Thursday, May 8, 2014

The goal of education is becoming

Marc Prensky is an education professional who finds complete dismay with the educational system. His commentary, The Goal of Education is Becoming, demonstrates his lack of respect for learning. He feels that school should be about "becoming a 'good' person and a more capable person than you were before." defines learning as the following:
1.  knowledge acquired by systematic study in any field of scholarly application.
the act or process of acquiring knowledge or skill.
Psychology the modification of behavior through practice, training, or experience.

It also defines becoming as:
1. that suits or gives a pleasing effect or attractive appearance, as to a person or thing: a becomingdress; a becoming hairdo.
suitable; appropriate; proper: a becoming sentiment.
any process of change.
Aristotelianism. any change involving realization of potentialities, as a movement from the lower level of potentiality to the higher level of actuality.

Apparently he sees knowledge and the process of learning as incompatible with any process of change especially those involving realization of potentialities. How he divides these two is intriguing. He criticizes education as being especially test and test prep drive- a fair analysis in some schools more than others. He fails to acknowledge that there is an essential component to assessment. While our methods may be far from perfect, we do need to determine how students are progressing and  how our teachers and schools are doing. Employers do this all the time. They set quality standards that their employees are expected to meet: for example, the cash box must balance the receipt count, there are so many pages that must be edited a day, a police officer must follow procedures precisely. Having standards and accountability is important.

Do educators want students to realize their potential? Yes! Personal growth is a critical component of education. There are not, however, any national standards surrounding this issue because it is both subjective and variable. Quantifying it would be a mistake. Most school mission statements include lines about reaching potential, being prepared for life after school, and nurturing children. The problem may be that the concept character development is different for different people. Social, ethnic and religious groups see character differently. The Jewish school I am currently working in would be offended if we pushed the middle school girls to aspire to high powered career lives rather than only motherhood. If I deprived fathers and male relatives from attending concerts in which their daughters performed in a public school, I would lose my job, but in the Jewish school to not do so would also lose me my job. Some schools are more overt in their push for developing character. These are usually small private schools who draw their populations from homogeneous cultural bases. In our society, it would be wrong to impose these beliefs on everyone. Mr. Prensky can argue for "becoming" something greater and I would respond that when you truly learn to critically think about things that you know and learn- a goal of the CCSS, you become something greater than you were before. We may need to reform our methods of instruction to further critical thinking, self-regulation and personal development, but we also need a population with a baseline level of cultural and intellectual knowledge. We truly cannot have one without the other.

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