you. Whether you like it or not, whether you want to admit it or not. If you signed up to be the teacher of record, you are the teacher. 


So, why is it a dying art? 


Because there are fewer and fewer people signing up for the job who want to consciously  carry that heavy load all day long. 


To be a good teacher means you don’t always make friends at work because some of your colleagues don’t want to be the teachers I just described and some of them have given up and just use the curriculum that’s handed to them and they trudge on and shuffle their feet through the parking lot to and from work every day….I understand those teachers, but you’re reading this so you want to know, what can we do about it.



The Evolution of Education 


ev·o·lu·tion

/evə lo oSH(ə)n/


noun

  • 1. the process by which different kinds of living organisms are thought to have developed and diversified from earlier forms during the history of the earth.

  • 2. [MATHEMATICS] the extraction of a root from a given quantity.


In the mid-1900s a major health problem with a high maternal mortality purged its way through European hospitals. There was no identifying cause, and the only ‘cure’ (which never cured anything) was bloodletting. 


In 1847 Dr. Ignac Semmelweis noted a pattern that doctors who worked on cadavers and who then delivered babies, seemed to be at the center of this maternal death sentence. He announced his hypothesis in the role of ‘unholy’ hands of ‘holy’ physicians in the transmission of puerperal fever and he decreed that handwashing must occur before doctors delivered babies. 


His senior associates deemed this observation implausible. They doubted the existence of what was referred to as ‘death particles’ and they denounced Semmelweis despite the fact that when physicians washed their hands before entering the labor room, maternal deaths decreased. 


Ultimately the resistance to his findings grew debilitating for Semmelweis. He moved to Budapest and died in 1865 in a mental ward. 20 years later Louis Pastuer proved Semmelweis correct and he’s since been hailed as the ‘father of hand hygiene,’ but at what cost? 


There are hundreds of stories like this one. Bloodletting had no evidence to support its usefulness yet it persisted for 2000 years, lobotomies by ice pick lasted for decades, x-rays on pregnant mothers that directly related to baby’s deformities continued for decades, Thalidomide was prescribed to pregnant mothers despite the clear relationship between the drug and those babies’ deformities long after the link was identified…


For many years I thought the ‘system’ was the problem, the reason my beloved profession was not changing with the times, updating its data, addressing 21st century issues with 21st century solutions, actually solving anything, actually evolving.


As I got older I thought it was money and the educational industrial complex was the issue, holding us in its curriculum boxes with its one-size-fits-none ideals.  

Then for a long time I thought there had to be some sort of grand upheaval to get education to change and therefore, for many years, I prayed for a revolution, a big ol’ fire and brimstone kind of revolution where the authoritarian, top down, educare system was brought to its knees as the ghosts of Fredrick Douglass, John Dewey, Rudolf Steiner, Sylvia Ashton Warner and Maria Montessori walked right over them toward the children into child-centered schools for everyone…a future population of autodidactics…sigh…if only…


Recently, as if perhaps I went through my own evolution, it occurred to me that the most transformative, most powerful, and consequently most permanent solution in order to help give education its much needed facelift was an evolution. 


The question is, what is an evolution in education? 


The answer is simple: Accepting the truth about children, learning and teaching and then changing accordingly, not eventually, but immediately. 



Reviving the Art/Moving Forward 2024


When we accept what is true in education, only then can we move forward. 


First, let’s address the truth of the four CORE subjects in school. 


  1. Language Arts - Learning that words have power and the power can be used against you or for you and you can wield it as well. Studying language and its uses improves your mental strength and cognitive dexterity. 

  2. Math - The goal of math is to solve problems (not solve math problems) because many of our problems can be solved with math. The math in the classroom is the language we use so we can discuss the solutions to BIG universal problems quickly and without interpreters. 

  3. Science - The Scientific Method is the fastest way to find the truth of the matter, but only if you’re willing to be wrong. 

  4. Social Studies - History does repeat itself but that’s because first person account’s are unreliable and the whole story is never told by the oppressor so we always need to consider what we are told while also considering what we are not told so that we are not participants in history repeating itself. 


One could enter any classroom in the US in those four subject areas and the difference between the teacher-artist and the other teachers would be that they know this and underlying every single thing they do in class, every lesson they teach, they reinforce these truths. Without these truths or at least the pursuit of these truths then one is merely teaching a subject. 


Herein lies the issue. In order to revive the art of teaching, one must pursue the truth in their subject area while also following the demands of the school and school district, and without engaging in archaic/barbaric practices. 


More truths about school…


  • The measurement of a PE teacher is whether their students continue physical endeavors. 

  • The measurement of a band teacher is whether their students continue musical endeavors. 


The measurement of the art teacher? Their students create their own art, attend art openings, they notice design, they seek art in their community, they walk slowly past murals and beauty in architecture….You get the picture. 


Schools have children in their hands 8 hours a day, and those 8 hours have been stagnant far too long. 


We as a society must demand more from our education system, we must want to understand what is happening in school all day long and I’m not talking about, “Johnny is picking on my Betty Sue,” (although THAT is IMPORTANT). 


I’m talking about lifting the ceiling off of school so we can see the inner workings, we can ask, “Where is the data that proves Johnny should be held back a grade?” and, “Why are spelling tests still a ‘thing?’” 


First and foremost, we must address school related trauma, literacy related trauma, mathematics related trauma, all the subjects and all the ways children can be traumatized into not pursuing those endeavors ever again. 


Conversely, we need to address what does work, what makes kids happy, what makes learners, what good teachers do, how we can change culture, climate, etc., etc., etc…

In order to address the good, the bad and the inertia of status quo, schools and teachers must be honest about practices, behavior, environments, data, about everything from the ring of the first bell to the last. 


As lofty as that may sound, it is possible to follow all the rules and teach and also why the answer to the previous question is, “No, the teachers hands are not tied anymore than a nurse or a police officer or a doctor or a lawyer, the bus driver, or the grocery clerk’s, etc., 

on and on…”


No one’s hands are tied unless they let them be tied.


And, in the words of Ms. Angelou, “When we know better, we must do better.


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