Anti-Teaching

Some of you probably know Michael Wesch through his YouTube videos. He’s just published an article in Education Canada entitled “Anti-Teaching: Confronting the Crisis of Signficance.” It is available as a pdf.

If you want to see the significance problem first hand, visit a classroom and pay attention to the types of questions asked by students. Good questions are the driving force of critical and creative thinking and therefore one of the best indicators of significant learning. Good questions are those that force students to challenge their taken-forgranted assumptions and see their own underlying biases. Oftentimes the answer to a good question is irrelevant – the question is an insight in itself. The only answer to the best questions is another good question. And so the best questions send students on rich and meaningful lifelong quests, question after question after question.

Unfortunately, such great questions are rarely asked by students in an education system facing a crisis of significance. Much more common are administrative questions: “How long does this paper need to be?” “Is attendance mandatory?” Or the worst (and most common) of all: “What do we need to know for this test?” Such questions reflect the fact that, for many (students and teachers alike), education has become a relatively meaningless game of grades rather than an important and meaningful exploration of the world in which we live and co-create.

[…]

My job becomes less about teaching, and more about encouraging students to join me on the quest.

The article reads veers pretty nearly to my own teaching philosophy. I may be willing to give some ground–sometimes students have their own ideas of what they want to get out of the classroom, and they may be able to get me to join them for their quest, but in any case, the quest is the thing.

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One Comment

  1. Mark Cotrupe
    Posted 5/11/2008 at 9:46 am | Permalink

    The current educational system is so much about anti-teaching. I remember an old saying I saw once: “Education is what is left after a previous learning is forgotten”. We are producing a nation of educated people. Teachers are teaching the prescribed curriculum as mandated by the schools they work in, and students are learning how to “work the system” to get grades and graduate. Do we have a fear of education? True education involves taking large risks and pushing beyond what is know. We do need the basic building blocks of knowledge, but we need to show relevance. What good is advanced math if it involves just a shuffling of numbers? When we use it to put someone on the moon it has relevance.
    We need to find a way for accountability and relevance to meet. Then educators can fulfill the requirements of the school administration and still teach the students how to think, and see relevance in the world around them.

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