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My "philosophy" of education

My "philosophy" of education

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Published by Tim Crane
From my classroom management class. I'll never get a job.
From my classroom management class. I'll never get a job.

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Categories:Types, School Work
Published by: Tim Crane on Oct 28, 2010
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial

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03/11/2011

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Tim CraneTowards a Rhetoric of EducationPhilosophy has a reputation for abstraction. Given that reputation, these sorts of documentscan seem convoluted, evasive even, as they try to jargonize their ways to representing articulatestatements of the authors’ beliefs on what education should and must be. At this point though, Iwish to be unconventionally clear in summarizing my stances on the matter. Education, at least inthis country, is a responsibility our citizenry has to itself. It is our job as citizens to prepare our children (our students) to function as informed and competent members of what is to be their democracy. Ideally, schooling works as an instrument of and for the people, preparing us for thechallenges of ruling ourselves.While many seek to deny the political nature of schools, I refuse to ignore the reality that astax-funded institutions legally mandating our children’s attendance, schools are not just political, but inherently and necessarily so. However the politics involved run much deeper than keepingtrack of tax dollars or the election of the school board. The sort of politics I discuss here involvesmatters of civic responsibility, public deliberation, and the involvement of citizens in the making of their realities. This country self-identifies as a democracy and requires capable, culpable citizensequipped with the willingness and ability to commit to the responsibilities such a form of government demands. As public institutions, schools present citizens with enormous opportunities.They can enact social change as we reconstruct our communities to fit to our needs. They can allowus to provide every citizen with a chance at success on his or her own terms. They can help usrealize democratic praxis at every level of our society. Of course, bringing these possibilities tofruition requires enormous effort and even more patience. Nevertheless, the school remains one of the few places where students can learn not only who and what to be when they “grow up,” but
how
to be. It’s where they grow into members of a democratic culture that celebrates diverse opinions,ideas, practices, and people. Every facet of school responds in some way (be it fulfillment, denial,or otherwise) to the promise of democracy that we have already made to our nation’s children.These children represent the democracies that have yet to come. As a teacher, I take it uponmyself to place these students in a position of prominence in my pedagogy. After all, teachers are public servants and it is often the students to whom we must answer. I believe students to benaturally curious, social beings who want to make sense of the perceptions comprising their worlds.They want to ask questions, explore topics, argue, deliberate, and solve problems. This is not to saythat their social groups are in line with our best wishes, nor that they are curious about thecurriculum, nor that their solutions are perfect, final, or even sensible. This is to say though that
 
schools wishing to see children flourish do well to nurture these natural tendencies. Each studentalready comes to the classroom with the abilities to learn and succeed. It is the teacher’s challengeto not only alert students to these abilities (some students have been convinced that their talents areeither wasted in school or worse, non-existent) but to help channel those abilities to productive andempowering ends.Democracy’s promise and students’ natural abilities place teachers in circumstances forcingus to perform a myriad of challenging and contradictory tasks. Democratic teachers reflect on theevents that have occurred in their classroom but they also predict attitudes, questions, and eventsthat may be on the horizon. We often transmit facts to our students so they have a clear grasp of atruth then co-construct interpretations of those facts so students develop the audacity to challengetruths. We clarify abstract theories just to complicate assumptions that were once taken for granted.We listen to students as they tell
us
what to do. We question answers.We stretch ourselves across eras, cultures, languages, and identities because while we arehuman beings just like our students, we are also human beings nothing like our students. We work to identify with our students in each of their complexities but we respect our students enough toremember that we are not capable of being them anymore than they are capable of being us.Empathy is powerful tool for understanding but makes a poor substitute for personal experience.We feed insatiable curiosities and wish to spread these curiosities within and beyond our classrooms. We exhibit remarkable flexibility when we attempt to meet our students’ needs evenwhen we know that perfection to be but an ideal. And, most necessarily, despite the challenges,limitations, and setbacks we face in fulfilling these tasks, our senses of humor remain resilient.When it comes to the actual content of the classroom, the curriculum, I take amultidimensional approach. Firstly, I see the necessity and validity of the academic standards. Iintend on every child meeting those standards but I also set personal standards for my students andthese sit at extremely challenging levels. Still, my primary concern with standards does not focus onwhere they are but on the pathways students and I take in reaching them, in short, on matters of “how.” In answering this question, I combine the academic side of school with a more implicit(often referred to as “hidden”) curriculum. This implicit curriculum consists of skills, bodies of knowledge, and methods that work beyond the standards of states or professional organizations.Through this curriculum, children learn cultural values, acceptable behaviors, and what skills the“real world” will demand of them. Because of its often-unnoticed presence and its institutional pervasiveness (no one teacher or custom is wholly responsible for it), the implicit curriculum often

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