Friday, June 18, 2010

My Apologies

...but I can't get this one out of my head:

"From Wojtyla's perspective, the moral relativism that has resulted from the modern "turn to the subject" is only the product of an anthropological stagnation in the absence of faith.  In other words, man turns to himself and "stays" there, failing to see that his own humanity points him beyond himself, failing to see that anthropology points to theology
(Christopher West, Theology of the Body Explained)

Not trying to get preachy here, promise.  But here's the thing:

We spend all kinds of time discussing how to better educate our students.  For what?  Aren't we using our content areas as vehicles to produce better citizens?  (or at least that's what we say.)  It's not about math, English, science, social studies or P. freakin' E.  It's about human beings. It's about the dignity of the individual, right? But if we never help students get past the fact the world doesn't revolve around them, what good is it?  Why bother?

So if we are trying to help students get past self and become part of a greater good, what is this greater good?  Where does faith enter into this equation?  Or does it?  Should it?

We have problems in our schools.  Serious problems.  Most of our kids could give a rip about the Pythagorean Theorem, slope-intercept form or whether or not they put their name in the right place on the paper. Our kids are trying to figure out where they fit into this world and they're thinking "if it's not about me, then who's it about, you? Why should I care about you?"

Most of us don't want to discuss our politics let alone our theology.  It's too personal.  But there's no way it doesn't affect our pedagogy.

Are we really the answer? Or as we become a little more self-aware should that point us to something greater us?  If so, where's that in the curriculum?  If it's about more than us, yet us is the only thing we can talk about in schools, we're trying to build a fire without oxygen.


Lance Bledsoe said...

A couple of observations:

1. I'm not sure this is quite as either-or as you imply. Our classes are in fact about the subject area AND the dignity of the individual; "it" is about the student AND the teacher AND a bunch of other people.

2. I absolutely believe that my politics and my theology (and frankly, my parenting philosophy) affect my pedagogy, but I find that it's usually the case that it's not particularly effective for me to bring those things up directly; my students learn something about my politics, theology, and parenting philosophy, and maybe a little about their own, by seeing and experiencing the things we do every day in my classroom, things that revolve mostly around the Pythagorean Theorem and the slope-intercept form, but also around getting along with each other and learning the value of doing the work rather than trying to get out of it. I don't see this as necessarily a bad thing, or something that needs to be fixed by changing the curriculum. I'm teaching a math class in which a little theology/politics/parenting often seeps in, not a theology/politics/parenting class in which a little math often seeps in.

iTeach said...

You know how facebook has "LIKE" button?
Consider this LIKE.
There is too much to comment and say on this post, so I'm just going to say something briefly.
If something is important to you and truly impacts your life (morals, faith, ethics, politics, theology, etc), there is no way it cannot impact your pedagogy and classroom presence. The way it does, to what extent, and the results/consequences are another matter.

David Cox said...

At the end of the day, what value is the math class, English class or science class? We want our students to be able to understand the world in which we live, but what paradigm are we teaching? I agree that I teach a math class (and my personal views can't help but shape how I teach) rather than a parenting/theology/politics class. But what's the end game? What's the point of educating our students?

Let me be clear, I'm not advocating for proselytizing in class. But shouldn't our content areas should lead our students to something greater than the content itself?

Agreed. I often wonder if the powers that be realize how critical that is.

Lance Bledsoe said...

I completely agree that our content areas should lead our students to something greater than the content itself. Do you feel like you're not able to do that in your classes (or aren't able to do that to the degree you'd like)? Why is that?

grace said...

I've been repeatedly marking this one "keep unread" in my Google reader because it deserves more thought time and brainspace than I've been able to allot lately, but figured I should say something before I completely miss the boat.

To me, this question of what we're educating students for sounds a lot like a question about why we teach. We likely all have very different reasons for becoming teachers, driven in large part by our personal philosophy and/or faith, and that undoubtedly shapes our pedagogy.

Shouldn't we be preparing students to choose their own paradigm-- to have the skills to listen to, understand, and evaluate the ones they see (including those of their teachers), and ultimately to decide for themselves how they want to understand the world, rather than agreeing on an end game for them?

David Cox said...

Lance No, I'm fine. I just don't see this show up in conversation much. In fact, it seems like many avoid talking about the very things that shape their teaching philosophy.

Yes. I think we should do exactly what you said. In some sense, we're probably responsible for determining the end game, but the irony is that the very standards we set are often the things our students will absolutely not take with them beyond our classes.

Unknown said...

I think it is important in schools to help students understand the greater implications of what they are learning every step of the way. As someone who recently finished high school and is now studying education, something I have immediately realized is that my K-12 education did a very poor job of making me understand the moral importance of math and science, especially in our current political climate. Instead, I didn't know why it was important to learn math and science until I got to college level courses. I think more students would be inspired to go into these fields if they were taught their importance earlier, as this post suggests.