Saturday, April 28, 2012

The good life

We have never worked harder and have never enjoyed work more, because, with rare exceptions, the work was significant, self-directed, constructive and therefore interesting. 
Helen and Scott Nearing  
Grown by a student in B362.
Our children are not working for themselves. They are working for the global economy, for corporations, for efficiency, for tests scores.

This is not an idle thought. Our Secretary of Education has stated that the purpose of art in school is to promote the global economy.

Money is indeed a powerful thing. In our culture money gets you food without dirt, water without lifting, a roof without hammering.Science and art are pushed by Mr. Duncan because they contribute to the global economy.

If I'm a kid, this is what I am hearing: the only kind of work that matters is the kind that makes money, usually more for someone else than yourself. We're asking them to do things in school so that they can "compete" in a "global economy"--what does that even mean?

You know what my students are most proud of in school? The kind of pride that has a kid come to me before class and say "Look at this!"?
  • A shirt designed, cut, and sewn by her own hands.
  • A cookie mixed and cooked by his.
  • A silly riff on a ukele composed while meandering between classes.
  • A simple paper certificate for winning a drama competition.
  • A carrot grown in class.
 Significant. Self-directed. Constructive.

My students are younger than the idea of a global economy. They're still genetically human, and they behave, for the moment, as humans have for thousands of years.

Learning about levers back in '75

How much longer will we keep trying to tear the human out of them?

On a good day I feel like a teacher.
On a bad day, a colonialist.


Jenny said...

Reading your words always pushes my thinking, sometimes validates me, sometimes depresses me, sometimes gives me hope. But your little asides at the end will remain my favorite for they either make me smile or give me the punch I need.

doyle said...

Dear Jenny,

Someone (perhaps you) mentioned that before--and since then I've made it a point to include them.

Thanks for the kind words--I hope I do not depress you often. People are, at heart, good and capable of change.

If I did not believe that, I would not write.

Kathryn J said...

Wow - hadn't thought of that connection re: "younger than the global economy" and my students.

I like teaching because it is significant, self-directed, constructive, and therefore interesting. Lots to think about in this post including the fun of using levers on a snowy day.


This Brazen Teacher said...

Per Jenny's comment:

I believe that no one can hide who they are when making art... it shines through in spite of best attempts to the contrary. For this reason you could never "be depressing" when you write (in case you were worried).

Your hopefulness shines through even the most cynical of posts, and that's why I keep reading.

Unknown said...

Significant. Self-directed. Constructive.

I find that so much easier to do with my own kids than with my students. I get bolder each year. I have a hunch that's an opposite trajectory from many of my colleagues.