Total Pageviews

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

First Day of School

"Knowledge is powerful. Once you have truly learned something, no one can take that knowledge away from you; it is yours forever. Once you decide that you want to learn something, no one has the power to stand between you and that knowledge; no one can keep you from learning anything. You will learn exactly as much as you are willing to work for. The act of learning, of coming to understand something new is an empowering act, and it is at the core of our humanity. We are homo sapiens. We learn." (Me, today in class)

If you read the passage above, you've captured the gist of my opening day lecture. I believe all students need to feel a sense of empowerment. They need to understand that they have agency in the world, and that their words, actions, and even beliefs have real impact on their local community, the people around them, and even the world. I spent time today talking about how empowering an authentic educational experience can be.

The beginning of school always gets me thinking about "education", its means and ends. I was thinking today about Andrew Abbott and his "Aims of Education" speech at the University of Chicago entitled "The Zen of Education". There are many good quotes from that speech, but I particularly like when he says that education doesn't have aims, it is the aim.

I teach high school students, and it is so very difficult to break-down their pre-conceptions of education from 8 years in "the system". They have such a strong "sit, get, and spit" mentality, and to talk with them about education as being a journey of self-discovery and intellectual liberation is a tough sell. They sit quietly, smiling and nodding, all the while thinking, "Just tell me what I need to do to get the grade so I can get out of here." Getting them to break through all that and embrace the experience and process is incredibly challenging. But I have all year...persistence often wins the day.


  1. Prayers in support of your persistence, Ben! Excellent insights -- and a fantastic reminder of the value of the education I received at The Castle & beyond!!!

  2. I'm so happy I know about this blog now! I had a professor in grad school call this whole thing "The Matrix". That we (and our students) are a part of the Matrix until we realize that we are, which leads to the subsequent exit from The Matrix. Ever since that analogy (which took me a while to understand, believe it or not),I have felt that it is our duty to make our students aware of the Matrix and the cycle and ideals that they perpetuate without even realizing it. Good luck to you, my dear friend, as we venture into another year of hopeful Matrix-breaking teaching.