Thursday, March 5, 2015

CCSS: Creative, Competent, Social Students

I teach biology, but teach little about living.

You do not need to know anything about mitosis to know how to live.
You do not need to know anything about how to live to learn mitosis.

Too many of us strive to do whatever it is we must do without a thought to why we do anything the way we do it.

It's not learning that matters, it's living. Learning is an evolutionary tool shared by a lot of species better at this living thing than the current version of H. sapiens. Animals who choose to ignore the world around them do not last very long. Humans are no exception.

We have fetishized education as some sort of independent structure, institutionalizing what we think matters without thinking about what actually does matter. Why else care who graduated from where, or class ranks, or SAT scores?

Why do we let a few strangers dictate a "common core" defining what should be learned?

Here's my CCSS--we need to foster competent, creative, and social students. It's not my place (or anyone else's) to dictate a child's life path, but if we must have common standards, here are a few I think are worth sharing:

  • Students should know what's edible in their area, and how to prepare it. Around here it could be wild cherries, dandelions, squirrel, deer, clams, or hundreds of other fine food sources. Not saying they need to forage like Wildman Steve Brill, but using primary sources for food ought to be at least as important as using primary sources for some term paper no one will read besides a teacher.

  • Students should know the basics of their dwellings, and be able to use truly digital tools like hammers, screwdrivers, and saws to make and repair the things we need within our dwellings. Knowing how to approach a simple plumbing problem (or any mechanical problem) matters more than knowing how to "apply the Binomial Theorem."

  • Students should know what they need to stay alive, what goes into them (and where it came from) and what goes out of them (and where it goes). If they don't know this, they literally don't know shit. 
  • Arne and his pals would like your children to Serve Man....
    Our economy depends on sustaining learned helplessness; our current way of schooling does just that.

    Our children need to learn to read, to write, to develop reasonable number sense, and to solve problems. They need a reasonable sense of what's real (and what's not), and a reasonable chance to live a happy and productive life.

    They also need to live as the animals that they are.


    Susan Eckert said...

    I agree with your overall sentiment. But I still like teaching mitosis and meiosis b/c it can lead a student to marvel about what life really is. And how they came to be. And how cancer arises. Practical skills are necessary. But installing a sense of "holy shit!" (more formally known as awe) can lead to a reflective life worth living.

    Susan Eckert said...

    Crap, need to edit better when on an iPhone with autocorrect. Installing = instilling.

    doyle said...

    Dear Susan,

    I think (perhaps wrongly) that a child fascinated by life and cell biology might want to learn all about cell division--but I'm less inclined to believe that a child would find awe in life through the steps of cell division without already having a strong ove of biology.

    Susan Eckert said...

    Hasn't been my experience for the most part. Nobody is born with a strong love of biology--it comes after learning about it but there are of course kids w/ a more innate curiosity about the natural world. But I'm also more into prompting them to reflect on the dance of chromosomes--just a collection of atoms--than a boring focus on the steps.