— Northrop Frye [On Education, 1988 (although much of what is included was completed before that), and we rely too much on memory and so pacify and anaesthetize our young people and so eradicate actual critical, innovative and imaginative thought from the curriculum]
— Northrop Frye [On Education - and he hits it on the head… Again… If you see it, pat yourself on the back, step up to the desk, and get back at it… Way to go! If you don’t… Open your damned eyes, figure it out, and take on the role of teacher with faith, strength, and a love of mankind with a vision of a better future sans objective-based testing idiocy that trains drones and worker bees, more termites and more ants]
— Northrop Frye 
— Northrop Frye
— William James [1899, and his parting advice from his lectures and discussions with teachers in his era as he shared ideas and psychology of the day with them in order to help them continue the search for excellence, find new and more useful avenues to reach the pupils and help build a stronger and more vital nation]
— William James [1899… and furthering the idea that not all pupils, not all people are the same and to treat them as such and expect everyone to respond the same and score the same on standardized tests, to complete standardized tests in the same time and manner, is obvious folly and against our very nature and belief systems - in variation and depth of character, skills, and abilities. It speaks that no matter how hard we try, how hard we ply all the skills, practice tests and more, some students will struggle, for many reasons, and there is no real predictor for year-to-year improvement (a lot of things happen in a year, good and bad, and a lot of things happen in a day, good and bad, and these are NEVER considered or factored into the mechanical equations and sterile treatment of pupils by the testing machinery)]
I know few people actually read this stuff, and in the grand scheme I am perfectly okay with that. In our tightening world and existence, if a few do, then the potential is magnified, but in asking myself why I write here, the answer remains what it was when I started teaching:
To try to make the world a better place one person at a time.
If this affects one person, it has achieved its end. If one person stops and thinks, puts a truth together with another and meshes it into a long line if successive aspects, centers and ratios to lead to another wondrous truth that perhaps makes the world a better place 50, 100, 200 years from now, that would be grand. I won’t be around to see it, and I would not even be a speck of dust [or an atom on a speck of dust] in someone’s eye at that point, but mankind may progress in a positive light, the noosphere of us.
First and foremost let me state that I am a practicing Christian, and I believe it calls me forth to teach to the best of my abilities in all phases at all times and in all manners possible. If I have to break down a few doors and become unpopular in some arenas, so be it, as long as what I do is for the perpetual betterment of the students, the community, our country, and our species and this planet. The future is an unwritten tablet, and we can only surmise where and how things will occur and flow [all the stats and readings you could do in a lifetime would but be a grain of sand on the beach of knowledge about what might be].
So, as we look into the past, as we peer ever so limited into our ancestors and the beginnings of this planet, our species, the nations, the nature of us and more, arguably there are two different ideas about that [I reject both hard stances and instead tend to go closer to Pierre Teilhard de Chardin’s thinking, and that is why I thank God I found him and have been able to read a man who meshes my science background with my literary and religious backgrounds and beliefs, and makes complete sense in all phases]: Science an Religion. I capitalize both because when people, groups, and political-media pundits and spokesmen get behind one or the other, there is complete intransigence and immobility, ears shut off, and narrow-minded, limited parroting steps in, and thinking, real critical and analytical thinking and perspective steps aside in favor of dogma and authority.
Do I believe in Creation? Yes. Do I believe it happened exactly the way the Bible says? Well, considering the Bible does not do a step-by-step scientific process and much of the Bible is parable and metaphor, hyperbole and understatement for purposes of teaching the people, I would answer NO. I believe God’s ways, the vast majority of them, are beyond our capacity as mere mortals with limited earthly lifespans to grasp. We grasp on spoke in the wheel of creation and think we see and understand the whole mechanism, but this is folly. It is hubris to think that we can understand completely God’s work in this fashion, and He likely would not want us to know because then we would be Him, and we are not that. Is Creation a Science? NO. Creation is a belief in the way things happened, and it has no physical evidence to support it, no scientific support, so it is literary, philosophical, religious, not scientific.
