starting with what we need.

froggies315's picture

In my education class, one of our weekly assignments is to listen to a recording of a group of high school students talking about teaching and learning.  The dialogue I just finished listening to seemed very related to the conversation we had in class today about Berry’s proposed college curriculum.  His writing communicated to me that he had no understanding of what many students need to get from school.  For example, in class I wrote: “for me, all signs point to a job with health benefits and a 401K.  This curriculum probably wouldn’t get me that.”  I so appreciated hearing what these high school students had to say about what they wanted/needed from school because it provided relief from Berry’s esoteric text.  Here are a few quotes which I found particularly shiny.  The prompt was: What do you want to see in your classrooms?

  • “I think they should focus more on careers, like you’re learning stuff to get a job once you leave school.  I feel like the way we’re doing things now, you should have kids think about what they want to do once they leave school and prepare them more for what they want to do not just a whole bunch of random stuff.”

  • “Everything that is going to be on that test.  All the topics.”


You could read mine and these students’ quotes as sort of sad, I guess.  Is school just supposed to prepare us for jobs?  For tests?  What about hope and change and transformation?  I haven’t completely figured out my answer to these questions, but what I do know is that it’s a lot easier to teach “everything that is going to be on that test” as opposed to “the dynamics of the earth as a self-emerging, self-sustaining, self-educating, self-governing, self-healing, and self-fulfilling community of all the living and nonliving beings of the planet” (frankly, I’m not even sure I understand what this means).  Further, I know that when I get what I need from school, I’m willing to try and make sense of big scary questions.  The questions about how to save the world. 

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Srucara's picture

but what about self-trust?

but what about self-trust? trusting our selves to make decisions and judgements and belief patterns etc. that will serve us well in our lives - is this something that can be taught? does this come from outside (other people, etc.) or from inside - from within. Where do we find self-trust?

froggies315's picture

Personally, I don't think

Personally, I don't think that things as massive as self-trust can be taught well in schools.  I don't have pretty words to explain why though.  A small part of the reason why which I do have words for: I know that the amount of energy and time and care that goes into watching and pushing young people to arrive at things like self-trust isn't something that teachers can realistically give to all their students.  Especially when they need to spend instruction time being explicit about how to land a job with a 401K.  My guess is that there are mountains of people who would disagree with me, maybe you're one of them?

I continuously work at trusting myself by doing things that are really, really hard and really, really scary.  I'd say that strength to do these things doesn't come from the outside or the inside, but rather from the inbetweenz.  For example, this summer when I was terrified to go out into the woods, my friend told me that he trusted me to do a good job.  I trusted his belief in me, so I did the thing that was scary and I went out into the woods.  Through this whole process, I learned a little bit more about how to trust myself.

Srucara's picture

I guess in our current

I guess in our current educating system, it is important to learn everything that is going to be on the test so that you could succeed on that test and eventually land your job with a 401K - but I'm wondering if this is enough to truly satisfy you? Or anyone else?  Personally, I'm not a fan of the world's current education system for my own reasons but I understand why and how its been put in place. I also think the time has come to put aside preparation for academic exams (as a society) and instead prepare instead for the exam of life - the one of healing and sustaining. Human's are incredibly intelligent and gifted and like the quote says "You can't judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree because then it will spend its whole life thinking it's stupid" - everyone has something they are/have the potential to be amazing at and it would be wonderful if they could spend their precious time alive developing their true potential and presenting it to our world rather than being subject to a rigid society filled with expectations such as - landing a job with a 401k. And I know this is a pretty extreme/idealistic statement to make but it is my dream for the planet atleast.  

Anne Dalke's picture

"you can't judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree"

"...because then it will spend its whole life thinking it's stupid":

froggies315's picture

Landing a job with a 401K

Landing a job with a 401K won’t be enough to satisfy me.  We all need much, much more than the material security that these things provide.  I’d bet a lot of money that these high school students understand this too.  They’re smart cookies.  I found these quotes so compelling for two reasons:

1. I liked the first quote because it showed the earnest drive that this student has to thrive in the world/society where she lives.  The murmurs affirming what she said illustrated that all of these students’ have keen awareness that their ability to thrive is first dependent on having material things.  Things like food, and prescription medications, and somewhere safe to live.  They want school to give them access to knowledge that they will need to provide for themselves and the people who they love.  All this so that they can spend more of their “precious time alive developing their potential.”  This makes sense to me.  Actually, I think it’s beautiful.

2. I liked the second quote because it showed me how much the students trust their teachers.  They trust their teachers to assess them on things that matter.  They trust that what their teachers, and the government, and the College Board think is important is actually important.  They expect and want to learn what is important.  I have a lot of beef with the tests that these students have to take--I know they do a lot to reinforce things that are not good--but I think that students’ trust in their teachers and in society is beautiful, too.  Teachers should cultivate this trust, treat it with a whole lot of care, and when the time comes to teach skepticism, they should do it as gently as possible.        

We need to teach skepticism gently because it has the potential to break our trust with community, and trust is the root of sustainability.  In my experience, having teachers, society, and sometimes even my parents define what success is has felt good.  At their best, these definitions can help us to place our personal understanding of success into a broader context.  They do not need to stymie us even as they make us realize our terrifying impact in the world. 

We cannot all have our own singular definition of success because we don’t live in vacuums.  This is fact.  All of our readings have said it.  You couldn’t find one person in the whole world who believes the contrary.  We can ignore our community, but that doesn’t change the fact that we live in a community.  If we want to be sustainable, we need to lend ourselves to a communal definition of success.  Trusting the people and the plants and the rocks and the animals and the water around us is the first and scariest step toward sustainability.  It's also the most important measure of our sucess in the "exam of life." 

Srucara's picture

This is a brilliant

This is a brilliant statement. I wholeheartedly agree.

"We need to teach skepticism gently because it has the potential to break our trust with community, and trust is the root of sustainability."

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