TIME magazine just published this story called Morning the Death of Handwriting. It made me realize that the more deeply I think about my job as a teacher, the more acutley aware I become that I really can’t say for sure that I am doing the right thing — or teaching the right things — in my classroom.
Sure, my state has standards — and our nation is currently developing national ones — but let’s be honest… they are a “best guess”.
No one really knows for sure what knowledge we need to impart to our kids in order to best prepare them for the demands of the future.
We can guess. We can speculate. We can use expert opinions to rationalize our reasons, but do we know? Do we really know?
We don’t. And I am not sure why we do not acknowledge this more openly. I think exposing our sense of “fallibility” would make us more compassionate towards one another as we discuss these matters and more willing to listen to people who have different opinions than the ones we ourselves currently have.
Because at the end of the day, these are all opinions — only opinions — that we are offering as to what will matter. Cause as I said, no one knows for sure.
For example, I teach Orwell. But I can’t say for sure that the impact of teaching Orwell creates a better future life for my students in a way that leaps over what I could have imparted should I have chosen to teach Jane Austen.
And while I make an effort to incorporate 21rst century digital literacy skills into my classroom, I can’t say that I’m not participating in the education of my kids in an area that’s a total waste because it will soon enough be obsolete due to somebody (probably a pimple-faced teen with a whole lotta Red Bull running through their veins) already figuring out a better means of accomplishing the same task in less time with more accuracy and insight.
I mean I teach MLA style. Is there not a point at which papers will simply be hyperlinked to their reference source so that I do not have to have my kids go through the process of typing last name, first name and so on?
Once, doctors believed in leeches and bleeding. Today we believe in slashing the arts in order to drill the “core”. Will history view us one day in the same manner?
No one knows. People may say they know, people may shout they know, people may drum up all sorts of intellectualized justifications for why they know.
But they don’t.
We’re all just doing the best we can and if we took a moment to take the bullhorns out of our mouths and tried to listen to other people’s points of view as heard through this perspective of understanding, “Hey, they really don’t know what they are talking about anyway” our educational dialogue in this country would be much more civil.
And less dogmatic. And less infuriating. Wouldn’t it? (I am only speculating — I don’t really know.)
But I do know that the folks who have PhD.’s — they don’t know. And that smart-mouthed kid in 3rd period. He just might know.
And which of those two thoughts is more disconcerting?
Education is a best guess business.