Science has found, through paleontology and archaeology, evidence of a far distant past. Does this past have vast holes and crevasses in it [keenly pointed out by authors like Michael Behe]? Of course. As de Chardin points out, these are probably more vast than most people can imagine, and although we will likely never see or find evidence of early protozoa or single cell organisms that first sprung out of the chemicals and crystalline composites washed into the slowly growing ponds and streams of life, and we will likely never find evidence of those early creatures who had not cartilage and no bone, based upon today’s creatures, today’s world, and our understanding of science, there is a likelihood. We can look at some things in the lab, see chemical breakdowns and predict outcomes. We have narrow fossil evidence through which we have endeavored to better understand our ancestral traces. Does this mean science is flawless? Ha, not in any way, shape or form, and it continually updates, like math and history and numerous other subjects of study, but we have what we know [and perhaps de Chardin’s thinking about convergent evolution, that we are the only apparent species in all the world, on this entire planet, past and present, that appears to the on this path while all others look to be on divergent evolutionary paths, this should give the creationists some hope and an avenue to explore].
Texas like to purport itself as a leading influence [on what and for what is another story, ha, but in time there I saw some very interesting processes passed off as higher level thinking - not that I do not see it here in California or in other places in the world when I travel, but there is an ego attached to the thinking in Texas that seems to supersede logic and reason, casts it asunder in the name of all things … whatever … fill in the blank]. Anyway, beyond my generalization, the political-media machine in that state has moved to include Creation in the Science textbooks. This is in error…
Science is science, experimental, research-based, and potentially flawed, but at least you can retrace steps, try again, and perhaps find a new avenue, a never thought of way or process [another step in understanding some of the variable and wondrous mechanisms of God’s handiwork]. However, Creation is philosophic, literary, and religious, a belief with no visible evidence unless we want to point to all we do not know and say “Because we do not know, it is too complex and therefore God created it,” and this opens up to scientific experiment then: to question, theorize, and accept that some aspects may be flawed and require further experiment and research. I do not think the people throwing Creation in a Science text want Creation questioned, called into doubt, or experimented upon [but I could be wrong].
What’s the solution? It’s rather easy. Let Science put experimental, research-based theories and evidence in Science textbooks and teach scientific method [which comes out of our search for creation, understanding how we got here, what mechanisms were and are at play, and why these things came together amongst many other things]. Let Religion either be studied in Religion classes or in Literature classes [as Northrop Frye suggests, even though he was not purporting it be taught as religious studies but as metaphor and texture, culture and more of Western Civilization because at the moment we do not study something that was a primary mover and shaker in the creation of literary works and ideals in Western Civilization] as part of a study on these aspects, that would, in following Frye’s idea, study Greek and Roman mythology as well, not as religions, but as metaphor and subtext to our literary, philosophical, and cultural background: the things that helped shape who and what we are, and people who both followed and rejected the myths/religion of that time influenced Christianity well into the 1700s through their commentaries and writings.
Problem solved. Put each thing where it belongs, teach it there, and open up the avenues of creative, innovative, open-minded exploration and discussion. Begin a great conversation based upon what we know, what we don’t know, what we surmise, and what we believe it all leads to. Drop the dogma. Drop the authoritarian and self-righteousness at the door, and let freedom reign. When we open people’s minds, particularly the naturally curious young, they will find answers and pose questions that our best and brightest could not imagine or answer because they are unfettered with narrow-minded, mass-minded, pre-packaged solutions and things passed off as thinking that are mere repetition of old information [our modern way of teaching and testing thanks to our backwards view of learning - the modern tragedy lived out daily in our nation’s classrooms].
Robert Oppenheimer said he could pose a problematic physics question or theory for which he has been searching for answers and not finding them, his colleagues in the same situation, to a group of random children outside, and unburdened by adult idiocy, free to just be them, they would likely come up with an answer in seconds. I have done an injustice to the way he worded it, but you hopefully get the drift. These men, these scientists, so locked into their thinking and their own understanding, could not see the solution right in front of them [could not I suppose, see the forest for the trees], but the children outside his window, the ones playing on the grass or in the park, they might be able to furnish a solution.
We do not give enough credit to our young, and we assume we must smash them into an educated pulp and send them to the next level, stricken with the factoids and formulas, the “things you need to know” and creating in them a lifelong series of biases and prejudices.
Let’s think about Science and Creation. Let’s give some credit to our young and give them some freedom to explore the answers, to venture into innovative and creative ways to discover the world and themselves, and in so doing, help them find their futures, discover them, and build a better world and nation, improve upon what is here. I have this dream.
