“Adjunctification” is a sign of dehumanization

Here’s the post that sparked my thoughts below – a discussion of the precipitous rise of adjuncts in higher ed, from 25% just a few years ago to 75% now in some places.

At Colleges Across the Country, PhDs Join the Ranks of Low-Wage Workers.

The devaluation of the teacher (who is the core of any educational experience) is a serious danger in all education, both K-12 and higher ed. I’m stunned that it’s so hard for politicians and consumers within the system to see that and/or care.

Faculty quality matters. Teacher experience matters. Being trained in pedagogy as a higher ed professor matters. Quality of life for faculty matters. Enabling faculty to have the space and time to mentor students and build relationships matters because education is, at the core, a relational endeavor.

What’s really in play here is that we’re seeing a result of dehumanization within the higher ed system — both of students as “education” has become a commodity to be traded, a transfer of information or skills in direct exchange for “immediate employability” (a concept which itself does damage to the ideas of vocation and calling and a well-lived life), and of faculty, who in this kind of system are of little value beyond quantity of information they can spew to the most students in the least amount of time.

And the colleges are not the only guilty ones here. Families make the college decision based greatly on bottom-line cost, without considering that pound for pound not all education is the same. Two years at a community college are NOT the same cognitive or social experience as a baccalaureate college environment. But because as a society we’re willing to let the “bottom” of the economic strata get by on underfunded community college educations, we’re now seeing the diminished value of education creep up into the middle class.

Understand, I’m not blaming families for making economic decisions – college is expensive. I’m also not blaming colleges for responding to the strident demands of current families and students to be presented with top-notch, brand-new dorms and classroom buildings and entertainment complexes as part of the college experience. The market has spoken.

But the market isn’t our god, nor should it determine our ethics.

 

via At Colleges Across the Country, PhDs Join the Ranks of Low-Wage Workers.

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Link: We Will Never Be Truly Standardized

“We have to teach specifically to our students. We cannot plow our way through scripted curriculum and not stop when a child doesn’t understand or we see an opportunity for further investigation. If we do, then we are not doing our job as teachers. The very nature of what we do and who we do it with prevents true standardization even if politicians think they can test us into submission and sameness.”

Amen.
We must recognize that all good teaching happens in the context of a relationship. In fact, I’d say it’s impossible to achieve GOOD teaching without building that bridge to every individual student.
And once you’ve built the bridge, you can no longer ignore the individuality of the learners who populate your classroom. 
I don’t have as negative an opinion of the Common Core standards that this blogger does — I found the reading & writing core to be helpful and thoughtful.  But no matter how “standardized” our curriculum could become, education rests on the backs of individual TEACHERS.  
And any teacher worth his/her paycheck knows that you cannot standardize wonderful, difficult creatures we know as humans.  It’s part of the imago Dei.

Social & Emotional Learning

There’s more to education than learning facts or even academic skills.

You’d think we’d all agree on that, but “agreement” doesn’t equal actually changing the curriculum or school day to make time for hard-to-measure aspects like emotional maturity, behavioral change, or wisdom.

John Bridgeland recently wrote an article for Huffington Post about emotional and social maturity.
The Missing Piece: How Social and Emotional Learning Can Empower Children and Transform Schools

OK, so the title does seem a bit too ambitious. LOL

But hear what Bridgeland is saying: Kids do much better in life when they learn vital emotional and social skills like sticking with hard tasks even when it’s tough (“grit”), handle stress without breaking down, and treating classmates with compassion even when that isn’t natural. In fact, taking time to discuss and practice such skills helps students overall, even though these skills are rarely referenced in curriculum standards.

The article discusses recent research evidence that suggests these social and emotional skills actually improve classroom/academic performance for many students.  The fact that researchers are obsessed with finding evidence that what all of us know is a good thing for children (strong emotional & social skills) attests to the “science-crazed” state of education practice today — a perfect illustration of the current trend to choose only the “researched” innovation.

So – why value social and emotional health within the curriculum?

  • Good education demands recognizing the full humanity of learners. In other words, if we try to reduce children to data, numbers, and results (usually test results), we risk emphasizing only part of what is needed for a good education. Humans need social interaction, emotional health, creative thinking, and challenges to solve — and none of those can really be “tested” in the artificial environment of the classroom.
  • It doesn’t matter what we *say* is important. Educators (and policy makers) show their real values by what they choose to devote time to in the classroom.  People talk all the time about wanting kids to succeed “in real life,” but many kids recognize that their classroom education is rarely relevant to the “real world” they already encounter.  This need for social & emotional well-being becomes acute during middle and high school, when academic pursuit takes a deep back seat to the drama of the hallways.
  • Information divorced from social/emotional/real world context loses a lot of its value to the life of a learner. But wise teachers are able to connect their learning experiences to more than just the intellectual: social and emotional skills are part of everyday life, so they deserve to be recognized as a necessary and “normal” part of the curriculum.
I’d like to see education policy makers break away from the tyranny of the quantitative research model and recognize the value of the qualitative and hard-to-quantify. 
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And a word to parents:  Emotional maturity includes “grit,” the drive to stick with something even when it’s hard. 
This is one area where parents trump teachers. Don’t let your kid out of the hard moments in life. And don’t give in to a kid’s emotional manipulation on that score to preserve your own “peace of mind.” 
Get in there and plow alongside your child until you comprehend for yourself whether your kid is in over his head (and needs an escape route) or whether they’re just bucking against expending the effort to overcome an obstacle (and therefore need to stay with it, no matter how much they whine).
Don’t be afraid of failure. Be afraid of removing your child’s drive and motivation to overcome failure.

