Sinking ships (Part 2 of “Canon”)

Our mini StuCamp offered students voice and choice last Friday. Authentic dialogue, engaged students, inquiry.

Will the dynamic duo save Common Core, Imagination, or Tech Tools? 

If we save only tools, we can ask learners to create anything, but we may sacrifice adherence to a shared set of standards. 

If we salvage only standards, we risk a product of our education system who can think and do, but who may be limited in ability to use tools and imagination;

If we rely on creativity we may open a door to wonderful innovations and new solutions to problems that arise; but we could lose the security of knowing that all children are absorbing similar content and using like strategies. 

Erasmus: I know where we have looking at this problem from the wrong angle. Instead of saving the methods of education, we must all make way toward the School of Athens and save the pupils themselves. They are equipped with imaginations of their own, and we and they together possess creativity and resourcefulness enough to invent tools for learning. Rather than import standards the way Don Corleone imported olive oil — an enterprise shrouded in mystery and suspicion — the local institution and stakeholders might continually write, examine, and re-evaluate their own. 

Captain: But what about the cost? The loss of the shipment? 

E: Perhaps from this new perspective we can see the fortuitous scattering of your cargo as gain. Its loss invites new collaborations, demands individual and group deliberation, and guarantees reforms as well as resistance. A truly democratic education will build both confidence and resistance. 

A: Yet won’t we risk watering down the stringent guidelines of thought and rigorous canon established once and for all? There are some things simply worth knowing, and others not worth spending time over. 

E: You sound concerned that the tools of thinking, and of imagination may somehow fall out of practice and be lost with the jetsam. This is an argument from the authority of tradition. I say, let the gods protect and preserve those divine traditions they want kept alive; it is for teacher and learner to weigh the traditions of humankind as part of their instruction. We cannot shed our innate capacity for learning, nor the acquisition of knowledge to appease our passion for discovery. If there truly are laws of logic which govern good thinking, the downing of one ship will not stop future generations from practicing deliberative and contemplative thought, nor from deducing rules of logic. 

C: Are the schoolmasters at Athens the preservers of all wisdom? The city itself bears some responsibility for inspiring its youths to attain wisdom. By maintaining a library, it too will be engaged in protecting and preserving the ancient texts it values while considering new acquisitions from every field: from philosophy to the popular novel.

A: You expect a bit much from citizenry, pedants, and children. With all of this thoughtfulness going on, how will there be any time for studying, commerce, and politics? 

E: I am afraid Time is the one commodity your ship, good Captain, was not licensed to import. We can merely point out, Anthony, upon our arrival, that time and persons are the only resources which cannot be replenished. Once gone, they will not return. 

C: Then we are agreed. I sail with you to Athens, with my crew, but we must let my ship and its educational cargo come to rest beneath the waves. 

A: Then our deliberations have been for nought? Nothing is saved.

E: Correction, Boy Wonder. Inquiry survives. Our disequilibrium led to the investigation of a problem we had not considered before. Perhaps the inquiry at Athens will begin and end with imagining what was left at the bottom of the sea. But I am hopeful today that we import something more valuable than a filebox, a toolkit, a playpen. This whole time we have been wondering what a school ought to be, but we should be asking what learning seems to be. If each interpretive community took up such an inquiry, it may even begin to pursue such questions as whether children learn best in schools, who is qualified to instruct, whether effective instruction actually molds character, and so forth. An inquiry process doesn’t ask which type of fuel to feed a dying fire, but whether it is light or heat we demand of the flame. Open the Trade routes to inquiry! 


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