Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Making Civilized People

In discussing the "promise" of online or distance education, and the promise of technology's overall role in education possibly making the modern classroom obsolete, Neil Postman notes that:

Robert Fulghum's All I Ever Really Needed to Know I Learned in Kindergarten [offers] an elegant summary of a few things [this] scenario has left out. They include learning the following lessons: share everything, play fair, don't hit people, put things back where you found them, clean up your own mess, wash your hands before you eat, and, of course, flush. The only thing wrong with Fulghum's argument is that no one actually has learned all these things at kindergarten's end. We have ample evidence that it takes many years of teaching these values [and values like these] in school before they are accepted and internalized. That is why it won't do for children to learn in isolation. The point is to place them in a setting that emphasizes collaboration, as well as sensitivity to and responsibility for others. That is also why schools require children to be in a certain place at a certain time and to follow certain rules, such as raising their hands when they wish to speak, not talking when others are talking, not chewing gum, not leaving until the bell rings, and exhibiting patience toward slower learners. This process is called making civilized people.

The way he states this reminds me of my role as a teacher. With the WASL and NCLB, we teachers often forget our crucial role in producing civilized people. We should remind ourselves of this task often, because it is something many of us do well. But, because it is not something that is assessed and quantified on standardized tests, this role is often forgotten.

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