A Set of Values for Education

So much of what we call education is small minded. Even something seemingly large, such as a student learning outcome, reduces a layered, individual human experience to a standardized bullet point. Rarely in education do we speak of big, unanswerable questions; rarely do we speak of passion and inspiration; never do we mention dreams aside from the ones involving a good GPA.

Honestly, the longer I am in the system, the more aghast I am at its values. My current institution, with the help of the state of California, has become a factory that turns out transfer-ready widgets. Over the years I’ve made arguments about the educational value of certain courses and certain approaches, but such arguments hold no weight in a place that does not truly value learning.

Over the years I have had to create my own set of values that I try to stick with despite considerable social, cultural, and administrative pressure to do otherwise. What follows are a few of those values:

Remember that learning is about thinking and understanding, not about the mindless memorization and regurgitation of facts.

Involve students in big discussions about real things, and ask for their ideas.

Always treat learning as an intrinsically interesting activity, and avoid devaluing it with extrinsic motivators such as points or grades.

Let love be the main emotion in the classroom and the guide to all decision making.

Appreciate the individuality of each student; never compare or attempt to standardize students.

Share your own unique excitement about life, about what you have explore, discovered, and created.

Really listen to and hear the points of views of others, especially your students.

Slow down and think.

Allow people, including yourself, to mess up and to change your mind.

Instead of giving a lesson, initiate a conversation.

Create an environment of joy, inquisitiveness, and mutual support in the classroom.

Beware that the stale actors of the world will try to nudge you towards efficiency, mindlessness, and dehumanization.

Listen to the voice saying no to this, and yes to some very unusual ideas about teaching and learning.

Meditate so that you can hear those unusual ideas.

Put your thoughts out into the world so that kindred spirits know they are not alone.

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