User Generated Education

Education as it should be – passion-based.

Learning at school? What’s wrong with this picture?

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What does learning look like in school environments? What is wrong with the following pictures?

Mohamed, a self-assured kid with thick-framed glasses and a serious expression, had just started at MacArthur High School a few weeks ago. The Irving, Tex., ninth-grader has a talent for tinkering — he constructs his own radios and once built a Bluetooth speaker as a gift for his friend — and he wanted to show his new teachers what he could do. So on Sunday night, he quickly put together a homemade digital clock (“just something small,” as he casually put it to the Dallas Morning News: a circuit board and power supply connected to a digital display) and proudly offered it to his engineering teacher the next day. “They took me to a room filled with five officers in which they interrogated me and searched through my stuff and took my tablet and my invention,” the teen said. “They were like, ‘So you tried to make a bomb?’ I told them no, I was trying to make a clock. “I really don’t think it’s fair because I brought something to school that wasn’t a threat to anyone,” Mohamed said. “I didn’t do anything wrong. I just showed my teachers something, and I end up being arrested later that day.” (‘They thought it was a bomb’: 9th-grader arrested after bringing a home-built clock to school.)

. . . and in 2013, Kiera Wilmot, a Black, Female student, was arrested for her science experiment:

16-year-old Kiera Wilmot became curious after a friend told her about a reaction that would happen if she mixed hydrochloric acid and aluminum. In a small water bottle, she mixed toilet bowl cleaner with aluminum foil–a bang, a blown bottle top, and a small puff of smoke came out of the reaction. Hundreds of videos of similar experiments appear on YouTube. Shortly after the incident, the school’s assistant principal questioned Wilmot’s science teacher who said he didn’t know anything about the experiment. Then the assistant principal called the police. Despite her intellectual thirst for scientific knowledge, Kiera didn’t receive a pat on the back for her curiosity nor did she receive a warning not to try this again on the school campus unless under the supervision of her science teacher. No people were physically harmed and no property was damaged during the incident. But Kiera was expelled from Bartow High School and slapped with two felony charges – possession/discharge of a weapon on school grounds and discharging a destructive device. (Kiera Wilmot, 16, Arrested at School after Failed Science Experiment)

. . . and Paris Gray, a Black, model student, was about to graduate:

Paris Gray, upstanding vice president of her about-to-graduate high-school class in Jonesboro, Georgia, when administrators figured out what her yearbook quote meant. It read: When the going gets tough, just remember to Barium, Carbon, Potassium, Thorium, Astatine, Arsenic, Sulfur, Uranium, Phosphorus translated to when the going gets tough, just remember to [Ba][C][K] [Th][At] [As][S] [U][P]. “Basically, it was me just saying start all over again,” she said. Administrators barred Gray from participating in a senior walk on Friday, Willis reported. She was also supposed to speak at the upcoming graduation ceremony, but Gray said an assistant principal told her that was off. “It just completely destroyed me,” Gray said, “and my mom’s been telling me don’t let it ruin my happiness, but it’s, like, really taking a big toll.” (The Chemistry Joke That Got a Student Suspended)

. . . and although less dramatic, harmful, and painful, there was this from the brilliant Jack Andraka, when at 15 he discovered a test for pancreatic cancer:

And, so, I’m really fascinated by carbon nanotubes. I was reading this really interesting paper in biology class, and all of the sudden, we were learning about these new things called antibodies.  So then I though, in my biology class, I was just sitting there behind my desk looking at this little paper, I thought, “What if I put this antibody in a network of carbon nanotubes?” just wildly, on a whim. And then it hit me. Amazing. I was very very happy. My biology teacher wasn’t as happy when she found me reading a paper instead of writing an essay on biology class. (Detecting Pancreatic Cancer… at 15)

I have said and will continue to say that the biggest ethical travesty of our times is “teaching” the spirit and passion out of a learner.



Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

September 16, 2015 at 11:11 pm

Posted in Education

Tagged with ,

One Response

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  1. Unbelievable! It seems that nowadays the “powers that be” are only worried about teaching the curriculum with fidelity and achieving high test scores. As a result, the students have become simply cogs in a wheel. They look at data but often forget that it represents a person with thoughts, feelings, and not only creative but also inspirational ideas. We are so worried about “the bottom line” that we are crippling the very people that should be our up and coming leaders, inventors, scientists, etc. A student who can come up with a test for pancreatic cancer should be applauded not punished. So, as educators what can we do? Our voice is almost as small as that of our students, but if we continue to encourage unique abilities and defend the right to explore new ideas, hopefully change will come. This makes me wonder how can I encourage this individuality in my third grade class room while still meeting the demands of my school and school district?

    Linda Brock

    September 29, 2015 at 11:18 pm

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