we don't need a shared vision

"We need to have a shared vision of education in America," I parrot to Paul the Pre-industrial Poet.

"Where did that come from?" 

"A speaker at the PIE Conference mentioned it.  I tend to agree. As long as we fail to agree on the purpose and direction of education, talks of pencils and photos and telegraphs are meaningless."

"I'm not crazy about that idea," Paul mentions.  "If we all share the same vision and goal, it becomes myopic. And when it's myopic, it becomes too easy for those in power to hijack the language and use it to make money." 

"What if the vision is good?"  

"It's not a matter of good.  The issue is this: if you define a vision too loosely it's meaningless.  We could have something like, 'We will create life-long learners' and it sounds pretty, but what does it mean?  Or we could begin with something more specific like, 'Equip all students for the skill sets required for the industrial age.' It ends up missing out on big parts of an education."  

"I see.  I guess it fails to allow for the conflict and the paradox that often lead to a whole education."  

"Exactly. So, we start with, 'Why do we learn?' Historically, we've had three streams in this area: a neo-classical ideal of the well-rounded citizen needed for democracy, a religious idea of education leading to a more moral person and a vocational stream with the notion of learning a trade."  

"Can't we find some overlap?"  

"Maybe.  But I'm thinking there are elements each can bring to the table.  So, I like the apprenticeship model and I like the option of vocational education.  I like a deep philosophical understanding of the world and an appreciation of the liberal arts and a preparation for college.  And, even in a secular place, I like concepts like love and humility that we can take from the spiritual side. It's not overlap I'm looking for, it's diversity of opinion."

"So, can't we agree on the best parts of each of those streams?"

"I don't know.  Maybe we can.  But look: I have listened to too many conversations on the best vision for my race.  Some say DuBois and others say Washington.  I think they both make sense.  We need a talented ten percent.  We need leadership.  But that alone will be merely elitism.  We need economic empowerment and practical skills.  We need to fight injustice but we also need to reform the system from within.  They both have great points and I doubt that you'll get people to agree on both sides."  

1 comment:

  1. I like this very much. Today is Canada Day and in the early morning I reflect a little on what it means to be a Canadian. When I first came to Canada as a teenager from the States, the official Federal policy of multiculturalism (a patchwork quilt of culture forming a greater unity) was juxtaposed with the American concept of a melting pot (a new alloy forged from diversity). Both are dynamic forces shaping all societies I think. Canada today is even more diverse than it was when I moved here in the 1970s and I celebrate that.

    I tracked down Saskatchewan's Goals of Education just the other day. They were developed in the 1980's and shaped the curriculum we teach today. Otherwise, I think they have been generally forgotten. It is an extensive list reflecting the diverse goals we have conceived for education. I tried to develop a pithy statement of my own.

    "I believe the purpose of public education is to give young people the power to take control of their lives. Young people need to construct their own meaning from the world to guide their actions. They need support discovering personal directions they might take in the future. We are life-long learners and public education should empower people to exercise that inherent potential."

    It is a generalization like the ones you use as an example. Such statements are fine, but the reality is the complexity of Saskatchewan's goals.