If I were to walk down town and ask the average passerby what a school was they would probably describe something along the lines of “a place you can go to learn” (Passerby). This statement is technically true however “learn” is a very broad definition meaning to acquire knowledge or skills through experience, study, or teaching. When the average passerby says learn we can assume they are, for the most part, describing a teacher delivering knowledge to their students. This is how we as a society define learning. I would hazard that learning this definition is not the definition we should use. If what I am suggesting is true our school system is tragically misusing arguably the most important years of someone’s life. This is because they are learning not learning.
In 1979 Jean Anyon wrote “Social Class and the Hidden Curriculum of Work” suggesting that schools from different socioeconomic areas have, intentionally or not, different philosophies which determined how students should be taught. She described her observations of four distinct philosophies but, for the purposes of this argument, it is only necessary to look at and compare two of these philosophies. Anyon labels these two philosophies Middle Class and Executive Elite.
The Middle Class philosophy as Anyon defines it, revolves around “getting the right answer” (5). In our schools today this looks like the lecture and multiple choice test that most students experience. This Middle Class system, as our average passerby’s definition would confirm, is how society thinks our students should learn. Anyon further describes these classrooms, “There is little excitement in schoolwork for the children, and the assignments are perceived as having little to do...
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... in the areas this system favors. If they do not is is detrimental to them as they have no way to further develop their proficiency in the informational and mental lockdown this system creates. Learning, similar to the problem posing system, opens up the horizons. The student learn even if they do not have a proficiency it is something they can develop and grow. The best one can do with a piece of knowledge and no applicable skill is not forget it. If nothing else, the student can become more efficient at communication within this system’s conversations rather than shunned as unintelligent. The students who want to excel as they learn always can and they will walk away with a belt of tools ready to be used and sharpened rather than a container of facts that must be continually be patched less each piece of trivial knowledge slowly spill out and become lost forever.
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