Wednesday, September 11, 2013

When News is News

A consistent theme we hear from students in focus groups is that the things they learn in school are not at all connected to their everyday lives. In fact, the National My Voice Student Report (Grades 6-12) 2012 reports that just 45% of students agreed that "My classes help me understand what is happening in my everyday life."

Two years ago, for example, when the Middle East was first erupting in revolution, I conducted an informal survey of what high school students were learning in their social studies classes. The closest I came to revolution was the 1800's in the United States and France. The closest I came to Egypt was pyramids.

It was heartening to learn that in Maine, at least, college professors are proving more responsive to the current situation in Syria and the United States' role in what is unfolding. Indeed, to learn to read and analyze the signs of our times, rather than the words in a textbook about times past, is exactly the kind of education called for in a Google-able world. What is disheartening is that making learning relevant in this way - in political science classes, no less! - is considered newsworthy.

If this is news on college campuses, I can only guess what press it would generate if it was happening in middle and high schools. Imagine math classes that did statistics using the sports and financial pages. Suppose language arts deconstructed advertising pitches, political commentary, and celebrity magazines. What if science classes experimented the stuff that grows in teenagers' bedrooms when they don't put their clothes in the hamper! I wonder, would that make it into the newspapers?

Photo Credit: Hossam el-Hamalawy حسام الحملاوي via Compfight cc

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