Saturday, August 13, 2011

Back to the Drawing Board

I love the short animated films by RSAnimate with the cartoon drawings, words, and narration. They make things so clear! And, of course, appeal to all kinds of learners--verbal, visual, aural--and various attention spans.

Here is a good one on education (via Youtube) that describes the current context/situation and handles the tough realities with humor. While I know we must educate ourselves for the workforce and our economic times, I'm also troubled that education is primarily seen and only changed to suit political/economic needs of those in power.

I always go back to Sputnik for an example, because 1) it works and 2) it corresponds to my own life span. Science and technology had to surge in 1957 so the USA could compete with Russia in the space program and the military-industrial complex, as it is called.

We need another such surge now to stay competitive in the changing world and because of our own complacent habits, but two political/economic realities seem in irreconcilable conflict here: 1) Improve education from the young ages on up so we can have a strong country and 2) Keep Americans stupid consumers so the rich can keep their hold on most of the wealth.

Sounds cynical, but of course the "bread and circuses" aspect of the USA today has been a topic of discussion for some time.

I favor a liberal education strong on the humanities to balance an equally strong commitment to science and technology in our schools today, at all levels. We have to keep the whole human being in mind and know what's at stake.

I've talked to too many students who went to college to get a good job. How did they define "a good job"?  Good salary, good benefits, lots of vacation time. "And what would you be doing?"

No answer.

If it's all about the lifestyle--the job = the money to enjoy leisure activities + nice house--then what are we doing to contribute back to the community*? And to keep ourselves feeling productive and happy with what we do?

*feel-good charities

Believe me, I have not solved this for myself, and I'm no expert on this, but I can see the dilemma.


DJ Vorreyer said...

One of the reasons I work so hard to instill a love of words and literature in middle school kids is that mindset exactly - that learning isn't necessary, that they just want to jump through the right hoops to get the "stuff" they equate with a good life. It's a hard road.

Kathleen said...

Thank you for doing what you do, Donna, for sticking with it and working so hard.

We've commodified everything, including art and education...and, sometimes, ourselves, even using the word "branding." But we aren't "goods" to be bought and sold....

I insist that we are not.

Sandy Longhorn said...

Thanks for this post, Kathleen. It's a bit of an overwhelming issue as I enter the classroom each semester. Many of my students are trying to move up a socio-economic rung on the ladder, just one step up from devastating poverty. I try to show them that they can choose a "job" that feeds the soul as well as the stomach, but it's a hard sell, sometimes.

Kathleen said...

Thank you so much for what you do to educate and guide your students.

When I taught at a two-year institution, many of my students were so hard-working and so grateful for my standards and fair grading system. They knew I was preparing them for the next two years somewhere else and/or for the kind of diligence, hard work, and discipline they'd need if they took a good job after an associate's degree.

Others were there to "buy the degree" with their parents', the state's, or the federal government's money.... Sigh. The latter was even true at a very good 4-year institution, and at its most intense, alas, with the business students! They were putting in time, phoning it in, their futures secure. Or so they thought at the time.

Sandy Longhorn said...

Oh, yes, the ones who think they are "buying a product" just give me fits. I've heard this is even the case at my dear alma mater, a tiny, liberal arts school.


Emily said...

Have you heard of the Khan Academy? It seems like it's the same concept as RSAnimate.

Karen said...

Will show the RSAnimate videos to Chris. He uses Khan Academy a lot!

Kathleen said...

Glad to hear all this!