Education as Conversation

3:48 AM

I travel today, and to be honest, I’m kinda looking forward to it. The glamor of airports, tiny coach seats with the back of the seat in front of me too close to my face to even hold a paperback book, and those delicious pretzels. I so savor all seven of them. It still has has the aroma of glamor to this man who was 40 years old the first time he rode in an airplane.

So I’m up early this morning, planning to move some of my web Blogmeister and EPN over to the web server on my laptop, so that I can demonstrate them to my audience of librarians tomorrow in upstate New York, without having to depend totally on a working network. “Assumption is the mother of all screw-ups,” I always say.

book coverStill, I’m spending the first moments of my morning blogging, and today its a news story that was waiting in my aggregator, from The New York Times, A Town’s Struggle in the Culture War. At issue is a book, The Buffalo Tree by Adam Rapp, and its removal from the schools. I see this struggle over culture and values in schools as extremely counter productive. While our classrooms languish in the industrial age and much of the rest of the world catches up and passes us by, what brings passion to those who govern education is the brief reading of a passage from the book by a 16-year-old student. Read completely out of context, the delivery still provoked the school board to unanimously vote to ban the book from the High School curriculum less than an hour later. (Two board members were not present.)

Now what’s bad about this? Is it the exercise of political power over the curriculum experts — their teachers? Is it the vast waste of time and effort that the controversy is costing? Is it a right/left thing as the number of challenged books rises 20% after the re-election of George Bush (a connection made by the American Library Association).

What woke me up this morning was the beginning of a new Podcast program, swirling around in my head (that’s how ideas start for the A.D.D.). The concept is education as conversation. We traditionally think of education as being the delivery of skills and knowledge, depositing stuff into the heads of our students. What does education look like, if we start think of it as more of a conversation than a delivery?

How might the controversy above play out? Would controversial ideas be considered differently by the community if they thought of their classrooms as places where students consider, evaluate, adopt or reject, and build on knowledge; as opposed to a place where students are taught.

I’ve not read The Buffalo Tree, so I may be way off target here. But I still think there might be something to thinking about education as conversation. I think you might hear more about this from me, and I’ll expect to hear from you.

Author: David Warlick

David Warlick has been an educator for the past 40+ years. He continues to do some writing, but is mostly seeking his next intersect between play, passion and purpose, dabbling in photography, drone videography and music production.