An Educator in Exile

Article excerpt

The author discusses in this article what it feels like to be in exile because present educational organization has lost meaning for him. He proposes that the model of external education is no longer relevant in the postmodern world. The author suggests that there is a revolution happening in education today and most of us don't want to face it. Mainly, he suggests a curriculum of possibilities for those 1 ike him in exile.

I belong to an organization that for all practical purposes is dead; it no longer has meaning for me in this postmodern world. Lesson plans, competency-based testing, goals, objectives, and so on, and so on! The model of the curriculum having the teacher stand in the front of the room transmitting information to students by the manipulation of rewards and punishments ceased to work for me several years ago.

Education of the past was one that always seemed to be extrinsically imposed and superficial. To some extent this model of external education is based on the factory model where industries needed workers with specific skills so that the factory could run more efficiently. Even though the "cult of efficiency" is what drives us in education today, we're losing, and we're losing badly.

There is a revolution happening in education today and most of us don't want to come to grips with it. This revolution is not the type where you see people fighting in the streets or throwing bricks through windows. It is a social revolution that has created a climate of uncertainty and discomfort among educators. Basically, we are having an identity crisis in education and many of us feel disoriented. And so many educators almost passionately hold onto the tenets of the dead curriculum because the deterministic and the cult of efficiency-method are all they know. Yet the recent events that took place at Columbine High and other schools throughout the country should force us to look at ourselves and today's students. In fact, the statistics offered by Time magazine (1999) concerning today's students are almost overwhelming. For instance, children spend 11 fewer hours with parents each week as we compare with the 1960s, there is a 721% increase in the number of minutes evening news spent covering homicides from 1993 to 1996, a child now watches 8,000 murders before he leaves elementary school, a 300% increase in teen suicides since the 1960s, and finally there has been a 1,000% increase in depression since the 1950s. (pp. 38-39)

Of course, we can blame parents, TV, teen music, availability of guns, unsafe schools; we can blame the neurosis of the shooters, but perhaps we may come to realize that huge schools of 2,000 students and the factory model of schooling is coming apart at its seams along with its "technical rationality" model of curriculum and teaching. Teach the subject and forget the students is what some of this breakdown is about. At the same time this is happening, we are asking schools to do more than ever. Not only are we asking schools to create a safe environment today, but we are also asking schools to convey a solid base in the three R's, to beef up the Math and Science programs, to be more humanistic, to make students more aware of AIDS, drugs, and on and on it goes! I believe many educators can't take much more and they seem to be disconnected from their teaching, students, and the world around them. They have lost hope, meaning, and feel powerless to do anything about the present state of affairs in education.

Sometimes, I feel many have become numbed by the events of the last two years and just pretend it is all part of a bad dream and eventually it will go away. But sadly it's not going away, and it may even get worse if we don't do something now. The 90's are an exhausted decade. For some teachers and students alike, there's nothing to look for, and nowhere to go. We are lacking a shared vision for schools and a solid foundation to stand on.

Educators, like me, who are in exile sense that our only hope is to journey beyond the dead models of education that are based on deterministic and efficiency methods. …