Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Post Apocolyptic

Last night I watched a History Channel "what if?" piece about life during and after a massive, population-eradicating pandemic.  It was an interesting piece in which the story follows one family and their attempts to survive the widespread disease and death as it plays out in their home city of LA.

Towards the end - 25 years after the 'panpocolypse' (my word), life requires a new oldish way of doing things.  The people are living in smaller communities and growing their own food.  There are small towns with small town doctors and local law enforcement (as in a kind of Sheriff.)  Some may call it a sustainable lifestyle.  As it's wrapping up, there is a mouthful of words about education.  The narrator says something about how the children are now being taught useful skills/information and then a somewhat glib comment follows that 'the [text] books didn't get sick' [and can therefore continue to be used].

Of course, I got snagged on the phrase "useful skills/information".  Useful.  The children are now (in this new, old world) being taught useful information, useful skills.

While I am completely aware that things may not go this particular way, I am also aware that the time for people to learn Useful Information and Useful Skills is right now.  Why wait till our thin veneer of civilization has crumbled?

The point I am trying to make to both you and myself, is that I snagged on the whole 'useful' terminology because what it means is that much of what children are being taught now is useless.  The way I see it, the fundamental goal of education is to help the learners to begin to grasp two things:  1) How the world around them works (including what we understand about the Universe) - which is easy because all children are curious about this, and 2) How they work (which is to say, knowing themselves) and what that means in the larger context.

This qualifies as "useful information building blocks".  A starter kit, if you will.  And a tremendous gift.

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