Implications of the Creation Mandate for Education (Part 1)

The Creation Mandate is the foundation of Christian education.  Also known as the Cultural or Dominion Mandate, it implies both the command to educate and the scope of the command. 

What is the Creation Mandate?

According to Wolters, the creation account describes three levels of the creation:  1) Creatio ex nihilo:   God created the world out of nothing, 2)  Creatio secunda:  God created Laws of nature that govern the development of our physical reality.  In this way God governs his creation immediately, or directly.  3)  Creatio tertia:  God governs his creation mediately, or indirectly, through the involvement of human responsibility (Wolters, p. 36).   Under this third facet of the creation account falls what we know as as the Creation Mandate (Genesis 1:26-31; Psalm 8:3-9).  From it we deduce that God created man to be the governor and developer of the creation: 

“Just as a human sovereign does certain things himself, but gives orders to his subordinates for other things, so with God himself.  He put the planets in their orbits, makes the seasons come and go at the proper time, makes seeds grow and animals reproduce, but entrusts to mankind the tasks of making tools, doing justice, producing art, and pursuing scholarship.  In other words, God’s rule of law is immediate in the nonhuman realm but mediate in culture and society.  In the human realm men and women become coworkers with God; as creatures made in God’s image, they too have a kind of lordship over the earth, are God’s viceroys in creation”  (p. 14).

How does the Creation Mandate Imply the Command to Educate?

The Creation Mandate implies the command to educate by establishing that education is a part of the structure of creation.  The Creation Mandate is “societal and cultural in nature,” i.e., having to do with the substance of civilization (Wolters, p. 36).   Just as laws of physics govern the physical realm, certain immaterial expectations govern the created structures  of civilization.  These expectations are known as “norms.”   Scientists adduce nature’s material laws by the scientific method.  God’s created norms for society and culture are determined through means such as general revelation, the conscience, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit (Graham, pp. 24-28).  The most obvious of these immaterial norms are applied in the creation structures of government, science and medicine, leisure and entertainment, art and literature, among others.   These normative structures form the building blocks of maturing civilizations.  That education is also a normative structure seems self-evident: “Education, therefore, is fundamental to humanity’s task of developing and conserving this created order” (Van Dyk, n.d.).  Without a means for preparing humanity to apply God’s norms within these structures of the created order, the task of the Creation Mandate cannot be accomplished.

Some might argue that the process of  identifying creational structures and norms is subjective and debatable.  Conceding this should “lead us to humility and dependence on God in trying to do our cultural work” (Graham, p. 26). But we should not assume we are left without strong guidance for discerning creation’s normative structures.  A careful, biblically informed study of the development of civilization should reveal the broad outlines of God’s creational structures.  God’s Word, the Holy Spirit, and wisdom can reveal the norms by which they are to be directed.  “The fundamental knowability of the creation order is the basis of all human understanding, both in science and in every day life” (Wolters, pp. 28-29).  

Graham, D. L. (2003).  Teaching redemptively: Bringing grace and truth into your classroom. Colorado Springs:  Purposeful Publications.

Van Dyk, J. (n.d.). “Chapter II:  Context.” Notes distributed in the class Foundations for Curriculum Development.  Covenant College, 2002.

Wolters, A. (1985). Creation regained:  Biblical basics for a reformational worldview. Grand Rapids:  Wm. B. Eerdmans. 

 

The Imago Dei: The Image of God in Man

Gen. 1:26-27; Gen. 5:1-2

The Imago Dei is a blurry concept in theology, with a lot of dogmatic stuff attached to it. What, at the least, can we conclude about the image of God in Man?

In my former life as a school administrator, I discussed the following points with the faculty as a starting place for discussion:

  • Whatever the image of God is, it is universal within the human race (Christians and Non-Christians alike).
  • Whatever it is, the image of God remains after the Fall, no doubt corrupted, shattered or marred in some way. To what degree we do not know for certain, but it remains nonetheless.
  • Whatever the image is, it differentiates us from the rest of Creation. Whatever it is, relational ethics is predicated upon it. It implies that the human is inherently valuable, whether lost or saved. It underscores the sacredness and dignity of human life.
  • Whatever it is, it stamps us as God’s possession. We belong to God.
  • The image involves reflecting God in some way.Certainly, from the context, humans reflect God through their governing activity.
  • Less certainly, from the context, humans reflect God through their creative activity.
  • By way of inference and application, there is goodness in work, learning, art, music, literature, and in passing these things on to others. To devote ourselves to these things is God-reflecting activity.