So when Doug Belshaw asked if I would contribute to the #500words Purpos/ed challenge, a month long “borderless forum” discussing and promoting debate around the purpose of education. I was honoured to be included but also a little nervous about what I would say. And the more I think about it – there is so much more than 500 words to be said – I’ve written this 3-4 times now!
I can relate to Stephen Downes‘ post – I also rebelled (to an extent, I still do!). It certainly wasn’t what the guidance staff would have predicted to be my chosen life path (half way through a PhD, on a teaching qualification and working as a lecturer part time – I bet they’d enjoy that for a laugh!) Leaving school at 16, with decent grades nevertheless, I was disenfranchised at school and frustrated by small town living. It was a last minute decision to apply for a course at a local campus of the University of Paisley (now UWS). I was young, I really didn’t know what university entailed – I never did the campus tours, league tables, the UCAS applications, the employability expectations, the student satisfaction results – I was just curious to learn – and this university was on my door step, making it possible. (And yes, this was less than 10 years ago, I’m incredibly protective of the access that that local university and subject area has given me and other alumni to education, who may have never been in circumstances to pursue a degree elsewhere)
My disenfranchised experiences have definitely informed my teaching practise – I often joke that I’m “poacher turned gameskeeper” in some of the circumstances that Christina Costa puts it well in her purposed post: “Educators who care, will embed it into their teaching. Those who are not aware of it, comply with (a decadent) system.” She continues, with reference to the vastly differing teaching contexts she’s been exposed to. “They want to be engaged, they want to create something, and they equally want to be inspired and get answers to why what they (are asked to) do is important.” Having never set out to be a teacher, or thinking about education in this way, I’ve found myself reflecting constantly about who I am here, how I can promote and/or reject systems equally, or more positively, make sure that I embed and make aware that the standardisation approach to education (that Lou McGill explores) is just not for me. As Keri Facer puts so well, we are facing challenging times, and how we consider education within this world required a much bigger debate than a simple reverting to a divide between those who challenge the system and those who maintain who maintain it. The temptation to think there are sides to take should be resisted.
Therefore, in this approaching nasty climate of ‘corporate skills’ and commercialisation of education in the UK (something which unfortunately will have a dominant place in Universities in the meantime), it will be my role as a future educator/academic (whatever that means post 2012) to make sure that we don’t let them take away some of the simple benefits that access to education can provide for people. Things like choice and decision making – which Mark Berthelemy touches on – where instead of being a competition to be ‘the best’ – we can help people realise what they might be good at, starting fires, not topping up on Michael Gove’s idea of education as fact learning, bucket filling contested drivel. Ok, I’m relatively new to beginning on the other side of education – but I fully intent to make sure to continue to explore and promote the purpose of education beyond the dreadful media narratives that we are being exposed to on a daily basis.
(Argh, no more words left! – to be continued!)