Re[2]: The school game

Michael Hamende (HamendeM@CTS.DB.ERAU.EDU)
Mon, 12 Aug 1996 15:34:28 EST

I have often wondered why I didn't do well in school and at jobs.
Then I ended up in a graduate course about pedagogy and the structure
of schools. The teacher required us to real Elliot Eisner, Apple,
Grioux, and Fiere (sp? I can never remember how to spell that guy's
name.). We talked about the fact that American public schools are
designed on a factory model. And that they are designed that way to
"produce" products for consumption by Industrial America. Or to
produce socialized workers for factories.

Schools are designed to produce a "worker/student" who has certain
basic skills (the 3 Rs), who knows how to show up on time, respond
appropriately to instructions, and is used to and comfortable with an
8 hour day. They also produce an appropriately "disciplined"

This is why schools are designed around periods, bells (like the
factory whistle) mark comings and goings. And the teacher (the BOSS)
is the major authority figure.

Most American public schools are about the business of socializing
people, not about learning. They are about sitting down, shutting up,
and not making waves or asking questions. None of which is conducive
to learning.

Now when schools and communities were smaller learning still went on
in this less than ideal environment for those who were interested in
learning. Or maybe it went on in spite of the environment. That's
how so many of you got educations back in the good old days. I don't
include myself there not because I'm any younger than any of you, but
because I didn't learn much in school.

As is my nature, I was always asking questions. I always wanted to
know "why?" Too, I was quick to point out the inconsistencies between
the teacher's rhetoric and her (actually most of them were men)
reality. Like most students who ask too many questions, you know
where I spent a lot of my school/"learning" time. I was in trouble
not for threatening the teacher with a weapon, but because I wanted to
learn and get answers to my questions.

This is also consistent with most of my adult work experience. Many
American companies are steeped in this industrial model. Show up on
time, do as you are told, don't ask too many questions, don't make
waves, if the boss makes a poor decision - do not point out the
problems, and you'll get paid. Many people make careers out of this
practice and they do well enough. But what about the creative, bright
person who wants more from life?

But unfortunately the world has changed. Also unfortunately schools
have not. As with the issue that started this thread (student and
coding quiz) we must find ways to encourage critical thinking (asking
questions) and creativity. One of the first steps is to redesign
schools. Like our concept of intellectual property, the very way
schools work must be changed.

As I have followed this thread about the student and the coding quiz,
about half the people who respond want to "hang" this student who
stepped outside the box with his thinking. As we are discussing now,
everyone realizes school is a "game." I think we are silly to be
shocked when bright college students point out this silliness to us.
They are not as simple and as dumb as we might be more comfortable
thinking. We know it. They know it. We all know its just a game.

Unfortunately I do not believe the future and the lives of these
students are a game. This system is broken and needs to be fixed.

A good student in a bad system will quickly become a poor student.
Maybe this is why we have so many poor students today? But a good
system will never harm a good student and may well do some good for
the poor students.

We need to rethink schools so that they are indeed about learning. I
think Beth's and others' ideas about polyvocalic dialogues are a step
in that direction, as is recognizing the value of a student's
creativity. Learning is about creativity, something there is far too
little of, if you ask me.

Mike Hamende
hamendem@cts.db.erau. edu