While scientists were busy developing phenomenal ideas that questioned pretty much everything (which is what scientists have always done, and often gets them in trouble), the Federal government confounded science with technology and took control on how certain monies were spent in education. (It threw in a loyalty oath for good measure.)
The division between science/technology and the other arts continues to dominate schooling. Lumping science and technology together reflects our pedagogical confusion and drives the science curriculum. I am required to "teach" kids who cannot connect an acorn to an oak tree how DNA technology works.
When I was in school, teachers cautioned me against anthropomorphizing. I would make an observation--"my dog smiles"--and get back a declaration--"that's anthropomorphizing, it's not really smiling." So I learned to change my language for the same observation.
"My dog pulls back its lips in a way that resembles human smiling." Only humans could feel, well, human.
I still say my dog smiled. Turns out I may have been right all along. Even mice recognize pain in other mice, and it influences their response to pain. It's even more pronounced if the mouse knows the other mouse experiencing the pain.
Don't call it empathy, call it "emotional contagion."
Two ways to take this--either humans are not as special as we thought, or maybe more things are special than just our branch of primates.
Meanwhile, I teach about DNA technology in class while the lunch ladies two stories below me lovingly slap slabs of mammal meat on bread made from the least nutritious part of wheat to serve to the same kids that don't know an acorn from an oak tree.
I recognize that knowing an acorn from an oak tree won't help my kids compete in the global market. I suspect it will help them lead happier lives.
What to do, what to do....
Two years ago I made a loaf of bread mixing a few wheat berries grown by the kids on a windowsill with the wheat berries I keep at home.
The bread was delicious, and most of my lambs enjoyed it. A few, however, were put off by the idea that their breath had anything to do with the bread they were now asked to share.
Communion took on a whole new angle.
Communion is an old word, and comes from communio--mutual participation. Communion is about sharing.
The lunch ladies love their charges. Josephine calls me Pumpkin, and I may even be a little bit in love with her.
Josephine does not know where the meat comes from. I don't expect that she should. She serves it with love, I eat it.
I know better, but I do it anyway.
Mr. Arne Duncan, our United States Secretary of Education, believes that we must prepare our children for a global economy. He speaks in tongues.
Yesterday he said:
I grew up on the South Side of Chicago working and living with young children of color. These kids were threatened every day. They lacked role models to protect them and guide them to a safe place where learning was valued and rewarded."
I get nervous with the "these kids" crowd. I get nervous with people who wave contact with people of color as some sort of credential. I get nervous about a lot of things.He didn't mention where he went to high school.
I especially got nervous about this:
Finally, I am very excited about a $15 billion "Race to the Top" fund approved by the House. The Senate version is somewhat smaller but it is still significant.
The President is deeply committed to this program because it will enable us to spur reform on a national scale—driving school systems to adopt college and career-ready, internationally benchmarked standards.
It will incent them to put in place state of the art data collection systems, assessments and curricula to meet these higher standards.
I am going to go on record here stating I do not believe internationally benchmarked standards are a good idea. We need locally benched standards (such as distinguishing an acorn from an oak tree) before throwing the rest of the universe in. I will gladly throw in eucalyptus trees once my lambs have a handle on acorns.
And please dear God please tell me he did not say "incent."
We don't need a race to the top. We need collaboration and cooperation and (dare I say it?) love.
(It doesn't help that Mr. Duncan chose to make these comments at my neices' high school--thankfully they are both thoughtful, independent thinkers, neither of whom use the word "incent." Hi Karlyn, Hi Claire!)
Arne Duncan was a professional basketball player. A bright (but not as bright as he thinks he is) athlete who never taught.
I never taught in public schools, either, before 2005. I have almost three more years teaching than Mr. Duncan. I have not taught enough to be any kind of administer in education (and for the record, have absolutely no interest in ever becoming administer), but I have taught more than the current Secretary of Education.
So here's the quandary. I want to teach our children about acorns and oak trees. I want them to know about the Second and Third Rivers in Bloomfield. (We, inexplicably, do not have a First River.)
I want my lambs to know that the beef they eat in the cafeteria has been expediently raised in circumstances less than stellar, and that there is a real possibility they sense things recently attributed to humans only.
I want my students to connect their breath to bread, to life, and back to bread again (because their breath is connected to bread and to life).
I want my Secretary of Education to use real words.
And he wants me to start using international standards.
You cannot know what matters until you know what is happening under your nose. Give me a year with my kids and they will at least know that much.
Give me a year teaching international standards before my kids know an acorn from an oak tree, however, and they will know nothing. No matter how employable they may be (should there be any jobs left for them to find).
DDE is public domain.