We plan for today’s world using yesterday’s techniques without even considering the future [the real future, the nature of it, the potentialities, even those who think they do cannot because they are stuck using the tools of today/yesterday].
Education is a doomsday machine. In an era where PowerPoint, recordings, and YouTube and PodCasts are OLD, out of fashion, boring and ineffectual to the student audiences that were enthralled just a few short years ago, we cling to these forms of presentation. We throw in movies where we can, a projected piece of data where we can find a way, and exchange the chalkboard for a whiteboard and think the cleanliness and linear style will pave the way to enlightenment.
Today’s students simply cannot find any interest in a PowerPoint. PodCasts are too slow or grainy, voice recordings, even through iTunes, can only garner interest for a few minutes. In an era of handheld computerized devices formerly known as cell phones [there must come a new and more accurate label or name, and even our continued use of the term cell phone indicates our prehistoric thinking and understanding of these devices] how can our presentations, our mechanisms of education match the all-at-once, everything at your fingertips, instant knowledge and communication deeply involved world?
Our answer, legislated from the top down, is to test via old standards. It is to try to force-feed old styles and mechanisms into the hearts and minds of students who see the new world before them as totally distinct and unrelated to the world we teach and test in class. Our so-called standardized tests, the same ones some people often say it is easy for their ‘educated’ children can easily pass [perhaps in many cases because they are still performing within a base frame of the older styles] are antiquated measuring tools for measuring potentially valuable data, but often more focused on testing our training of students, not actual learning, creativity and innovation. These linear, one-way, rearview tests do not look to the future that sits in the hands, daily, of our young people and our world.
Adults, those making these debasing and technologically idiotic decisions, hold these very devices in their hands, use them daily, many times a day, and yet cannot seem to fathom their influence on the minds of the young [and younger]. If they cannot even begin to really grasp this relatively simple concept, this obvious occurrence, how then can they even suspect its influence and impact on and in education? The students sense it, the adults ignore it.
Yet again, we sit upon the faltering mechanical thinking of a backward thinking political and educational machine and blame the foot soldiers for the failure to win the war. When we cannot clearly define and understand the war, it should not be surprising that we are losing it.
With incredible stupidity and ignorance, we compare our children [and teachers] to other countries, their scores and supposed understanding of concepts and ideas in math and science [the most common], yet we do not even for a second think to look at the technological differences [our technology should be higher, more socially impacted and more directly involved, so we should expect drastic differences in both learning styles, impacts of prehistoric techniques, and incredible chasms of differentials between our culture and that of another less technologically involved societies]. This does not mean our students are necessarily less intelligent, it simply means we have culturally evolved to a point where many of our thinking processes do not mesh with these older styles of testing, measuring and teaching. As we push students into this old fashioned box called the classroom and remove their devices from their nature, they know how artificial our scholastic environment is from the real world, they rebel, and they see people managing these places as dinosaurs.
We are technologically, socially, and culturally different from other countries and we do not factor into our comparisons these HUGE differences, most importantly the personal handheld and home-based technological differences which cause an incredible shift in culture and focus of our youth. It has always been so, and as we administer rearview tests, stare back into our [even] recent past, and stumble for answers, we do not approach that which continually beckons our central nervous systems attention: handheld devices. This is foolhardy and stupid.
When we approach education and the classroom, we use technology, but it is older mechanisms, and into these older devices [even 2-3 years old is ancient in our hypertechnical and advancing world] we place our old techniques, lessons, standards and styles, believing that the new medium will better enhance the message. However, it diffuses it, it does not make it more acute. It merely adds insult to injury in many cases.
The answers are not simple and will not be readily or easily accepted by the mass-minded and fear-mongering public. The answers are too forward and present thinking and not enough focused on the comfortable past [the good ol’ days and the fond memories we have of things that were not so fond when they happened]. The answers will break from many of our formerly held ethics and methods.
One answer, one that causes headaches and great fear, is actually to not only allow but to integrate and use handheld devices as part of the lessons and classroom learning and testing. To completely integrate their use, to manipulate their use to stretch into new horizons of information, learning, and interest, these would take a small step forward. There is risk, but we have these things before us, the students have them all the time they are outside the classroom, yet we bar them at the door. It seems the risk of not showing them or them showing us how to use these for greater understanding, learning, tolerance and whatever else we can imagine is far greater than them playing with them and figuring ‘stuff’ out on their own, without guidance and challenges to stretch their own distorted views and struggles in their use.
