Monday, October 18, 2010

Enforcing Indifference

Growing up going to private, Catholic schools, I have to admit that curiosity and creativity didn't just happen in school. From the moment I traced textured letter "G" as a little kid to the time I wrote a long research paper on "Evolution vs Creationism," following the rules was the way to get ahead. In fact, the only time I broke the rules came when my JROTC class earned detention.

Having dutifully followed the class rules, I refused to attend detention hall, requiring my father--retired paratrooper instructor from the Army, Korean veteran--visit and discuss my failure to obey the supply sergeant who taught the class, who shared ruefully how he sold sheets. What irony.

Today, though, I challenge my children's teachers to nurture creativity, inquisitiveness--the opposite of indifference--in them, and I hope they will find a road ahead, marching to a beat of their own. I do not seek for them a life conformity, of mediocrity, but one of uniqueness, sparkling with innovation of their own design, collaboratively concocted with a global team of learners. And, the contradiction in me, is that I want them to do well in college, to play survivor as their old dad did.

That's why I fear I would be one of the protesters Westfield High School in Fairfax County....

What did surprise some Westfield students and their parents was a sheet titled "Expectations of Integrity" included in the materials handed out by the three AP World History teachers. Their No. 1 rule discouraged random outbreaks of curiosity:
"You are only allowed to use your OWN knowledge, your OWN class notes, class handouts, your OWN class homework, or The Earth and Its Peoples textbook to complete assignments and assessments UNLESS specifically informed otherwise by your instructor....

"You may not discuss/mention/chat/hand signal/smoke signal/Facebook/IM/text/email to a complete stranger ANY answers/ideas/questions/thoughts/opinions/hints/instructions." The words were playful, but the teachers were serious. Any violations, they said, would mean a zero on the assignment and an honor code referral.

When you consider information problem-solving strategies (e.g. Big6), it's amazing that these instructions can be expected to endure. Consider Dean Shareski's keynote at K-12 Online Conference 2010, and the moral obligation we have to share ideas. It seems only appropriate to end this blog post with the prophetic words of Mark Pesce...
"Sharing is the threat. Not just a threat. It is the whole of the thing...This act of sharing voids "any pretensions to control, or limitation, or the exercise of power".
Acts of sharing that void any pretensions to control, to limit. When I remember how I learned that I was creative, I remember that it didn't happen as I sat practicing my handwriting at a wood desk, surrounded by a class of superfluous scribes. I remember my creativity as a bubbling spring, welling up inside me as I played with words, built forts outside, tried to capture iguanas on the Panama beaches of my youth, built rubber-band guns from a narrow, flat piece of wood, a nail, clothespin and collaborative ingenuity of the boys I grew up with.

Alas, Babylon.

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1 comment:

JulieBeth said...

Great article. I am glad my friend shared it. I love the ads a trade school has been airing, beginning with a professor apologizing to students for trying to make them learn in the way the schools teach rather than teaching the way students learn (often hands on, discussion, real life learning) and then saying their school doesn't do that.

I am so thankful our family has been able to homeschool our children all the way through high school graduation to nurture their curiosity, love of learning, common sense, reasoning, time to think and dream, trial and error, following their passions, and all the other things that lead to lifelong learners who are excited about life and run down the path to their calling.

I hope some of the educational establishment begins to hear this message so families who choose to put their children in institutional schools can still have a love of learning instilled in their children.

JulieBeth in CA

Genuine Leadership #4: Gratitude