Spoiled Education

What does spoiled milk have to do with education?

Frederik Douglas (1818-1895), from his Narrative of the Life as an American Slave, written by himself, tells us that:

“If you teach that n**ger, speaking of himself, how to read there would be no keeping him. It would forever unfit him to be a slave. He would at once become unmanageable, and of no value to his master. As to himself, it could do him no good, but a great deal of harm. It would make him discontented and unhappy”

When educators uphold their limited rudimentary definition of ‘rigor’, this leads to dehumanizing learning experiences for the masses. There’s nothing new about this phenomenon if you’d like to take a gander at the origins of IQ tests and how ideologists leveraged it to exterminate others. Q: After watching the 6 min video, how do IQ tests relate to your experiences with exams? please let me know in the comments! Rigor is not “managing” your students after dumping incomprehensible content-centered work onto their 🍽️. Rigor is not actualized when there is no modeling on how to break apart teacher-directed requirements which are not centered around the students reading & learning needs. Rigor is when ➿relevancy meets ➿engagement coupled ➿ with authenticity➿. Rigor is when students are sitting at the edge of their seats 🪑, eagerly waiting to do the heavy lifting that is learning 🧠: investigating the abstract theory 🧮, collaborating with others the techniques being displayed 🧪, critiquing the methods 🥼, challenging creating ⌛ and leading. This is where real change happens; when we empower students how to learn, beyond our anecdotal experiences and content knowledge, so that they have the momentum and skills to solve the demanding problems that exist in our world.

When educators are not positioned and do not invest time to model for their students “how to read” the content delivered – this leads to the spoiled 🥛 that is injustice ⚖️ . To unravel our teachers’ expectations in college requires an understanding of how learning works. Many of my teachers, especially in STEM, assume we know what they are talking about and are following along just fine, because many of us “pass”. As someone who’s taken over 20 STEM college courses, formally tutored & mentored 100s of students over the past 5 years, and spent the last 2 years doing research in the science of learning and student advocacy, let me tell you 50% of students at least, have no idea what’s going on in (zoom) class, and 80% aren’t learning anything *significantly (click to hear what I mean)* Don’t cite me in a peer reviewed journal, do an anonymous poll for yourself: warning, the reflection in the mirror is almost always a tough one to swallow, if you’re a noob like me. We can’t have yesterday back, but we all can suck a little less tomorrow than we do today, thanks to neuro-plasticity fused w curiosity.

When we don’t explicitly teach the skills that are required for students to learn the material, that is ⚖️Injustice⚖️. As soon as our teachers assume away our learning needs, this leads to a spoiled education ☠️🥛☠️. Without demonstrating to students how to have a growth mindset and sustainably learn, only the most advanced students benefit in that environment. I refer to my advanced friends who are straight A students, and a bit out of touch with how learning works (like we all are), my ⚔️ conquering capitalists ⚔️. They’re really gritty at getting things done and covering their own butts, but don’t count on them to help you when you send a poke. More so than before, in Colleges of STEM in particular, we are churning out students to practice exactly what we are teaching them to do – individual gain at the expense of others. No judgement or blame for those peps, because the system incentivizes this since that’s the scoreboard 🎯. I also recognize a prerequisite to helping others is helping yourself. However, I contend that it is at the detriment of our collective fate, when we condition the majority of students and professionals to be ⚔️ conquering capitalists ⚔️. 

There needs to be a balance of covering our own butts, while bringing each of our peers up and with us, and not only is that balance no where to be found in my courses, it’s at times not even allowed.

yes, this was from an assignment of mine Fall semester 2020

Learning how to address the challenges that inevitably arise during our time in college, by unreflective failure AKA failing and retaking a class, leads to statistics such as: 2018, 42.8% of all persons between age 16 and 24 were not enrolled in school. This means the educational system is perfectly comfortable with holding the keys to upward social mobility.

