Sunday, June 5, 2022

Educators’ Quixotic Quest for Magic Potions and Elixirs to Make Learning Happen

 “In nature, there are no separate events. Nothing happens in isolation—not touching your head, not holding someone else’s hand, not looking at the stars, not breathing—nothing.” Alan Watts, Just So Money, Materialism, and the Ineffable, Intelligent Universe

There is a great deal of wisdom that educators ignore to their own peril. Alan Watts’ body of work is often ignored because of its heavy emphasis on eastern religions, such as Taoism, Zen Buddhism, and Hinduism. It may be because his thought is too incomprehensible to Western Thought. It also may be because much of what he has to say disrupts our conventional ways of thinking about life and the universe. It does have the power to disrupt some of our thinking as well about education too.

Take the current belief that educators still hold onto that there is a solution out there that can be applied in teaching situations and bring about a desired result. That simple way of thinking has been at the heart of teaching since the turn of the twentieth century, and it seems sound. However, have really gotten any closer to finding the magical cures that will ultimately bring about the learning results we desire?

The data says we still struggle to close learning gaps and obtaining the results we desire. Why is that? It is rather simple, but much of the educational establishment stands with their fingers in their ears, like a little child who refuses to hear what they do not wish to hear. They want to continue to pour torrents of energy and effort into the search for the one measure A that can be applied to Student B and get result C.

I’ve written about this before, here and elsewhere. We are so caught in this quixotic quest for the miracle, we ignore the very wisdom of Eastern religions and what Watt’s so clearly points out: “Nothing happens in isolation.”

So how does this apply to educational thinking? It is rather simple: The search for a single practice or method to produce desired educational results is futile. Education, Teaching, Learning, Classrooms, Schools, Systems, Teachers, Students…are complex, and trying to approach the act of teaching by ignoring CONTEXT is a futile exercise and akin to a searching quixotic quest for magical potions and elixirs to make learning happen.

But, and I have to add this BUT to this information. But, the educational system and those that inhabit it like this status quo. As long as there hope that a magical method of teaching or learning exists, then snake-oil consultants and professional development pitch-persons have wares to sell. They can stand in the cyber-square of the internet hawking these wares and gobble up tax money galore. One can’t help but question for whose benefit such a system provides.

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