Homework Becomes Electric

As part of my class in curriculum theorizing, I have to devise a homework plan, something that will move me along in my own work as I engage the ideas and readings from class. I’m going to do it on my blog, under the category of Homework.

We are in the middle of a revolution in public schooling, and I see it as a revolution in the way we think about the function of school, a revolution in the way we think about curriculum. Right now, this is being fought in the statehouse in Madison WI.

What does a battle over collective bargaining rights have to do with curriculum? Phrase that in a slightly different way and you’ve got my homework in a nutshell.

As our class moves through an overview of the history of curriculum in the US, it’s impossible for me to ignore the correlation between politics and the pendulum swings we see in teaching and learning over time.

We’re in the thick of a conservative assault that’s been building for decades. Right now, it’s taking the shape of teacher-bashing, increasingly rigid approaches to teaching and learning, and a lot of miserable students and teachers.

What’s the line from the movie, Network?  “I’m as mad as hell and I’m not going to take this anymore!”  We are all so angry. But anger’s a fuel that burns out too quickly. We need a fuel that will burn long and slow. I think we’ve got to move out of emotion and into thinking.

Eleanor Roosevelt wrote, “Great minds discuss ideas. Average minds discuss events. Small minds discuss people.”The Ideas Are Turned to Each Other Like Electric Sparks

What if we started to deal in the realm of ideas? What if we shifted our own discourse to this bigger picture? Not in some big arena Out There, but in the department office, over coffee, in our planning?

Let me explain. Every strong teacher I know is trailed by a ghost pack of students and engaged in an ongoing inner dialog about how something they read or see would fit into what they’re doing in class. Ever single decision she or he makes about what the class will read or write or do comes out of a deep set of beliefs and values. In other words, we’re already living our ideas and beliefs, we’re just not always aware of them.

Wait. How does this relate to a class in curriculum theorizing? Well, if theorizing is thinking (Pinar, Reynolds, Slattery, & Taubman, 1995, pp. 56-57), what if we all became theorizers?

I think this would change us. Give us a new source of fuel for this long road we’re on, and a greater sense that we can live out what we think and believe.

This, of course, assumes other teachers will read this blog. But even if they don’t, I win. Here’s how:

First and foremost, there’s the money/mouth argument, as in I need to put the former where the latter abides. What is the role of blogging in learning? Do I want my students to blog only because they are assigned it? In the teaching of writing, we have a long tradition of writing with students. If blogging is ongoing learning, if this whole “lifelong learner” thing is going to be more than a slogan we toss around in vision statements, then I’d better be exploring and modeling this for my students. With them, through writing.

I am also pretty weak in being able to synthesize what I take from reading academic writing and express it in a coherent manner. And I call myself a teacher educator? Time to build those muscles.

There’s a final dimension of this. Outside of class, I live in a digital, connected world that teems with colleagues, ideas, possibilities. When I go to class, I leave that world at the door. Don’t get me wrong—I (mostly) like my classes. It’s just time to bring the worlds into closer contact.

The bottom line is, isn’t this just so interesting? What’s the experience going to be like— for me, my esteemed professor (who must be so tired of my flights into interesting), my classmates, should they care to peek or join in? For friends in the trenches who might read this?

I can’t wait to see what I learn.

Reference

Pinar, W., Reynolds, W. M., Slattery, P., & Taubman, P. M. (1995). Understanding curriculum : An introduction to the study of historical and contemporary curriculum discourses. New York: P. Lang.

Photo: “The Ideas Are Turned to Each Other Like Electric Sparks,” © 2009 Malinkrop, used under a  CC BY-NC 2.0 Creative Commons license

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