Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Teaching Subversion

So with scads of time and a dearth of other things I should be doing, I waste time writing a blog that almost no one will read. Oh well. It does make me question why I even started it, and as the months pass I think it is more for myself. Maybe you, reader, will gain something as well.

I am currently reading a 40 year old book entitled "Teaching as a Subversive Activity" by Neil Postman and Charles Weingartner. Although parts are a bit anachronistic, the principles resonate with my current thinking and frustrations with the education business. In it, they cover how the business and bureaucracy of education is the true subversion: they subvert our ability to survive as truly democratic society. Teaching, therefore, must become subversive against this type of entropy to promote enlightenment.

In chapter eight, Postman and Weingartner list 16 challenges to change the nature and function of school. I have less than two weeks of Spring Break. Can I address two of their challenges a day? I cannot wait to find out.

So here is my "Table of Contents" and the list of Postman and Weingartner's challenges:
  1. Declare a five year moratorium on the use of all textbooks.
  2. Have English teachers teach Math, math teachers teach English, Social Studies teachers teach Science, Science teachers teach Art, and so on.
  3. Transfer all the elementary-school teachers to high school and vice versa.
  4. Require every teacher who thinks s/he knows his/her subject well to write a book about it.
  5. Dissolve all "subjects," "courses," and especially "course requirements."
  6. Limit each teacher to three declarative sentences per class, and 15 interrogatives.
  7. Prohibit teachers from asking any questions they already know the answers to.
  8. Declare a moratorium on all tests and grades.
  9. Require all teachers to undergo some form of psychotherapy as part of their in-service training.
  10. Classify teachers according to their ability and make the lists public.
  11. Require all teachers to take a test prepared by the students on what the students know.
  12. Make every class an elective and withhold a teacher's monthly paycheck if his/her students do not show any interest in going to next month's classes.
  13. Require every teacher to take a one year leave of absence every fourth year to work in some field other than education.
  14. Require each teacher to provide some sort of evidence that s/he has had a loving relationship with at least one other human being.
  15. Require that all the graffiti accumulated in the school toilets be reproduced on large paper and be hung in the school halls.
  16. There should be a general prohibition against the use of the following words and phrases: teach, syllabus, covering ground, I.Q., makeup, test, disadvantaged, gifted, accelerated, enhancement, course, grade, score, human nature, dumb, college material, and administrative necessity.
(Postman and Weingartner, pp137-140)

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