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Friday, January 05, 2018

We must reverse the ‘outcome oriented’ educational monster we have unleashed | The Guardian - Education

"We are in the midst of a serious epidemic of scapegoating our youth" says Cathy Davidson, distinguished professor of English and directs the Futures Initiative at the Graduate Center, CUNY.

Photo:  Dave and Les Jacobs/Getty Images/Blend Images

Enter the search term “millennial” and one is presented with a flood of punditry that diagnoses college students as “excellent sheep” who are so gobsmacked by Google and so “spoon-fed” by doting parents that they can no longer cope with difficulty or perform complex mental operations. I disagree. With over three decades as a college professor, I believe it’s time educators proposed a more accurate pathology of the problems facing youth today and offered a better cure.

First, let’s reconsider who these supposedly coddled students really are. When I ask beginning students when they first realised they were creatures of history, not simply independent actors, they routinely name the 2008 global financial crisis. They would have been 10 or 12 when the world’s leaders appeared on their TV screen to deliver the unprecedented message that the fortunes of corporations, nations, and individuals had vanished overnight. Fast forward to the present and the United Nation’s International Labour Organization (ILO) warning that some 75% of the world’s workers are now employed in temporary, contingent jobs or in unpaid family jobs.

Millennials and their younger siblings know difficulty. They were reared on it. No college generation in recent times has faced greater global challenges or an educational system more in need of redesign to prepare them for these challenges. Because of an irresponsible older generation’s abdication of support for higher education as a public good, students in many countries today pay higher tuition and leave with greater debt than ever before. No generation since the second world war has had to face more real and present danger from resurgent fascism, the possibility of nuclear holocaust, or environmental collapse, compounded by powerful leaders determined to deny these realities. Students are warned that the “robots are coming” but offered an educational system that seems designed not to combat the robots but to turn students into poor facsimiles of them...

Whether I am teaching a traditional literature course or one focusing on new technologies, digital literacy, and information systems (my two areas of specialisation), I deconstruct the passivity and mindlessness of traditional schooling and challenge my students to take responsibility for their learning by using active, engaged learning principles from Maria Montessori,John Dewey, Paulo Freire, bell hooks and Audre Lorde.  

My students work hard, but they see that they are learning skills they will rely on long after the course grade is in and the diploma issued. They take the lead in designing our syllabus, using one another and the internet as constant resources to collaboratively work through challenging problems together. They analyse and even design our assessment methods and conduct rigorous peer review of one another’s work before approving it for publication to an open, free website. They take pride in making an original contribution to public knowledge. 

Source: The Guardian