Sunday, January 8, 2012

Clamming: a 21st century skill

19th century version:
Yesterday I headed for one of my favorite places with one of my favorite people to do one of my favorite things--clamming. The moon is waxing and near full, so I knew low tide would fall in the early afternoon.
COST: months of intermittent observing, which I enjoy.

21st century version:
Yesterday I checked the computer for the tides, clicked through a few buttons, and saw that low tide would fall precisely at 1:29 PM. and that the moon was 93% full.
COSTS: computer, internet connection, electricity. 

Jersey fresh quahogs, a couple of hours out of the mud.

Which gives me more information? 
Probably the latter. It's clearly more precise, and it's also more efficient than watching the moon and tides in a particular area for a few seasons.

Which gives me more knowledge?
Depends on what you mean by knowledge, but becoming part of the local natural rhythms requires a deeper understanding than needed to read a computerized tide chart, and maybe even something called wisdom.

Which gives me more pleasure?
Following the rhythms of the moon, of the bay. We do not talk much of pleasure in education, and I'd bet most "educators" would would put pleasure far down on the list of reasons for schools to exist.

Of all the reasons to push for high technology in the classroom, arguing that it prepares students for the 21st workplace, that students need to be trained on computers, is, well, hogwash.

Our students do not lack for information--many carry phones more powerful than the computers that got astronauts to the moon back in 1969, and can easily look up today's tide should the need arise.

We've come to see schools as little institutes for job preparation. We used to call that vocational school.

Given the economy, kids around here might be better off learning how to read the moon the 19th century way.

A wise child might wonder why it's warm enough to clam comfortably  in January.


John T. Spencer said...

Totally off-topic, but . . .

I agree about information. But I'm also curious about getting to the moon. What are students not getting that enabled us to get astronauts to the moon? Desire? Creativity? Autonomy? Vision?

Or do they still have all of that, but we don't have a shared cultural desire like we did in getting to the moon?

doyle said...

Dear John,

I'd argue that getting astronauts to the moon isn't something worth getting. Last time we were there, no one found any quahogs.

Mary Ann Reilly said...

Pleasure and kindness ought to be living standards for education.

One time. A group of students and I decided to study the moon for one cycle. It was December and cold. Each night we made our way outside to observe and record our understandings.

Our journals were handmade.

I still have mine and one that a student gifted me.

I imagine today I would be likely "written up" as the only purposes for our work were the pleasure of learning through experience and to privilege the interests of a small group of students.

doyle said...

Dear Mary Ann,

And yet, that's the only way to gt most kids interested in the world, to see it, to know it even exists.

We've so separated ourselves from what matters we no longer ask what's the point of most of what we do--and we would not like the answer if we asked.