A Seminal Book, 48 years later.

2214274Way back in college, as a doe-eyed, impressionable, young teacher to be, I read a grim book for one of my Educational Policy classes, Teaching As a Subversive Activity, written by Dr. Neil Postman, who seemed to have a knack for pushing what felt like mostly reasonable ideas into absurdity and calling them brilliant. He had crazy ideas like TV and the media were killing our social structure, Technology will take over our lives, and that we are eroding the mental health of children with too much screen time, nutty ideas like that.

The absurd tenant of Subversive Activity was that behind the simple subject matter and curricula that we offer kids is this hidden agenda of how you learn. Postman argued that this secret message was more lasting than any singular part of the curriculum and more corrosive.  It was his contention that students needed to ask questions rather than be fed answers.

Dr. Postman had an amazing ability to point toward flaws and systemic issues, but no great talent for as offering solutions. As a result, many of the great minds in education; along with a bunch of us slightly less than great minds, have been pondering the complexity of the issue.

Almost fifty years later, I think it is fair to say we are closer to finding a better kind of subversion, or perhaps a healthier approach to teaching. it would now be difficult to discuss educational reform without focusing on topics like Inquiry based learning, problem/project based learning, design thinking, and student makerspaces, and the fostering of both creativity and curiosity.

I admit that is slow progress, and that I would prefer a more complete solution, but there is also good irony in the frustration I feel at having to slowly dig through the depths of the problem rather than simply being given the answer.


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