These are just a couple thoughts from a current Education Student at Trinity Western University:
Educators need to be better listeners.
About seven years ago, I recall having an English teacher who spent an entire quarter of a semester preparing the class for our ACTs (the Midwest US's equivalent of the provincial exams).
She had the best intentions, I believe. I am certain that she did all of that in order to help us be successful in our tests. Indeed, by the end of the two months, the entire class was quite well equipped with the skills necessary to always choose the best option out of any list of four (A,B,C, or D).
I was told that being able to do well on standardized tests requires a great deal of analytical intelligence. Today, I am not so sure about that.
Of course, the biggest reason for our class doing it was so we would all get great scores so we could all get into great universities so we could all get great jobs with great pay cheques.
Credentials! That is what it was all about. That is what doing well in the standardized test meant. It meant that I could get an artificial piece of proof that I was more worthy than others of finding success in life.
Did any of these testing lessons show me the way to be a better person? Not really.
Did any of these lessons teach me how to make the world a better place? No.
Instead, I learned that much western schooling has become an artificial construct through which all people are (or should be, at least) evaluated, that has nothing to do with where people are located in society.
Western schooling has become rather decontextualized: it has become all about the acquisition of skills and training rather than the act of sharing wisdom and tradition, so I spent a large portion of my 10th grade English class just learning how to test merely for more schooling's sake.
Today, the residential schools are heavily critiqued, and rightly so, for attempting to "kill the Indian in the Indian."
First Nations children were stolen from their homes and stripped of their identity. They were taught to be like the white man, because progress said the world was being shaped in the white-man's own image.
Of course, the children were then told they could never be like the white man, and that message was enunciated with abuses.
Perhaps that is why many First Nations people are suspicious of schooling. Perhaps we all should be a little more critical in our approach of education.
Colonization isn't something of the past. Isn't the western paradigm of schooling doing a very similar thing today to what was done in the residential schools? While there might not be cases of abuse and neglect, isn't it possible that (despite all the good intentions in the world) students around the world are being stripped of all context in their learning.
Rather than learning the wisdoms and traditions from their own elders, students are being encouraged to abandon the past generations' wisdom to pursuit of "success" through variations of the western discourse of schooling.
Yet, much of the western discourse of education is unable to answer the questions of meaning and purpose. Much of it is empty.
How then is education to be done? What are the real important things that need to be taught?
This is where the listening comes in. I was recently told that curriculum design needs to change from the "What" to the "Who." That is the key to unlocking what the teacher's responsibility is to teach.
Teachers need to be listeners. They need to understand the contexts from which their students are coming from. Rather than teaching whatever will merely empower the students (consider my own English teacher or even some of the residential school administrators who wanted to empower their students to be successful), teachers instead need to help students connect to their own context of the world around them.
Andrew Gundy, via email