Monday, February 1, 2010

Taking a More Organic Approach

This weekend my 16 year old daughter and I watched the classic Paul Newman movie The Hustler.  The story is a billiard based morality tale about character, determination, and greed.  It's a good movie with some great scenes between Newman and George C. Scott.  As we started watching the movie, I remarked at how young Paul Newman looked.  My daughter said, "Oh. He's the guy that makes the coffee and salsa and stuff." All I could say was, "Um.  Yeah.  That's right."

I wonder, as educators, if we really appreciate how different is the world our students inhabit.  It's far beyond Paul Newman being an organic food purveyor and not one of the great actors of a certain generation. The other day I overheard a college student saying that school was really unnecessary. The point she was making to her friend was that in a Googleable world, sitting in a class room to learn something was obsolete.  As I listened, I heard that whenever a professor assigns a book, she just Googles it, reads a few of the hits, and then says "Yeah, I read the book."

My point here is neither nostalgic nor critical (either the college kid should be a better student or the professor should design better assignments).  My point is that we do not involve our students as full partners in the teaching/learning environment at our peril.  So foreign is their world to ours that their voice needs to be heard at the design stage, not just in the delivery stage.  Active and meaningful engagement is not just about having students participate in the classroom.  That's a great first step.  It must also be about students' appropriate participation in all facets of a school's decision-making. Dare I say that such an approach would be more "organic."  More in touch with the living, breathing experience of our students.  Absent their voice we risk them hearing "coffee" when we say "actor."

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