Personal observation as well as discussions with fellow teachers lead me to the conclusion that ‘education’ has drained all of the joy and curiosity out of learning. Clearly this is a generalization, but when you compare the determination and tenacity of students world-wide to access education, it’s hard to find that kind of commitment and curiosity on an average day in the U. S., especially in High Schools.
Referring back to an article I wrote (http://zoomdune.com/article/education-as-a-self-organizing-system) about Sugata Mitra and his SOLE’s (Self Organized Learning Environments) concept of self-directed study based on “Big Questions”, let’s think about whether a curriculum that relies more upon Inquiry and the development of independent thought might have a better chance of keeping the joy alive!
The catalyst that set me thinking about these issues was the day I came out of one of my subbing sites and glanced at the spectacular World Trade Center, just up the West Side. But wait – that looks odd. Something seems to be attached to the sheer side of the building. As I walked closer, it began to look even stranger. By the time I got to Chambers Street, the collection of media trucks and cameramen made it clear something was going on! In fact, the security ropes of a window washing rig had slipped, leaving the rig to hang lopsided – putting the workers at considerable risk! Eventually, a panel had to be cut out of the impenetrable skin of the building so that almost three hours later, the two men could be brought inside safely. Now, there is a mismatched rectangle where the cut-out panel was removed. Is that the best we can do? And how often is this going to happen? See slide show.
This reminds me of the disastrous lag between progress and the methods of remediation and safety. It’s simply stunning to find out that with the height of that building, there is no other plan to keep the surface clean (it’s all glass) than to suspend people down the sides and have them WASH the WINDOWS the way our ancestors did when buildings were human scale. What could go wrong? It took only a few months for us to find out. Surely the architects had an obligation to make provision for the cleaning in a less primitive way?
Then I thought of the historic Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire – tall buildings and ‘skyscrapers’ had been going up apace in the city, but the Fire Departments had not upgraded their equipment. So when the time came to extinguish the Triangle Fire and rescue the victims, their ladders were completely worthless. It took awhile to fix that problem – after the fact.
Similarly, Roger Chaffee, Ed White and Gus Grissom died in a fire on the launch pad on January 27, 1967, in Apollo 1. If they had been able to open up the capsule and walk out, they did not need to die. But the scientists were so used to launching primates and in planning for the outer space portion of the journey that it never occurred to them to put in a handle. I’m assuming there’s one now!
In the events on the first night after the Grand Jury announcement in Ferguson, Missouri, I observed that despite several hundred heavily armored police and National Guards, the main threat turned out to come from fire. Several police cars were set alight about 2 hours into the evening, and absolutely no effort was made to extinguish them. Soon after, the first building began to smoke – again, no sirens, no fire trucks, nothing. After what seemed an interminable time, two fire hoses could be seen trained on the now completely immolated first building. Meanwhile, people had alerted to the fact that two other buildings were beginning to smoke. Again, no-one went anywhere near them until they were fully engulfed – time spent on the building that was virtually lost could have better been used to save the next buildings that had barely begun to burn – if you had only one fire truck!? Eventually, all of those buildings were lost. I ask myself, if you were planning for 100 plus days for civil unrest, would not one of your priorities have been the potential of fire? It only takes one or two people to start a fire, and those huge phalanxes of militarized Police were locked in to the notion of rioting, or physical force. They were essentially useless against fire. When they were amassing all their military vehicles, wouldn’t they have considered more fire-fighting equipment? Big Questions!
My point is – the lack of all around common sense among the very people who need it the most. I don’t think my analysis, in hindsight, of any of these scenarios would have been impossible to anticipate? Surely a well-rounded, inquiry based education would prevent these tragic and unnecessary outcomes. Where are these thinkers going to come from? We need them now!