If I needed further proof that I was in exactly the right major, it showed up this week in the form of the Utah State Magazine. The cover story is about how great it is that nine USU professors are working on grants from the National Science Foundations. Seven of them are in the hard sciences, but two of them are in Instructional Technology an Learning Science. They just happen to be the professors I have this term. One is studying the positive effects in math (statistics) learning when students take their own biometric data, the other is studying how science education is improved when students have to make logical arguments.
I've been thinking a lot about the reading I've done recently and wanted to discuss some questions with you all. I posted these same questions in a section of one of my classes today because I wanted to see what system "insiders" had to say. But I'm also very interested in the opinions of those outside the education establishment. Here is what I wrote:
In the Martinez book
most of us have studied for Dr. Lee's class this semester, part of the
working definition of learning in that book is that people's minds will
be open to new ideas, to reconfigure schema as necessary. According to
educational psychologists and learning scientists, therefore, to be
educated means that you are willing to be open to new ideas.
yet, in every one of our classes, we work with children whose parents
are terrified of this very thing. Years ago I knew a man who was asking
me about his daughter's English class--why couldn't her AP English
teacher just teach her writing and proper grammar? "Why," I'll never
forget him saying, "do they have to read all these awful books and cram
her head full of ideas?" He was a very religious man; his concern was
that his daughter would reject his world view if she was too encouraged
to seek her own. And yet, he was a successful accountant with a degree.
No doubt he would consider himself to be very educated.
I've taught both sex education and evolution in very conservative
states. (Utah and Texas.) Ethics questions are very real and
complicated. . . and sometimes honesty as the best policy means the
phone will ring off the hook after school. What might be common sense to
one person might not be so common or make any sense at all to another.
So now for my question(s): What do we do as teachers when what we are
trying to teach our students puts us at odds with members of our school
community? How do we encourage students to explore new ideas and
possibilities without undermining parental authority or rights? What
have been your experiences with teaching controversial subjects? How do
we address this very fundamental disconnect between our most
conservative communities and one of the stated goals of real learning
(the opening of the mind)?
"And it is very real--people are leaving
public schools in astonishing numbers to home school with no more
credentials than seminary graduation and righteous indignation. Our
current political climate is toxic to our schools and half of our
families tune in every night for another tirade about the place down the
street where you send your kids on the bus every day to become little
comrades, or just as bad, liberals. What can be done?
Before anybody says anything, of course I know that this isn't the reason that all home school parents use. The argument was to make a point.