Wednesday, October 24, 2007

10.23.07 response to class 8 - Noddings chapters 2,3

The presentation of today was all on the chapters 3 and 4 of Noddings. The classmate to present did mention something at the beginning that reflected my own feelings when I read that chapter. She disagreed from Noddings at first, because she believes in liberal arts education, and she was a little confused whether or not she agreed or disagreed because she wasn't sure when Noddings was referring to college or pre-college education.

I had many mixed feelings when I read this text. I don't think liberal education is a bad idea or a bad option. But also I grew up in a family that has always highly valued formal education and college level education; my grandmother and most of my aunts are teachers and it was simply expected from me that I would finish school with honors and go on to college to make something out of myself and not be stuck in some low qualified profession. So even then some of Noddings arguments contradicted things I have been taught to pursue for my life. The reason why I am in Grad school is not because this particular field is so especially important to me that I had to go to grad school for that, it is rather because I was taught that the more education (degrees) you have, the more educated you are and that makes the difference between you and the garbage truck person.

Two major things in this chapter challenged my view of education then. One is the fact that I have always believe liberal education, college, to be the desired form of education to form a well rounded professional, someone who knows a little about everything and can function in the world, as an educated, respectable person. Two is the fact that I always thought of college education as being something that all people should pursue to get rid of the lower status occupation.

That latter one is actually one of the reasons why this text spoke so much to me, even though I still don't know if I agree much with it. I made me think about one of the main reasons I fight with my boyfriend, who has nothing more than an Associates degree, which I dare not mention to my family or friends in Brazil, and sees absolutely no value for further higher education like a BA, an MA or anything. All he really needs for his occupation are certificates. I do not know whether or not he is right, my mind has been trained to think that the number of degrees you have define what kind of a value you have in the work market.

But in this chapter of Noddings she refuses to accept the idea that all children can learn everything that we propose to teach them. Children have different abilities, and no matter how fine the teaching is, there are always going to be differences in achievements. We all have our strengths and weaknesses.

She even mentions the question about algebra, which is her field of teaching. In real life many people will never use algebra, so why should people struggle through it? The classmate who presented this also started had an idea to refute Noddings argument, an idea that many times in my school life has been the only thing that kept me going in those subjects I hated, and made me actually enjoy them – sometimes is not the subject that matters, but the learning of the technique of getting through that, overcoming something that is not your strenght is a lesson in itself, because that kind of situation is going to be part of life.

Noddings questions how equal access to education can not mean one same education for everybody. Our classmate disagrees with her, saying she always thought that we should let children be exposed to all things. If we do have the chance to choose whatever they like, and education is based on that, what would happen if in 10 years they realize that it was exactly not what they wanted. Then it will be too late to go back, because througout their lives they had been trained for that one thing they thought they wanted. That is why I defend liberal education and disagree with the education tailored for the child.

Noddings says some people are never going to learn certain things and that this fact doesn't make them worse people, we just have different abilities, some are more oriented towards the academic, some are more manual. The problem is that in our society manual work is looked down upon comparing to reflective, philosophical work. I wonder though, if everyone is properly trained they will learn everything – some people just don't get theology or art, because they were not properly exposed to it...? I wonder if everyone got proper exposition to every subject from the liberal arts curriculum, they would all prosper at an acceptable pace. Now the question would be if that curriculum is really meaningful to constitute a fine educated person. Also, even though she says that everyone should not have identical education, but an education that will enhance their talents, one-how would you discover hidden talents, especially in the timid children like me? And how would you decide up to where in education the curriculum should be universal?

She does mention that there are certain things every child should learn, but then I question how democratic that is? At some point we can't talk about democracy. We do have to do things in a dictatorship model.

Noddings points that the liberal arts system is based on political issues, and that is fighting a losing battle. She gives the example of Dr.Seuss story of the star-bellied Sneetches vs the no star Sneetches. She also gave the example how the inner city schools are using a more prestigious model , teaching the children to discuss and create arguments, while the wealthier schools were drilling children for standardized tests. So privileged knowledge is not necessarily the best one. That is a good point. But I guess we can say that there is such a thing as a better model of education. At least in this specific case, the children in the poor school are not getting prepared for the tests but they are learning something important, which is the ability to think critically. But then again, a classmate even raised that argument in class, what is the definition of success? For some might be academic achievement, education, personal satisfaction, or financial success. Financial success will probably come for those who do well in standardized tests and will go to the better schools and get a profession that makes good money. Not necessarily the thinkers.

If we go after this model, everyone succeeded, everyone would go to white collar jobs. Those who did not do as well just as today would go to menial jobs that they fell into because they could not get where they wanted, not because that is what they are good at. But if our society looks at certain occupations as low status, undeserving, really who will want to be in them? Even if I know I have the makings of a great plumber I would probably look into some academic position, just because my family and my society taught me that this is the good type of occupation.

I have the feeling that she defends liberal education for early school grades though. After all how else are children supposed to be exposed to all the abilities they can develop? She does mention that children that have more manual abilities don't have to be doing a menial job, but they can also study the history of their fields. That somehow sounds like she believes that academic knowledge is important.

One of the impressions I get from all this reading thought, is that we are talking about things that are not really going to happen. This confuses me. She mentions that now she is just dreaming. I think it is great to dream, but I really wonder if there is a practical point in all of that or if this is all beautiful talk to stay in the books and in the discussion classes of graduate or teacher prep schools.She talks about a school in which children would be educated to learn about every occupation and profession. That school just doesn't exist, and it is unlikely it will.

1 comment:

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