Last month, I wrote about a section in Seth Godin's book Stop Stealing Dreams: What is School Good For? The book is available online for free in full-text. That post is The Standardized Mass Contract. With the outdoors beckoning, I am slowly making my way through the rest of the book. As an instructor-teacher-professor, my mind keeps being drawn back to this section:
In less than three weeks, the fall semester classes will begin on many college campuses. Students will walk into classrooms expected to be educated. They will sit and expect that the information delivered will make them more employable after 2-4 years. There are many reasons why students head off to college. I wonder how many are fully committed to the educational process, which includes a high level of commitment inside and outside the classroom. I also wonder how many come expecting - and wanting - their thoughts and world-view to be challenged. If your thoughts aren't being challenged, are you learning anything new?
27. The decision
We don’t ask students to decide to participate. We assume the contract of adhesion, and relentlessly put information in front of them, with homework to do and tests to take.
Entirely skipped: commitment. Do you want to learn this? Will you decide to become good at this?
The universal truth is beyond question — the only people who excel are those who have decided to do so. Great doctors or speakers or skiers or writers or musicians are great because somewhere along the way, they made the choice.
Why have we completely denied the importance of this choice?
In section 44, Godin writes:
Teaching is no longer about delivering facts that are unavailable in any other format.You may need to read that twice. In most classes, students are expected to learn how others have thought about that subject. They need to get their thinking in line with everyone else on that topic. However, what we need is to have students committed to learning what others think and then taking the next step and thinking radically about the topic themselves. They need to question the topic with questions grounded in what is known, with an eye towards what's next. Imagine a student who could ask what would happen if "X" occurred, and did so with the knowledge of A-W.
In the movie, Hidden Figures, one of the characters implores his team to "look beyond." To look beyond, a student needs to be committed to learning, questioning, exploring...and not to obtaining a specific grade. Going for the grade is easy. Looking beyond is where the opportunities are.
If you're heading to school, to a conference, or to a workshop, are you committed? Will you look beyond?