Archive | July, 2011

Violence and the Myth

24 Jul

The greatest thing about books is that no one can ever know exactly what is being taught.

I suppose this is why books have been so controversial throughout the years, back from the days of William Tyndale and his sacrilegious translation of the Bible to J.D. Salinger and his profane use of the everyday word “fuck.” We severely underestimate the children of our society.

Tyndale, 16th Century Badass

We live in a society of violence, at least according to the popular media. It is seldom that positive news makes ratings. We’d rather hear about the mother who killed her children, or the couple who used the “kidnapping” of their child to become famous. We want blood – we want to hear about the worst humanity has to offer.

This has not changed.

In 8 AD (pardon me, CE), a man named Ovid wrote a book of myths called The Metamorphoses. He sold fanatically – the public loved him (that is, until the government exiled him for his controversial writing, which is exactly my point). This book is full of the most wonderfully horrific stuff – rape, fratricide, child killing – all spelled out in terrible explicit verse. It’s poetry.

Yet let’s not write a modern trailer – the book also has stories of love, devotion, and the power of right over wrong.

A teacher could never get away with teaching this stuff, even though our kids flip on the tube and watch stories of violence every day. The same stories. On repeat.

Yet if in the very same day, a high school teacher opens this book and says, “Let’s think about why this happens,” he or she is condemned. THAT IS IF – and only if – the administration knows the true content of the book. If we look at the cover of The Metamorphoses

Metamorphoses, by Ovid. Translation by Humphries. Read it. Just do it.

is the average person worried? Oh, it’s a dame in a tree. Or rather, a tree that can also be a dame. Let’s put that next to some modern entertainment –

Because Duty Calls.

Are we worried about the book? Hell no. But if we actually open up the book and read it, the content is quite shocking.

The book portrays the very same issues as the media does today, because humanity, for all its progress and development, has not changed. We may be more technologically advanced, yet terrible crimes of humanity occur each day, which are vividly presented to us from the great folks at FOX, MSN, and CNN.

So. Why is a teacher not allowed to teach this content unless he or she neglects to mention the details?

Perhaps it is because we think our teachers stupid. Or we worry that our kids will start having “thoughts” that they shouldn’t have. If they read a story about a rape, they most certainly will go out and rape some one. Just like playing video games will cause a kid to shoot someone.

But. I don’t want to get into the media desensitizes violence debate because it’s too big for this little post.

My point is this: if we have intelligent, reflective adults leading kids in discussion about the problems in our society (one of the obvious being violence), isn’t it better for kids to have thought about these situations before they find themselves in the situation? If we raise questions regarding morality and violence and kids have a chance to think about them, aren’t kids more likely to make a better decision in a difficult real-life situation?  It’s not as if today’s kids are living in a box – they are surrounded by violence every day, whether by the television, internet, or every day life. Pretending kids do not encounter these situations does not help them resolve the problems of today or tomorrow. Violence is part of humanity. Let’s educate ourselves.

Teaching Kids to Value Learning in a Society that Loves Results

13 Jul

The Teacher's Battle.

You know what the problem with teaching is? Learning.

We are constantly engaged with a world that loves results. Students, even in college, place the emphasis on THE GRADE. The grade, in terms of learning, doesn’t matter. Learning is a result in itself – a grade merely reflects learning. However, you don’t hear the studious saying, “I’m going to cram all night because microbiology is fascinating!” or “Knowing how to motivate students is crucial to my career, so I can’t wait to read Chapter 12 of Educational Psychology!” And if you do happen to get heard uttering these sorts of sentences, you are exiled and left an outcast until you retract the prior statements and replace them with, “I fucking hate this class. There’s too much work.”

Yup.

You are more likely to hear, “I’m cramming all night because I need to pass this test,” or “I need to get an A or my GPA will drop,” or “Blah, blah, blah, I’ve never been a B student.” The emphasis in education has been switched from what it is that we are learning to the grade we are given. This is further reinforced by standardized testing, federal education requirements, and the admission requirements for some colleges. That resume had better be perfect.

Perfection does not exist, yet a strict focus on results makes us believe that it does. Students lose self-value by receiving a C. They do not consider what was or was not learned, they simply react to the result. A “C” is going to kill their GPA. A black mark on the record.

Grades don’t matter. What happens in the classroom does.

So how do we teach kids how to value learning in a society that loves results? Continue reading