I and a couple other educators smiled while answering the typical questions: "No, the students are great, don't believe everything you read in the paper. Yes, they can be difficult but they are kids, Yes, it is true we don't teach cursive, I don't know how they will sign their checks. No, we don't exactly have spelling tests anymore. You got that right we can't paddle."
As the non-educators and educators alike started complaining about what we do and do not teach, how kids today don't talk to each other and they just stare at their phones, and how kids are handed everything, I couldn't take it anymore and I started leaking my frustration all over the room.
I began saying some of the things that I think concerning how public education needs to change to fit the kids instead of the kids changing to fit the school. I begged them to reflect on the last time they had to memorize a set of words in their job. I mentioned how I am not a great speller but "thank God for spell check.' I went into what adults actually do when they want to learn something (I am going to guess you don't sign up for a 6 week college course).
I was on a roll. I couldn't stop plus I am so accustomed to keeping all of my thoughts in that once I started talking it just seeped out of me. I brought out the big guns to combat the cliche "kids these days" rhetoric.
I asked the other educators if they had ever actually read what Dewey thought about how kids learn. I brought up Ivan Illich, Paulo Freier, Jean Lave, and John holt, stressing the point that these were some of the greatest philosophers of education. That most people have never read. I even quoted Tolstoy and went on a diatribe of how he ran a school and wrote quite a bit on how children learn. I started painting the picture that what all of these great minds believe to be the best way humans learn is the opposite of what we do in school. I mentioned how I am amazed that no one I know in education reads about the philosophies behind the profession they have devoted their lives to. I asked "how can we blame kids for this when...."
I stopped talking mid sentence, I noticed something- my brother and sister were dipping chips into the dip. . My other sister was yelling to her husband to make sure he fed the baby, and my sister in law was digging in her purse. Neighbor three houses down was looking at the game on the television and also enjoying some dip. I had stopped talking mid-sentence and no one.....even.... noticed, because they retreated to the dip to escape the craziness I was spewing.
Everyone went to school. It is one of the things that we all have in common. A shared schooling experience. Suggesting that the way we do school is not the best way kids learn just doesn't compute with people. I may as well have been talking about Bigfoot sightings or moon landing conspiracies. Forget the fact that some of the best minds who have ever studied how humans learn...how children learn, all come up with about the same conclusion. Forget that our system was built for the sake of efficiency and to produce compliant workers, not to produce critical thinkers and innovators. None of that matters. It is what we have all always done. It is what we know.
Mom and dad did those things and they turned out fine. Forget that they don't really remember the factoids from school. They got a decent job, they got a pretty house with a white picket fence, a dog named Spot and they had their 2.3 children... they did it- how can we tell them that today's children don't need to sit through the same type of schooling that got them where they are today? How can we get them to understand that the skill set today's kids need are totally different than the skill set of the past? We need thinkers, creators, innovators. We don't need to make people that simply follow a set of commands.
We need teachers to be facilitators of thinking and resources to help kids solve real problems. We no longer need teachers to be the holders of secrets (information). Schools are no longer the buildings that hold the knowledge. We need to transform into an entity that helps students use the knowledge. We have to stop thinking cursive is important because that is how you used to write important letters for your boss. We... what? Yes it is french onion dip, I made it from a recipe I found on-line, thank you, I am glad you like it.