Mahatma Gandhi on teaching:

A teacher who establishes rapport with the taught, becomes one with them, learns more from them than he teaches them. He who learns nothing from his disciples is, in my opinion, worthless. Whenever I talk with someone I learn from him. I take from him more than I give him. In this way, a true teacher regards himself as a student of his students. If you will teach your pupils with this attitude, you will benefit much from them. (from http://www.infed.org/thinkers/et-gand.htm)

And from Ralph Waldo Emerson:

The secret of education lies in respecting the pupil.

It seems to me that much of the conflict in the argument on education reform is focused on the validity of evaluating teachers based on their ability to prepare students for high stakes testing. Certainly it’s important to have an objective measure of what makes a good teacher. But where is the student voice in this conversation? If we take Gandhi’s and Emerson’s advice, we need to look to our students to guide this discussion. As far as I can tell, neither advocates nor foes of “No Child Left Behind” (which should be labeled “no child gets ahead” — can you tell I’m a foe?) are talking to students about what they believe is important in education.

Gandhi also said:

The real difficulty is that people have no idea of what education truly is. We assess the value of education in the same manner as we assess the value of land or of shares in the stock-exchange market. We want to provide only such education as would enable the student to earn more. We hardly give any thought to the improvement of the character of the educated. The girls, we say, do not have to earn; so why should they be educated? As long as such ideas persist there is no hope of our ever knowing the true value of education.

Children intuitively know what Gandhi is saying. They want an education that is relevant to their growth and development as human beings. The distorted paradigm that Gandhi observes about education reveals our deep disconnect with the idea of vocation. (Vocation, in the sense of the Latin vocatio: a calling to a given way of life.) Education should be a response to this vocational calling, not to some pre-fabricated notion of what serves corporate interests. Children need to have a voice in shaping education because it must be responsive to their vocational discernment. How can we know what and how to teach our children if we don’t to listen to them?

Friday May 13, 2011 — Mark —