I know if I hadn’t met educators who genuinely helped me learn: how to learn in STEM and recognize I can leverage my skills to bring about justice by becoming an educator, I would have dropped out completely. Because when we have a dehumanizing experience in just a few courses, this easily leads to feelings of doubt, depression and fear for our entire education. 

In Michael Sandel’s book on: Justice – What’s the right thing to do? He critiques the value perceptions of our dominant culture. An example, a value dispute is whether scientific or technological pursuits are superior to humanistic pursuits. Certainly these do not have to be mutually exclusive, but when engineers at a tobacco company may make multiple times the amount of money educators can make, there’s a problem. “The humanistic territory that philosophy lives in, harmonizes well in way of thinking about philosophy, critical thinking or logic,” said my professor Cynthia Rostankowski. So a logical problem (that I challenge you to find a solution, 1 which is investing time to learn how to teach yourself, A.S.A.P. like yesterday…) is, as soon as educators have more than 50 students on their roll call, it’s super challenging to address the individual learning needs of those students because as highlighted in my previous post on Cognitive Fitness:

“It makes no sense to expect all students to take the same amount of time to achieve the same objectives” – Ben Bloom

Michael Sandel’s starting point in his book is that

  • We live in society and we have conventional views about what a society should do for us 
    • What might we do for society as well?
    • Sandel claims that the majority of us want a ‘just’ society.
  • ⚖️Justice⚖️ is all about the distribution of things we value, but this could also be intangibles, not just goods)
    • Income wealth
    • Duties & rights & 🥛 from the teat of the 🐄
    • Powers and opportunities
    • Offices and honors
  • If society is ‘just’ bc it distributes the things we positively value in a good way, then what sort of way is a “good way”?
    • A just society gives each person their ‘dues’
    • 3 ideal approaches of ⚖️JUSTICE⚖️ to distribute good things of society:
      • Welfare
        • If we agree that prosperity (i.e. the good things of our society) matters, then justice requires that we maximize welfare in society
        • The well being of us as a collective society
      • Freedom
        • If we agree that we each are entitled to basic freedoms (w.o infringing on others freedoms), then we must figure out how each person’s freedom is best realized in society
        • But the nature of freedom is not an unconstrained license (it’s not, I can do whatever I please)
        • Real freedom means we have to keep in mind each other’s freedoms
        • How can each person’s freedom from that moment, be actualized
      • Virtue
        • If we agree that we all seek a good life and that getting a good life means that we have to think about being good as well, then we have to consider:
          • What becoming good requires and means
          • What society will be required to contribute to make a good life possible for us
        • All of this relates to developing character, making it possible for each one of us to get closer to a good life.
How does all the above fit into EDUCATION & LEARNING?

Poor teaching and learning practices are not merely what is said or what is done, but also what is not said, what is disregarded, ignored, and willfully neglected. *feel like you’re in a detox juice blender yet? Well yep, that’s how abstract theoretical lectures feel like too* As a student it’s never too late to teach yourself to learn: how to learn. Truthfully the first person you need to teach is yourself, if you would like to be liberated. The Learning Code and student centered educators create content on learning how to learn while accessing the deficit mindsets of our dominant narratives: to save you energy and time. Please see if you may learn from our mistakes and perspectives, go to the office hours of your professors who you admire and have a conversation around learning, and remember that you can learn any skill you want to, no matter what anyone tells you!

For educators: it’s not too late to churn out a batch of fresh milk – before the people we conditioned to become ⚔️ conquering capitalists (link)⚔️ realize they been spoon fed the spoiled milk, and diarrhea all over us, including themselves. Oh by the way, that’s already happening at scale… So what may you do to make your community more ⚖️ ‘just’ ⚖️?

What matters most in education?
Thank you Lurie College of Education at SJSU for sponsoring me to attend the STEAM symposium! I witnessed the most powerful and authentic keynote performance by Chris Emdin I still reference on a weekly basis. Teaching and Learning deserve to be respected, funded, and acknowledged as a legitimate science, for the future of our country. Who’s with me?

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