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What IS Education?

Posted By: Linda Scheer on December 10, 2004
 
Since Plato and Aristotle (and, most likely, before) man, and later woman, has debated how best to "educate" both young and adult learners. Having been in the "business" of educating both preschoolers and adults for decades I was fascinated by your use of metaphor to examine this ancient question. I spent a mere two years in the public education industry and could not reconcile its approach with my educational philosophy. When I happened to enter the early childhood education world, I found an approach that was much more to my liking- child focused! It remains so, although the tremendous influence of the public industry causes those of us who doubt our convictions, or those who have been "trained" by adherents to the industrial model to emulate the teacher focused, production model.

As you so clearly demonstrate, the education as cure (or as we call it- the medical model) dominates in some arenas, especially within special education for children whose development differs from "typical" children.

I have another analogy to present, that I have used to describe myself, as I do not like to be called a "teacher" as the word currently is used. I prefer to be a "facilitator". The school can be the laboratory where exploration and discovery occurs, the child is the active learner and the curriculum is experience. While many young children have the opportunity to begin their school experiences within such a model, when they transition to the public system they begin to be "taught" using the standard curriculum for all children and begin the assembly line progress toward either mediocrity or intense competition to excel in those skills that will make them a marketable commodity in the job market. Creativity, divergent thinking, decision-making and problem solving are left behind in the preschool classroom. Yet, as you and many others acknowledge, we have no idea what problems and challenges the children we are "educating" will have to face in the future. We cannot teach them the answers. We have to foster their ability to encounter and manage the unknown. Our current system, more often than not, only creates automatons that are trained to respond as they have been programmed.

We are fortunate that, to date, there have always been a few, considered rebels, nonconformists, "oppositionally defiant" individuals, who march to the tune of their own drummer and form their paradigm not from what others tell them, but from their own view and experience. While many are uncomfortable with these individuals, they have created our great art, our successful responses to crisis and our greatest technological wonders, among a myriad of other innovations that have become a familiar part of our world.
They survive not because of the system, but in spite of it. How much greater could the world of man be if we actually nurtured the skills that these individuals have claimed as their own?

Remember and spread the word. Teacher as facilitator!

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 What IS Education? by Linda Scheer on December 10, 2004
     
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