Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Twitter Book Club: Neil Postman (1996) The End of Education - Chapter 1

Decided to read Neil Postman's (1996) The End of Education: Redefining the Value of School this week for Twitter Book Clubless than a minute ago via Twitterrific

"There is no one who can say that this or that is the best way to know things, to feel things, to see (cont) http://tl.gd/6ae9ucless than a minute ago via Twittelator

This is such a simple concept and I strongly believe it to be true. Why is it so hard to fit this idea within the context of our classrooms, our schools, our school systems?

"For school to make sense, the young, their parents, and their teachers must have a god to serve, or, even better, several gods." Postmanless than a minute ago via Twittelator

The End of Education is not about the end in the terminal sense, Postman uses the term in the sense of ends and means. He also uses the word god to describe that which gives meaning to something. He takes great liberty with this term to great poetic effect. So, in this statement, by "god to serve" he means that for schools to make sense in our society they must have a purpose. What is the purpose of school?

"there is no surer way to bring an end to schooling than for it to have no end." Postmanless than a minute ago via Twittelator

Again, another example of Postman as poetic wordsmith. If you want schooling to go away or bring an end to the institution of schooling you only need to make it meaningless. I fear this is what we are doing by focusing too strongly on standardized tests. It feels like increasing test scores has become our purpose. If test scores become the purpose of school then school is basically meaningless.

"my intention here is neither to bury nor to praise any gods, but to claim that we cannot do without them, (cont) http://tl.gd/6aefqnless than a minute ago via Twittelator

"Our genius lies in our capacity to make meaning through the creation of narratives that give point to our (cont) http://tl.gd/6aego3less than a minute ago via Twittelator

I love this notion that our lives are given meaning through the development of personal narratives. If the meaning of life is found in our personal narratives and schools are supposed to enhance the lives of students then school's purpose ought to be to assist students in the development of their personal narratives. However, if schools are viewed only as a means to train people for jobs created by others then the schools do not help students develop their own narratives but helps them to develop the narratives of others.

"Without a narrative, life has no meaning. Without meaning, learning has no purpose. Without purpose, (cont) http://tl.gd/6aeifhless than a minute ago via Twittelator

"Of course, the great narrative of science shares with the great religious narratives the idea that there (cont) http://tl.gd/6ael43less than a minute ago via Twittelator

"For like another god, the God who produced a Son and a Holy Ghost, the science-god has spawned another - (cont) http://tl.gd/6aen7iless than a minute ago via Twittelator

"A belief too strongly held, one that excludes the possibility of a tolerance for other gods, may result in (cont) http://tl.gd/6aeq7dless than a minute ago via Twittelator

I think we see this all the time in our schools. People get too highly invested in one purpose and ignore all others. I especially think this is a trap that a lot of people in my own profession as a technology integration specialist fall into from time to time. I know I catch myself going down that path at times. I keep having to remind myself that it is not my job to sell people on this technology or that, though there may be some false level of job stability in doing so, but to present people with the information they need to make informed choices for themselves.

"There was a time when American culture knew what schools were for because it offered fully functioning (cont) http://tl.gd/6aevhiless than a minute ago via Twittelator

"What makes public schools public is not so much that the schools have common goals but that the students have common gods." Postmanless than a minute ago via Twittelator

"public schools do not serve a public. It creates a public." Postmanless than a minute ago via Twittelator

"The answer to this question has nothing whatever to do with computers, with testing, with teacher accountabi (cont) http://tl.gd/6af9a2less than a minute ago via Twittelator

So, what are our shared narratives? Postman clearly points out that those parochial schools who educate for the purpose of glorifying their God do not have this identity problem, or did not have this problem before the modern culture of standardized testing. Is our shared narrative the growth of capitalism and almighty corporation? Is our shared narrative democracy and the propagation of a society created by the people and for the people? Is our shared narrative one of popular culture through which television, movies, and social media document it? What is the purpose of school?

@anderscj you reading _end of education_ ?less than a minute ago via Twitter for iPhone

@jerridkruse yes, just started it tonightless than a minute ago via Twitterrific

@anderscj Have read it 2 or 3 times. Great book. Very dense. Honestly didn't get much out of it first time-was pre-teaching experience.less than a minute ago via HootSuite

@anderscj and it is nice idea to get preservice t's to think about the point of this thing called education. (cont) http://tl.gd/6aoajbless than a minute ago via Twitter for iPhone

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