Bri Colorful

Educational Manifesto

Posted on: December 16, 2010

“Every country on earth is reforming public education.”

This year, I was so excited to be part of that reform. In this case, my professors (there were two who co-taught the class: Dr. Gideon Burton and Dr. Daniel Zappala) focused on the need for a change because of our growing digital culture. I totally agree that the digital revolution is a huge part of the need for reform, but I think it’s bigger than that too! We’re stuck in the same educational mindset that was conceived during the Enlightenment! (Just in case you were wondering when the Enlightenment was, I already googled it for you) That was 300 years ago! Now I’m the first to admit that there are some differences between my grandparents and me that don’t just have to do with digital media, so I cannot even begin to imagine the differences between my great, great, great, great, great, great, great grandparents!! (Don’t worry, I asked my Family History Major sister approximately how “great” my grandparents would’ve been if they lived in the 18th century). While I’ve been spending a lot of time in the 18th century for my Romantic Poetry class, I do not think I am likely to learn in the same ways they did.

Basically, the only thing that ever stays the same is change… change is inevitable. In school, I have learned that languages evolve all on their own and there’s nothing you can do to stop them. Since language is so closely tied to culture, I am sure that it follows the same pattern. Culture evolves over time. I know Tavia; I’m sorry. I understand that when you shake the rug of tradition (“TRADITION!” echoes the choir)  from under people’s feet, they feel a little off balance. Traditions are important! I make my husband read the same cheesy Christmas stories every year that I read growing up, and I still cry even though I’ve heard them a million times. But if we want to keep up with our rapidly evolving culture (and the myriad of educational opportunities it affords us), we have got to change some things!

In the past, the functionality of ‘getting an education’ or a college degree was to serve as a resume for future employment. No, I am not discrediting the ‘becoming a well-rounded individual ready to be an good, active citizen’ part of it, only emphasizing that in the end, the system works to pump out great employees. The problem is that though “you’re better having a degree than not,” a college degree is not a “guarantee” of good or steady employment anymore, “particularly not if the route to it, marginalizes most of the things you think are important about yourself” (Sir Ken Robinson, RSA talk given Oct. 14 — see the video).

What are employers looking for, if not for a college degree? Well, marketable skills actually. Maybe you’ll glean some of those in college; maybe you won’t (nowadays that really depends on you and what you put into it). The point is even if you have those marketable skills, how do potential employers know?! A college degree is not a guarantee to them that you are skilled anymore. But there is a solution! There is this great big wide open space called the internet where you can build a beautiful resume simply by being there, by participating.

Let me give you a comparison to help illustrate. You write a 15-page history paper for a college class. You spend weeks living in the library doing research and painstakingly editing this thing on your own. At the end of the semester, you hand it in to your teacher for a grade. For all your efforts you get a scratched pen mark on the top of your paper that says B+. You feel relief more than pride in your efforts. And in the end the only people who read your paper were you and the teacher’s aid who graded it. Sound familiar?

ALTERNATIVELY you could:

  • post your ideas for your paper on a blog so people can comment and make suggestions,
  • create a googledoc of the paper as you write it and invite your friends to edit (hmm, collaboration or cheating?),
  • strike up an online discussion with a bigwig historian who has done a lot of research on what you’re writing about and send him drafts of your ideas to see what he thinks as you work,
  • and even join online forums discussing your subject.

In the end, several people benefit from your research, your paper is more likely to be a real contribution to the field because you worked with an expert or experts, and eventually when you apply for a job in that field, your potential employer will probably end up googling you and finding a resume that shows not only how amazing you are, but also how far you have come. See how much more fulfilling that is?! It’s like getting a gold star in kindergarten!

So basically, our professors in Digital Civilization this semester gave us the reins to our own education and encouraged us to follow our interests and explore them in as many ways as we could while also acquiring strong digital literacy so we were capable of learning using a plethora of online tools. (Did I already use the word “plethora” in this blog post?)

What will I do with what I have learned? (I’m going to Disneyland. j/k) Not only will I apply this to my own education as I finish out my college degree, but as Grant and I plan to be parents and teachers of several little digital citizens, we hope to encourage the exploration of their own interests. That is what education should be, right? Exploring your interests, finding your niche, refining your passion into a life-long journey. I cannot wait to be a homeschool mom!

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1 Response to "Educational Manifesto"

Very thought provoking!

The only useful thing I learned in the formal education process was how to learn on my own.

I learned from real life experience that I would be incredibly bored with a manual labor job.

Continuous self directed learning is to me the very reasons the internet and social media are so popular today.

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