What is Education?

Considering that we are on the eve of the new school year, Laura Blankenship has written a very timely post on the question: what is (higher?) education. Among the thoughts that most piqued my interest were the following:

We may be teaching literature or writing or math, but we are also always teaching something about what we think education is or should be and how we think our students should pursue it.

This is one of those truths that nonetheless should be regularly restated.

[As an undergraduate,] though I wanted to learn, I was often overwhelmed by the work and had trouble balancing my social life and my school life. I gravitated toward classes where there was more freedom to explore ideas–literature, philosophy–and was less about learning facts–science.

Does this reflect only Laura’s perspective as a student or can we learn something about students in general from this? Laura’s statement strikes a chord with something Bill Frawley said at a lunch meeting the other day: That perhaps we need to think about a curriculum with less structure, but more possibility for depth.

I am chafing against the idea that technology is just a skill to be learned. To me, technology, especially web technologies, can open up a whole new way of learning and interacting with information and people. Certainly there are skills to be learned before that can happen, but the point of learning the skills isn’t just to say that you now know those skills. The point is you now have the ability to be learning for yourself–about whatever you want.

Amen! This is the biggest hurdle for non-Web2.0-savvy faculty to get over.

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