It is far too easy to get cynical about education; the questions of its potential, purpose and possibilities of impact often going down the cynical rabbit hole. Sometimes if can feel as though a never ending cycle of read and repeat, homework, sleep.
When I came to University of Colorado Boulder, I believed the common misconception that I would be stuck in lectures all day and get lost in the classrooms of mass education. I thought that the teachers would never know who I was amidst all the other faces in the crowd and that I would essentially be self educating myself with graduate student teachers and teacher assistants. However, that has entirely not been the case at all during my time here and I can name multiple professors that I had last year were a catalyst for personal and academic change. Extraordinary teachers and even more inspiring humans. You do have to consciously search for these teachers, but I have found that there are an abundant amount of them on campus.
I wanted to write this post as I was so inspired my class today; the discussion and discourse we had as a class juxtaposed by our professors guidance was what I have always wanted in a college classroom experience. I am talking about my honors Literature and Social Violence discourse seminar class with Professor Comstock where there are no barriers to the discussion or ideas shared by any of us. She even jokingly says to close the doors because you never know whose going to be walking by and hear whatever we are saying in this room. Myself and twelve other students with emotional intelligence beyond belief dive into topics of race, education, sustainability and everything in-between with lenses of compassion, curiosity and more importantly, respectable discussion and discourse. While there are only twelve students in the case, it is phenomenal the range of opinions people have from vastly diverse backgrounds. This class is already changing my own education within a few weeks and I am consistently blown away after each class by the exchange of ideas, beliefs, thoughts and conversation that takes place.
Today we discussed the state of education after reading articles regarding liberals separating from the teachers unions, why compassion and empathy is a skill students should be learning in schools and why teachers in Washington boycotted a standardized test. I was assigned to start the discussion with a question or concept which was mirroring the idea of the chicken and the egg and which came first, only with teachers and students. Is it the role of the teachers to deal with the challenges that students come with or is it the expectation of students to be molded into a form by teachers? This launched into a discussion of beliefs shared by many that there are very few things that benefit the teacher that don’t benefit the student and vice versa. This was followed by one particularly poignant idea that students are the only consumers whose opinions don’t matter. That concept struck me hard and inspired the next question I posed to the group that was in relation to a quote that was recently shared in my Chinese History class of all places. In reference to Steve Jobs who believed it wasn’t the consumers job to know what they wanted, does this hold true to the relationship between students and teachers as well as the education system as a whole? As a group we also recognized that teachers don’t stand on their own, but are part of a complex system of policy and politics. One student studying to become a teacher shared that in her training currently, she is constantly reminded that teachers are saving lives. Which they are. And not only are they saving lives, they are nurturing and fueling lives which can’t be said for many professions in this world.
As a class, we then watched a fifteen minute interview with Jeffrey Canada, conducted by 60 minutes and Anderson Cooper in regard to the Harlem Children’s school in Harlem, New York. While this video was from 2009, it is still very much relevant, poignant and interesting to today’s education debate. I had learned about Canada from my School & Society class last semester, but this short video blew me away again. The Harlem Children School and Jeffrey Canada are a testament to the power of education and human potential. My heart ached watching this video because it reminded me the unbelievable, magical power of education and why its so critical that everyone in the world has the opportunity to not only go to school, but to succeed in life. It is remarkable what Canada has done and I almost cried after watching this interview. Teachers are saving lives and education is quite honestly the most powerful force in the world today.
After the video, our class continued to discuss education and the challenges that students of all ages and abilities face inside and outside the classroom. The entire class, a small feeling and voice in the back of my head was humming with joy because this classroom, my fellow students, Professor Comstock; this is what education is. Education isn’t sitting in a classroom, listening to a slideshow, clicking in a answer, reading endless textbook pages and repeating it all onto a test comprised of bubbles to be filled in by a number two pencils. Education is learning how to learn, think and collaborating with other students who are also there not to be right or wrong, but to share thoughts and beliefs inspired by content.
Needless to say, it was an inspiring day in my world to be at college and one that I will always remember. I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up, but I do know that what I am learning in this class will be part of me and my personal evolution for the rest of my life. Here is to the semester and many more ahead. Cheers.
(I have included links to the articles and video interview)
Interview with Jeffrey Canada: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Di0-xN6xc_w