Becoming Educated

As any teacher with more than two years of experience knows, education is an endeavor that is rich with fads. Each year it seems, the initiatives that were held up as “essential to the progress of the school” at the beginning of the previous year are forgotten and at the start of the next school year those are replaced with new initiatives that are “essential to the progress of the school.” The leaders who advocate for the next crop of initiatives rarely recognize the previous crop, the success or failure of the previous crop, or the connection between any of these initiatives.

Occasionally the new initiatives are a reasonable extension of those begun the previous year; sometimes the new initiatives are complementary to those begun the previous year. Frequently the new initiatives are contrary to those begun the previous year. The diversity of initiatives that are essential to young people becoming “educated” can be easily explained, however.

We really don’t know what it means to be educated. For some, it means scoring well on standardized or standards-based tests, for others it means having the specific skills needed to get a job, for others it is summarized as “my kids do what I did.” For many of the most highly educated people, it is a collection of bits and pieces of all of these things as well as a mixture of other skills, habits, and affects which vary with time and context.

Until we accept the fact that learning is a very diverse activity and becoming educated is equally diverse and we stop trying to define “the method” of educating, we will continue to perpetual and contradictory initiatives that distract educators from the real work of teaching.