I’ve just read an interview with Noam Chomsky in which he suggests that effective education doesn’t teach to tests, but teaches students to discuss and explore processes, events, issues, problems.
This reflects my own philosophy of education. I never tried to teach my students the right answers. Their grades didn’t depend on their agreeing with me or with any particular theory we might be studying. Their grade depended on their ability to describe each theory, or each side of an issue, in a way that someone espousing that theory would agree fairly reflects their thinking. Then, and only then, do I think we have the credentials to make our own decisions.
Every once in a while, a student would say he or she didn’t want to learn about some theory or other because he didn’t agree with it.
How in heavens’ name can we legitimately disagree with someone if we don’t know what they are saying?
I’ve once again gotten so excited about the value of understanding the points of view with which we disagree that I’ve even fantasized writing a book for teachers who are mandated by state law to teach both Darwin’s theory of evolution and Creationism.
What an incredible opportunity for a teacher in this position!
This is a topic about which feelings run so deep that they often suffocate rational discussion. And I am not talking only about the view of Creationists. I have met Evolutionists (with whom I happen to agree, by the way) who are as dogmatic, close-minded, and judgemental about Creationists as any one. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could learn in the classroom to take the alternative seriously, seriously enough to grapple with the legitimate claims of both sides?
Wouldn’t we have brighter students? And would we have a society that is more tolerant of those with whom we disagree?
Oh no, I’m not going to write another book! There’s too much work to do in the garden anyway.