30 August, 2012

Writing Quote I Agree with

"The first thing I want to say to you, who are students, is that you cannot afford to think of being here to receive an education: you will do much better to think of being here to claim one. One of the dictionary definitions of the verb "to claim" is: to take as the rightful owner; to assert in the face of possible contradiction. "To receive" is to come into possession of: to act as receptacle or container for; to accept as authoritative or true. The difference is that between acting and being acted-upon…" –Adrienne Rich

I have to concur with Rich on this quote.  Regrettably, our public education system has created a sense of “being acted upon.”  If there is a doubt, simply ask the students who are "products" of public education: they complain of the reading they HAVE to do; they complain of the writing they HAVE to do; they complain of HAVING to be in school and “march to the beat of ‘someone else’s” drum instead of their own.   

Partly, I believe this is true simply due to teenage rebelliousness and angst: there are always thousands of things more engaging for me than reading, writing, and being in school.  However, I was talking with my high school senior just this week who had seen “Shift Happens” for the first time in her high school.  I have been showing this same YouTube video to the 8th graders who come to campus since around 2008. . . .Yet she acted as this was “new stuff” to her.  That is because she was engaged by the instructor who was “talking” her language: digital delivery. Her video experience in fall 2012--along with the experiences of her three, older sisters--confirm for me that public school is really geared for students to "receive" not to "claim."

Secondly, I have to confess the Sir Ken Robinson has also had an impact on my thinking.  His little video, "Changing Education Paradigms" certainly validated for me my own thinking about public schools: the schools in North Carolina are still in the early to mid 20th century factory mindset. Schools look like factories (unless they have been built in the last 15 years or so).  Schools move students around by the ringing of bells.  Schools batch students like "products" in terms of their ages, even tho' any self-respecting educator realizes students learn at their own pace and in their own way.

Lastly, I have to agree with Rich's assertion that students must "claim," e.g. "take as the rightful owner," their education.  The idea that adult students are "tabula rasa" has been refuted over and over again. Students come to post-secondary, and even secondary education, with a plethora of experiences and knowledge upon which they can stake the claim to THEIR education.  Certainly, with our digital natives, we have to acknowledge that students believe they no longer need us for information.

However, as I keep reminding my faculty, our students DO need us to place this information into a useful context and we offer a safe place for them to explore wide ranging information they may not pursue in their homes or their "home community."  Faculty still have a critical role in students' lives and their success! And I believe that is the heart of Rich's quote: students take claim and faculty facilitate that process for them.

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