User Generated Education

Education as it should be – passion-based.

One Billion Rising for Education

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On Valentines Day, 2013, I participated in One Billion Rising:

Along with thousands spread across the globe, dancing and singing, we were participating in the “One Billion Rising” movement, an international initiative led by Eve Ensler and her V-day organization. One in three women will be raped or beaten in her lifetime; one billion women will be violated. This was a day for communities to insist on change. (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/meredith-hutchison/vday-in-drc-one-billion-r_b_2692163.html)

It was one of those powerful life experiences that changed me just a little bit.  I am certain other women (and men who attended) felt the same.  I have a hunch that more women, due to their experiences with One Billion Rising, will feel more empower to use their voices to demand fair and just treatment for themselves and their sisters.

I have a dream that a similar movement can occur for education, the one billion will rise and insist on free and quality education for all.  This post seemed from a question I thought about this week, “How did such a well meaning system with the goal of educating children and youth get so out of control of its majority stakeholders of teachers, administrators, and students?”

I often tell my pre-service educators to never forget why they became teachers, which is often because they love children, their content areas, and the process of teaching.  But they do forget.  They become the mechanized information disseminators and text givers that the system grooms them to be.  I have seen same thing happen to the once passionate veteran teachers.  In these days of standards-driven and standardized curriculum and test-driven accountability, they go through the motions of being a teacher.  Too often the spark in their eyes is gone, the spark that was there when as growing up, they talked of their dream of becoming a teacher. They work from a place of fear of losing their jobs if they don’t follow the protocols forced upon them.  This is passed onto the students with too many students going through the motions of being a student.  I discuss these thoughts and ideas in my post The Most Honest Three Minutes

So when did education become more about the test scores than about the learners’ passions?  Teachers have become more focused on test preparation than on the preparation of creative, engaging learning activities.  Horace Mann, John Dewey, and Maria Montessori are identified as some of this country’s greatest educational philosophers.  Why are educators giving them more lip service than providing services and activities in the classroom based on their ideas and principles? Why has the classroom become a place of more frowns and moans than of smiles and laughing?  Why are kids running out of their classrooms at the end of the day rather than running into them at the beginning of each school day with excitement of a new day of learning?  Why are far too many teachers hurrying to turn off the classroom lights at the end of the school day rather than staying a little longer to figure out how to turn on the lights in children’s minds? When have classrooms become places of discouragement and disillusionment rather places of enlightenment?  When are teachers going to remember why they became teachers?  When are teachers going to revisit the idea that the legacy they leave will not be how many worksheets and tests they gave, but in how many sparks they helped ignite in their learners?

There are pockets of amazing people doing amazing things. There is Malala Yousafzai, the 15 year old Pakistani girl, who fights for education of girls in Afghanistan and was shot for doing so.  “Notwithstanding the constant danger she faced during her campaign, 15-year-old Malala never waiver in her belief that girls have the right to receive an education” (http://www.policymic.com/articles/20433/time-person-of-the-year-2012-malala-yousafzai-should-be-the-one).  Other young people have attempt to have their voices heard for educational reform.  See Student Voice in Educational Reform.

Teaching and students are striking. In Seattle, teachers and students are protesting the MAP tests.  See Students skipping, teachers protesting standardized MAP test.

But the problem with these little pockets of protest is that these people are seen by many as dissenters and radicals with possible consequences of becoming marginalized and in the case of Malaki, shot by gunfire.  Marie Bjerede discusses the factors that makes the education resistant to change in To Disrupt Education, First Shift the Balance of Power: Why the current education system resists change–and what we all can do to push forward.

The education ecosystem is rigid and in a state of deep equilibrium – it is nearly impossible to shift, and even successful efforts are ephemeral, with the system trending back toward the status quo in short order. Although there are many “spot solutions”, examples of education excellence in isolated instances, the system as a whole resists the spread of such innovations.

If the education ecosystem is in a meta-stable state that resists change, and if the institutions of education have near absolute power in defining and awarding accreditation, and if the processes and outcomes of this system are sub-optimal for most students as compared to our aspirations, then disruption, as with the Web 2.0 shift elsewhere, is much more a matter of removing constraints and allowing organic evolution than it is of top-down reform.

When will the collective of those passionate about educating children and youth stand up and say enough?  In this day and age of open education resources, the ability to share ideas, strategies, and content globally, and the ability to have a voice and organize movements through social media, there are infinite possibilities for every child (and adult) to receive a quality education.  This call to action is not just for free education but one of quality and substance, one not driven by corporate and political interests but one driven by educator and learner interests.

If one billion global citizens do as Marie Bjerede suggests.

Question the fundamental mechanisms of learning in light of what we now know about our brains and what we now can accomplish with technological support. Question the reasoning behind coercive education, age-based cohorts, and high-stakes testing. Question the role of education in a world evolving on Internet time. Second, demonstrate the will to build the infrastructure of personal agency and independent learning, the infrastructure of innovation. Re-imagine education as a platform that each learner can use to achieve his or her unique goals, and create the means for all children, regardless of zip code, to have meaningful access. (https://www.edsurge.com/n/2013-02-12-to-disrupt-education-first-shift-the-balance-of-power)

. . . then the system (or lack of any in countries where education is not a right) would need to listen.

Violence against woman is a more pressing, serious issue but I am borrowing from the One Billion Rising theme song Break the Chain as a call to action

Let’s break the rules.  Let’s stop the pain,  Let’s turn it upside down. It’s time to break the chains.

Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

February 16, 2013 at 6:14 pm

Posted in Education

Tagged with ,

3 Responses

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  1. I am proud to be a dissenter and a radical. But…I have to feed my family and to do that I have to follow my admins’ directives, which, are often to teach to the test. On the other hand, I squeeze some good stuff in there. We just used articles about Malala in our class. We learned about carpet factories and child labour in Pakistan. We learned about Colonialism here in Canada and why the indigenous people are rising up for #idlenomore. We Skyped with Matt Henderson to discuss the history of colonialism here. We are getting there. I worry a lot though about getting in trouble because in order to fit the above in, I neglect the more prescripted model they would prefer that I follow.

    Erin Little

    February 17, 2013 at 1:43 am

    • Exactly my point, Erin – the dissenters and radicals are often the best teachers, but take the most risks . . . but just think what would happen if the collective whole, one billion global citizens would stand up and say, “Enough! The world of education needs to change.”

      Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

      February 17, 2013 at 1:47 am

  2. am arrogant to be a dissenter and a radical. But…I have to feed my family and to do that I have to follow my admins’ directives, which, are often to teach to the test. On the other hand, I squeeze some good stuff in there. We just used articles about Malala in our class. We learned about carpet factories and child labour in Pakistan. We learned about Colonialism here in Canada and why the indigenous people are rising up for #idlenomore. We Skyped with Matt Henderson to discuss the history of colonialism here. We are getting there. I worry a lot though about getting in trouble because in order to fit the above in, I neglect the more prescripted model they would prefer that I follow.

    tutorial

    February 17, 2013 at 11:10 am


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