Educating within a Fallen System
It has been an interesting day on the news feed. With so many people back to school, the news agencies are reporting in large part about what is being done to change a fallen system. The issue, in my opinion, is the difficulty of affirming individuality against a backdrop of desired communal outcomes. How do individuals fit within society? And how can institutions possibly respond to so many unique needs of individuals?
Systems invite considerations of expedient actions that can be exercised with fairness. However, while speed and fairness are necessary for actions within systems, they do not represent a sufficient condition. As such, I was very encouraged to see this opinion piece in the New York Times that advocates for reconsidering our K12 testing systems while retaining a level of pragmatic concerns.
Yet, it can be difficult when students encounter placement tests and discover what colleges think of their real abilities. The need for remedial education being on the rise, unfortunately is old news. But what can you do when the need for the classes is so great that apparently only large lecture classes allow for everyone who needs the course to take the course?
Inside Higher Ed ran an article today about the University of Florida trying to get creative regarding semester scheduling to accommodate the presence of additional students. Thinking about expanding class offerings in the summer time might also lead to changes in professors’ routines. Generally, summer is the dumping ground for good academic intentions as the pressures of conferences, publishing, and conducting research can crowd out other significant projects. Summer seems like a huge block of time to get things done until you actually get there as an academic. But perhaps shifting the academic schedule seasonally could create a seasonal shift in professors managing their teaching loads.
The responsibility of educating persons is a real one. No quick fix really exists, whether for students, teachers or the system as a whole. We are, after all, talking about a fundamental question of what it means to be in society. The process of learning shows that even as we try to discover who we are as individuals, we still need each other. And, it seems that people who try to take advantage of other people to get ahead of the game generally don’t achieve the originally-hoped-for results.