There are other changes, other enhancements, but this one starts the ball rolling. Do you think anyone will notice or care?
— Henry Perkinson [and here we are in 2012 doing just this and more - pathetic but the numbers are visible and we all know, ha, ha, “numbers don’t lie,” but sometimes they only tell a part of the story, look at only a fraction of the whole person/student]
— John Dewey
— John Dewey [from Democracy and Education]
The more I look at it, teaching in our era must transcend the classroom, and places like Missouri and other states who forbid, by law, teachers from having students as so-called friends on Facebook, or forbid email contact or some other such thing are trying to stick a skeletal finger in an expanding crack in the dyke of technology and the modern era. To use McLuhan’s analogy, they are seeing technology and creating their responses via the rearview mirror.
In today’s multimedia, hypermedia world, where students, young people who are not tolerant of slower methods of communication, can see little reason for the 4 walls when the cell and computer, with all apps included, put them in a completely instantaneous world of what McLuhan terms “all-at-once,” how can teachers NOT communicate with students via blogs, so-called social networking sites, email, and other such hypermedia extensions of our selves?
Creating laws and punishments for the use of these technologies restricts the educational process, and this process is not even what it was 5 years ago. It is a whole new world, where students want and need answers now [not in the morning like they used to], where they use these sites to garner information, ideas, and answers. They even pose questions, those innovative and creative things that cause others, including educators, to think.
The rearview, prehistoric view of the technological and educational idiot, saying these things are “wrong” or “unnecessary” has not progressed past the cell phone and a game app or two. These people have not realized this is the new venue for communication, like it or not, and as one Stanford so-called education expert said to me when quizzed about something as inane as standardized testing and evaluating teachers, “This is the train we’re on, and I’m going to try and make that train work as best as it can.” This technology is the train we are on, and it is a bullet-train blasting off into a vast unknown expanse. We can either throw rocks at it, try to derail it, deny its very existence, or we can work with it, in it, and around it to make it work for the betterment of us all.
Teaching is no longer a job where you put in regulated hours at work and you’re done. Besides grading papers and student work at home, you are now expected to maintain and foster vast pools of information for students and parents alike via the electronic media superconductor highway. It sucks hours out of your life, in some cases sucks the life blood out of you. However, this is where we are: the old things [attendance, notes home and communications] tossed into the new technology but the general public, the mass-minded tech/ed idiots, not seeing the future, the more elaborate uses, instead preferring the past…
If we reject the students, if we shun them and block ourselves away, we deny them that all-at-once access they crave and need. We need windows and doors open to them, and here is where it takes place. As often as I think about closing my Facebook account, as often as I stare at the email lists in yahoo, I know these are the venues of now. To deny them would be idiotic, harmful, and backward.
In our all-at-once sensory world of today, when sights and sounds bombard us apparently both at our command and at the whim of the technologies or something of someone related to it, how easily do we accept delays?
Our ability to accept lines, wait times for messages and return calls, attention to our perceived needs, and all that goes along with these is dissipating at a rapid rate. We are used to the instantaneous “now” response of our computers and cellular devices [and all their attached components and apps], and we’ve even shortened our vocabulary to increase the speed of communication and response time. So, if we have to wait a day for a return message, we are deeply annoyed, perhaps even offended, whereas 10-15 years ago, this would easily be the norm. 30 years or more ago, we would not even have an answering machine, so we would never get the message and you would need to keep calling or send a letter via regular post.
As our technology extends itself into our being, into our central nervous system, and not merely as appendage [for an appendage does things at our beck and call and does not call upon us, yelp and squawk for us], our behaviors change, our accepted norms change, and obviously our culture and its processes evolve within this scope and circumstance.
We are now so deeply attached to our technology, or it is attached to us, that we cannot break free without serious mental, social, and in some cases physical injury and/or pain.
In all our human interactions, perhaps we can keep the nature of this change in mind and tolerance, that rapidly disappearing thing we used to, at various times, have more of, would not completely vaporize [like our consciences seem to be doing in this new era].