Education Evolutions #100

The future of books flickr photo by Johan Larsson shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license

[animated gif] 100It is hard to believe that this is the 100th time that I have sent this newsletter out into the world. Considering that I usually take breaks when school is not in session, I am kind of amazed that I have reached this milestone, even if this issue is a day late with the holiday weekend. I am not sure that I ever really thought that I would get to the number 100 when I began this little experiment.

In truth, I have nearly stopped on a few occasions. I have pivoted a bit on occasion, like using the weekly endeavor to simultaneously reignite my blogging too. While there are a handful of people that get a sleeker email version, it seemed only natural to post it more publicly too on the chance that others might find it appealing. Plus, part of the experimenting has included playing with different ways of distribution but it is easy to subscribe via this site if you prefer an email.

For those reasons, I never actually have a terribly good sense of how many people actually read it. There have been times when that has bothered me but I have tried not to let that get to me too much. On a fundamental level, I enjoy the discipline of knowing that I will sit and write a bit every week about what I have been reading. I have simply hoped others might find it interesting or useful.

So many thanks to any and all those that do.

This week’s “If you read only one article…” is probably the second one. I suspect that there are plenty of people that might think that the message in this article is soft or over-the-top. To tell the truth, I might have been one of those people at some point in my life. Fortunately, life experience and perhaps a bit of gained wisdom prevents me from maintaining anything that resembles a position like that. As I acknowledge, I am far from perfect and quite prone to mistakes or even forgetfulness, but every day is another chance to get it right.

So, enjoy this selection of shorter reads. I kept it brief by design in the hopes everyone might go outside for a walk or something.

Here are three+ curated articles about education, technology, and evolutions in teaching.

Human Contact Is Now a Luxury Good – The New York Times – Nellie Bowles (9-minute read)

I am kind of amazed that this article slipped past me previously, as it is a couple of months old. Regardless, the central point of this article is kind of horrifying. The notion that machines will subsume human contact for any of us is the kind of dystopian vision that I want no part of, to be honest. I would much rather be on Team Human.

When first reading this, I was reminded of an old episode of Click on the BBC. At least the pet cat in that episode was a robot not just an animation on a screen. People may work really hard to convince others that it works, saves money, and all kinds of other nonsense. It all just seems a bit depraved to me. Interacting with some Artificial Intelligent cartoon as an antidote to desperation and loneliness doesn’t seem like living. It seems more like one step from the Matrix.

This is the kind of thing that concerns me about education too. The seemingly never-ending effort to find a teaching machine is not new but it never seems to go away. What’s more, plenty of edtech efforts are a far cry from turning on a television to entertain or occupy. Some have a slot-machine-like quality that is more far more commercially bombastic than educationally sound. I just feel like we can do a whole lot better than subcontracting the care of our elderly or young to some “technology solution.”

When Schools Cause Trauma – Teaching Tolerance Magazine – Carrie Gaffney (5-minute read)

The idea that schools can perpetuate or even perpetrate trauma for students is something that has been on my mind a lot since returning to the classroom. While I am far from being as fully informed about the topic or free from ignorant error, I have been routinely reminding myself to begin with a first-do-no-harm ethos. Some might quickly dismiss the points made in this piece but I think that only exacerbates any problems already in the realm of denial.

The article specifically dives into trama that may be present in curriculum and policies, which seems a good place to start. Even just becoming aware of the possibility that these major elements associated with schools could be contributing factors is a significant step forward. Unfortunately, there are no easy answers. Still, failing to acknowledge the potential effects, especially after learning of them, is not an option. There is not a lot of room for neutral.

Simply starting with oneself is a good beginning. Taking stock of potential triggers that might be included in any class material, like readings, is one more step than many might think to take. Institutionally, the changes are more complicated. Individually, I cannot support tracking or ranking and sorting students. Of course, no one is perfect and we will continue to make mistakes. Yet knowingly not considering that some obvious subject matter or practices might be a trigger for students is not just unethical but dehumanizing. We can all try to be more aware, sensitive. As the best line in this piece emphasizes, “As teachers, we do things for kids because they are human.”

The New Secession – The Atlantic – Adam Harris (10-minute read)

The history of charter schools is riddled with this kind of chicanery. Yet, some of the people of Baton Rouge clearly could not find the desired answers via that route. So they have decided to quit entirely and are trying to take all their marbles to a new game. To pretend that efforts like this are not tainted by racism and classism is not only dishonest but defies logic. When a group of white citizens attempts to draw up a new municipality, gerrymandered around all of those predominantly black areas, it is pretty difficult to make any other claim.

What is most distressing about stories like this is that they seem to only serve as viral-like templates for other similarly discriminatory practices that aim to do an end run around what is legal or right. The problem with so many of these virulent efforts is that they don’t seem to ever die. Even worse, it is not uncommon for defeat to turn into a mission to corrupt the rules of the game to eventually ensure legal victory. That might not be going on in this particular example, but this story chronicles a Reconstruction-era move.

I recently listened to a DC advocate and operator discuss the nature of politics in our capital. It was enlightening. One thing that has remained with me is the notion that it takes at least 10 years for significant policy change. That is a long time, requiring a lot of tenacity, endurance, and compromise. These people in Baton Rouge are arguing that it is all about their children but this is a fight that began in 2012. It is already closer to the 10-year mark than even five. Many of those advocate’s children who might have been at the start of their educations will be nearing the end or finished before anything significant will happen. So to suggest it is about them is a little disingenuous, to say the least. To think what all that effort channeled toward better public education for all in Baton Rouge or Louisianna for that matter might have looked like over the same amount of time is beyond sobering.

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