Ira Shor, Empowering Education
1. "No curriculum can be neutral. All forms of education are political because they can enable or inhibit the questioning habits of students, thus developing or disabling their critical relation to knowledge." (Shor 12-13)
This quote strongly portrays the main theme of the article. It is important to recognize things such as subject matter, textbooks, school funding, etc. because all connect to the politics every classroom. There are a variety of ways to manipulate the learning process by limiting available resources. Issues such as equal funding are extremely large problems to fight and leave some of the biggest impacts. There is no way to claim that textbooks and subject content are neutral because all textbooks are bias of the authors; all people provide one restricted viewpoint of a subject and unless teachers are providing their students with documents from every viewpoint of every concept (which is virtually impossible) the information being taught in the classroom is not neutral. This is how students from the United States graduate from high school with a close-minded background of Western Civilization; It was not until my second year of college until I learned of a non-western country. This narrow spectrum of knowledge is extremely disabling and blinding of all other possible viewpoints.
2. "teachers make many decisions--themes, texts, tests, seating arrangements, rules for speaking, grading systems, learning process, and so on. Through these practical choices, the politics of the classroom are defined, as a critical or uncritical, democratic or authoritarian." (Shor 14)
I find this quote to be a good continuation of the first quote mentioned. After coming to terms with the fact that a curriculum cannot be neutral, it is important for teachers to acknowledge how strongly their choices impact the learning atmosphere in the classroom and ways in which they can counter balance disabling issues that are out of their control. Each decision can either enable or disable students and it is the responsibility of every teacher to find ways to engage each student. In doing so, teachers must acknowledge the fact that every student learns differently and has different interests. This may involve a variety of grading techniques, textbooks, seating arrangements etc. in order to make sure that at some point each students feels most comfortable and engaged in the classroom. Encouraging participation, as also strongly focused upon in this article, is extremely critical to a democratic atmosphere of a classroom. Students can not be engaged by pure lecture. Participation of students sparks curiosity, creativity, and a larger spectrum of knowledge, beliefs, and ideas. Not only is it important for students to have the opportunity to voice their own opinions in the classroom, it is equally important for them to hear the opinions of their peers. This quote shows the true importance of being a teacher. There is an intense amount of responsibility and decision making and each one can leave a huge impact on students. I believe that these choices separate the successful, helpful, unforgettable teachers from the ones who are more concerned with following the directions and collecting a paycheck. Anyone can become a teacher but those who are conscious of making successful decisions definitely stand out from the rest.
3. "People begin life as motivated learners, not as passive beings. Children naturally join the world around them. They learn by interacting, by experimenting, and by using play to internalize the meaning of words and experienced. Language intrigues children: they have needs they want met; they busy the older people in their lives with questions and requests for show me, tell me. But year by year their dynamic learning erodes in passive classrooms not organized around their cultural backgrounds, conditions, or interests. Their curiosity and social instincts decline, until many become nonparticipants." (Shor 17)
I am sorry that this quote is so long, but I found it to be extremely descriptive and correct as to what happens to a child's creativity and curiosity as they grow older. Students are pushed away from their curiosities and creative minds and, unfortunately after years of constant discipline, they learn to become passive and unquestioning. This quote strongly reminds me of the TED video of Ken Robinson of how schools kill creativity. School curriculum and particular teaching styles can strongly disable students. Even though I think this issues has many contributing factors, lack of engagement and participation have a major impact on the encouragement of creativity. If students never question activities, subjects, etc. the only source providing education is the teacher. It is when the students ask questions and add their own thoughts and ideas into class discussions that topics can be taken a step deeper and investigated on a stronger level. If no one bothers to ask questions changes will never be made; changes that often need to be made. By pushing students to be passive and unquestioning, we are raising the future generations of adults to also be unquestioning and inactive. By looking back in history, I find it simple to distinguish between the past when people were taught to have individual ideas, to be active members of society, to produce change, and not be afraid to be curious and creative, and the present where people are much more reserved and spend more time focusing on following the rules and their roles in society. Even though I feel as though structure can be a helpful aid, it is crucial to realize that too much structure (in anything) can be destructible.
I enjoyed reading this article, even though I found it to be very long and somewhat repetitive. The key points of this article were extremely powerful and relevant to what we have been learning in our class. This article definitely left me with a lot to think about; it shows how important a teachers every day decisions are and how critical it is to be conscious of every choice. It was also empowering because the article also focused on how successful a classroom can be because of the decisions of an individual teacher. Though it is stressful to realize how much responsibility teachers have, it is awesome to know how positively they can affect them as well. I think this would be a great article to look back on when I become a teacher and I start to make some of these decisions for my students. I will definitely encourage participation, group work, and asking questions in order to allow them to think critically and be active in the classroom.
This article reminded me a lot of our FNED class. Even though Dr. Bogad's class is like many classes at R.I.C. she has made small, but conscious, changes that have creative an extremely encouraging learning environment. We focus more on class discussions rather than lecture, we have an inclusive seating arrangement and do a variety of activities to help engage people differently. I think many of us knew we liked this class from the beginning of the semester but could not quite figure out why for a few weeks. This proved to me how important these slight changes can be for a student to feel like an active participant rather than an unquestioning listener. And to prove the theories of this article, I personally feel as though I have learned more in FNED than any other class at R.I.C.