St. Stephen's Musings

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:: Friday, December 03, 2004 ::

What About How To Teach?

Yesterday, in my literary criticism and theory class, a vigorous discussion broke out regarding the purpose of education and the place of theory in the classroom.

Fans of playwright Tom Stoppard will enjoy the following bit of "verbal tennis" written by Professor Plum in a brilliant essay on the dangers of Constructivism in modern educational theory. It perfectly describes the mindset of many of my fellow peers in the English and Philosophy departments:

Imagine that the large, empty, circular white room has ten doors leading to a hallway. The hallway, too, is circular. There's no way out of the building. All doors open back into the same white room. Every ten years or so, the inmates head for a door.

"Let's get outa here."
"Yeah, time for a change."
"I think we've said everything that can be said."
"Written everything that can be written."
"Gotten all the grants that could be gotten from the money cow."
"I agree."
"Innovation. That's the key."
"Forward and Upward and Competence and Knowledge!"
"Yes, time for a new initiative."

And so they race out into the hall and race back in through another door.

"Okay, we're back."
"Now what?"
"I don't know."
"Some innovation."
"A new initiative."
"To prepare students for responsible and productive citizenship in a global society."
"What's that mean?"
"I have no idea."
"A new way of knowing!"
"For a new world!!"
"A postindustrial world."
"A postmodern world."
"I think you're onto something, Dr. Mumblemore!"
"Yes. Yes. New courses. New programs. New paradigms."
"What's a paradigm?"
"I don't know. Possibly something."
"A Bachelors Degree in Relativity."
"A Master of Sensitive Narratives."
"A Doctor of Deconstruction."
"We'll have to revise our mission statement."
"And our syllabi."
"And our matrices and rubrics."

[New Guy:] "What about how to teach?"

"You're new here, aren't you?"

:: Karl :: 7:43:00 AM [Link] ::

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