Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Ed Knowledge Off the Front Line

It sometimes escapes me that people who are off the front lines know so much about education. Thinking that others don't know anything about what we do is entirely ridiculous. My problem is that I bury myself so far in the idea of fighting the good fight I forget that everyone back home has some knowledge of education and many know a lot about what good education is and what it looks like, even if they've got a different perspective. Running around thinking everyone outside the field can "hardly understand" is pretty arrogant and negative. Having conversations with people completely outside of the field can bring you back down to earth and off the lone-ranger high horse and help to remind you that plenty of people know about education.

This weekend my younger brother took time out of his busy schedule to visit me, flying over from the parallel American universe we lovingly refer to as Kansas. We hit the town, got soaked in the monsoon that blew through and had a pretty great time overall. Shortly before he left we went to a German restaurant near my apartment for a beer. Once there we got to talking about our family, business, his approaching wedding, politics, the wide world of education and a number of other things would-be adults generally discuss.

Now, my brother is an educated guy, but he's not in the field of education. He's finishing his degree in business this spring (while playing on a nationally-renowned collegiate table-tennis team) and will probably land a solid job in the next few months to start his career out in Oz. While I didn't expect him to be void of opinions on the major issues facing the field of education, I was blown away by his views that were not only well-based, but not sweeping generalizations like many of the things I even say about the field. It was very apparent that he'd learned a good amount about the issues, had strong (but not extreme) opinions backed up by facts and was willing to stop elaborating on them when he could no longer do so. On top of that, he listened very carefully when I expanded on his opinions, giving him more facts and my own opinions about the field.

In the school of education I was sometimes indignant when people offered their opinions on what was happening in my field. How could they possibly know? They'd never been there! Never mind that I hadn't either. I'd been through years of boot camp. Clearly I had something to say and others should have been listening. Never mind that they'd gone through the system themselves; never mind that they might know people in the field; never mind that they simply could have done a lot of reading about education, which is headline news more and more these days. I was a very nearly a teacher and therefore an expert on everything related to the classroom!

Riiiight. While people outside the field may not know what it's like to control a classroom, they understand many of the issues surrounding the system- much like those who've chosen to educate themselves about U.S. foreign policy know to a certain extent why our armed forces do what they do in the Middle East. To take it a step further, the public should be informed about issues going on in the wide world of education (and the Middle East) and should have a strong desire to get to the roots of the problems with the system. To discourage discussion of those issues and act like a know-it-all is hardly going to drum up support for sweeping changes in the system and may even turn people off to the future teachers going through the traditional route to the classroom, which is how most teachers are still prepared before marching off to the front line.

Today's Wine: The beer in a glass boot I shared with the table tennis champ.


  1. Excellent information. I still believe that to completely understand the education system, you need to spend some time in a classroom.

  2. You make an excellent point. Having come to teaching far and away from my first "lives" as an artist, marketing copywriter, wife/mother, I entered teaching with my eyes wide open. I am proud of my profession, and my accomplishments in helping students learn, grown, and become critical thinkers. I agree that teachers often think their opinion is the only one that matters; however, perhaps because their voices have been marginalized for far too long, they are a bit more defensive? How many times in your career have you been asked to influence curriculum, set state standards, or explain what "best practice" is to novice educators? These sorts of true reforms tend to come from top-down, outside influences that have more than their fair say. And those voices and opinions also speak with their votes, too (the great levy equalizer!) I don't like sweeping generalizations or stereotypes on either side, and I'm only really sorry that there are sides, after all.

  3. While I do think PapaD19's idea of spending time inside the classroom makes alot of sense (people who think they know something about teaching and the educational system need to experience it first hand) I think understanding the educational system completely is near impossible. It is extremely vast and complicated. I think one can only get a better understanding of it. (Go Shocks)