I love this post. You are so on target with what you write. And, taking it further, as knowledge, information, and resources continue to expand, technology gives us 24/7 access to an amazing wealth of information. Thus, we need to rethink what we really need students to "know" versus making them digitally competent to find credible information when they need it, yet assure they still have the "basics." As we "rethink" textbooks, we need to also rethink other aspects of education.
The most important piece, I believe, is developing their lifelong love of learning. If they have that and the skills needed to find the information they need when they need it, then their learning will continue in both "deep knowing" and "knowing about" long after they leave our schools.
I have been thinking a lot about the "general" education that we are compelled to provide through state board requirements and statutes that legislators feel compelled to propose and pass. More and more, we are like a restaurant that serves the same meal to every patron with very few options. Who wants to eat there? We have to delicately balance the engaging of our student’s natural curiosity with the things they supposedly need to "know about" or know how to do. I think we have to start over and think about what it is that we want students to know about. Information keeps expanding at incomprehensible speed (to me anyway). Why do we continue to require the same knowledge base we did 10, 20, 50, or 100 years ago? If the end of free public education ends with a degree, whey does every student in the same school have to take what is relatively the same path to that end? I know schools such as SLA have broken away from the traditional model, yet is there still a feeling that you have too much “content” the kids need to know something about? Who should we engage in the conversation about what it is today’s student needs to know about? I really think we have to move away from content area specialization. When you go to content area “specialists”, the best they will come up with is a compromise that includes a little bit of what every one of them brought to the discussion with little consideration about its relevance to students who will have to “know” the identified “stuff”. Who is talking to the kids about what they need to know? How about those young adults that have matriculated in the past five to ten years? They might have a pretty good idea about what would be relevant as far as skills and knowledge they feel today’s students need to “know about”. Of utmost importance is finding a way to maximize the time students have to learn about things they care about deeply. Thanks for the opportunity to ramble on about a problem that I came nowhere close to solving. So much more to think about…..
I SO enjoy your public cogitation - you verbalize and give focus to the big questions that lie just under the surface for most of us as educators.
This one hit the mark for me today, as I just returned from a lunch meeting with some folks about scaling up our blended learning model to reach more kids without losing that ability we have in our non-traditional setting to personalize learning and foster true "knowing."
Those time and place constraints that are on us - even in the best of scenarios - drive us to "cover" content, frequently to the exclusion of providing windows into and opportunities for deeper exploration.
Still seeking the magic bullet... or at least working within and around the system toward a better way to meet both needs
Maybe the "depth" is ultimately helping our students "learn how to learn" what they want to know and care about deeply--supporting them in developing the habits of mind to teach themselves in the future?
I agree w/you and see the same thing happen with student research-- do we ask them to "survey" what's available and get breadth or do we ask them to research something deeply--get the "depth" of an issue? Too often it is the former.
Bill-- so true. It is sad that so many educators know that what the system is asking them to do is wrong, but they do it anyway, because these imperfect circumstances are where they can reach students and teach. How to break out of that--how to impact the system--?
Time for an uprising?