A pathway away from theocratic control…


Shortly after reading the Pullman piece, I discovered Eliot Eisner’s “deep stuff that schools should teach”—five ideas to push the boundaries of orthodoxy of schools:

•Judgment—students deal in problems having more than one answer

•Critical thinking—exploring big ideas “with legs”

•Meaningful literacy—reading, writing, numeracy—and music, visual arts and dancing

•Collaboration—moving beyond solo performance to meaningful collaborative work during school

•Service—students learning to reach out beyond individual achievement to the community at large118

Eisner invites us to step out from under theocratic thinking. What if we took his five ideas to heart? What would we do differently? Certainly his framework asks us to invite students to explore rather than to regurgitate, to investigate rather than to repeat, and to learn in community rather than to compete for grades.

If we taught “as if” Eisner’s five principles mattered, imagine our excitement in teaching to solve complex problems instead of giving notes to copy. Imagine inviting students to write reflections in class in response to unresolved issues, instead of only writing at home. Imagine connecting with the greater world rather than pursuing textbook chapters that lack any narrative. Imagine teaching for learning rather than for test taking.

Yet, we hesitate to implement frameworks like Eisner’s, because it would take time away from covering material. As previously noted, we feel pressured to teach fast. But, these five ideas offer yet another invitation to let go of coverage, and trust uncoverage and exploration to better serve our students. Taking such a position, however, puts us outside of the prevalent theocracy. Given the pressures of NCLB and state assessments, making such a decision is difficult.

Can you teach with “uncoverage” in mind?


For more on this crucial issue see Chapter 17 “Teach As If” in Teaching from the Middle of the Room: Inviting Students to Learn from Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Teaching-Middle-Room-Frank-Thoms/dp/0615358918.