Why Are We Here?

This is the question I challenged my students to think, write, and talk about this week. Their next assignment will be to write literacy narratives, but as we embark on that journey I want them to think about much more than the traditional alphabetic literacy so many consider to be the alpha and omega. I challenge my students to think about information literacy including network literacy, visual literacy, media literacy, cultural literacy, and so much more. However, before we can really dig into those ideas we need to unpack a lot of baggage about schooling and education.

This week that meant asking questions such as:

  • What is education for?
  • What is the difference between schooling and education?
  • Why are we here (in this general education class, in college, etc.)?

Our thoughts, writing, and conversations are inspired by a Youtube Playlist “What is education for?” as well as ideas I share with them (such as Paulo Freire’s “The Banking Concept of Education”) and some selected readings asking if/how we should remake and/or reinvent our education system if we are “Preparing Students For What We Can’t Prepare Them For.”

In addition to this weighty conversation, I also asked my students to take a trip down memory lane to think about their earliest memories about school and literacy. As a good National Writing Project teacher, I wrote as they did and I was surprised by what I remembered. The highlight of my years at Williamson Primary School was recess. I can picture the library space in school, but cannot remember reading or checking out books. I do remember building a giant class caterpillar that circled Jane Buell’s classroom by adding segments for each book we read. I cannot remember writing at all. I remember riding my bicycle to the Williamson Free Public Library so often that I read through the children’s section. Then, barred from the adult section by my age, I languished in the purgatory of biographies and nonfiction for years.

Then we shared our stories and I was reminded again of the tyranny of Accelerated Reader and churning out weekly essays. Yes, reading more and writing regularly are good things, but so often our execution of a worthy idea goes ever so horribly wrong. That is the tragedy of schooling. I celebrate the idea of education, which one of my students described as enlightenment – an opening of the mind, but often shudder and cringe at the idea of schooling with a vision of assembly lines and homogenizing hoppers.

I want my students to be thinkers as well as readers and writers. I want them to read things that make them think. I want them to write about their thoughts. I hope they will write things that make me think. That is how I see my job as an educator. How do you see it?

Would you rather be schooled or educated? Which do you want for our children? Do you think there is a difference between education and school?

PS: If you want to know what came of my writing…two poems!

This post originally appeared on my Metawriting blog where I write about writing, teaching, and teaching writing at: http://metawriting.deannamascle.com/