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Metaphors, and Double Meanings

Posted By: pat mccoy on December 11, 2004

I am struck by the implications that a metaphor drawn from science fiction is brought into a dialogue on public schools. Educating students for jobs or college, while deepening their lives - are our core concerns. Therefore it's particularly ironic that The Matrix is cited as a way
to "re-imagine" education. This metaphor, it seems, may be extraordinarily double-edged.

Fundamentally, The Matrix is an entertainment movie. It
riffs off of the "special effects" and visual hijinx of
the electronic medium. It is fast-paced, and highly action bound. The plot line involves game-boy adventures, which portray a "good guy" vs. "bad guy" chase. This good/bad simple dichotomy is offset, however - by an overflow of
abstract theory. Indeed, it is brimming with philosophic ideas, and linguistic interpretive strategies. Overall,
The Matrix presents a veritable thicket of new theory(s)
and sophistry. At issue: how practical is it?

This metaphor offers us another EQUAL view of the movie...
and understanding a current dilemma in education. How is education moving into a competitive form of entertainment, within a commercial context of CD's, games, and music videos? Exactly how do students value their learning today?
Is information learned primarily in order to fulfill a high-stakes game of state tests and exit exams? Moreover, where are such issues as self-worth, and social commitments? Are these simply "ideas" to be had? Are they even had in school at all? Students do not often "say" these things, because most don't know how.

For teachers, it is important we responsibly shape a learning process which is guided by what students actually need in their ordinary, real lives - not only by what they are able to "say".

By Patricia McCoy
PhD student, NYU
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 Metaphors, and Double Meanings by pat mccoy on December 11, 2004
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