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Reading from Frank Bruni’s article titled “The Wilds of Education”

Let’s just say that I didn’t take full advantage of my educational opportunities, okay?

In high school, I pretty much went through the motions to keep the grades in that area where Mom stayed off my back while maintaining a healthy social life.

Those habits continued into undergrad…until my junior year when a light-bulb of sorts turned on. Which, coincidentally, due to going summers, I would actually graduate just in time to wish I could stay a little longer.

Those liberal arts classes finally got me thinking through what I really believed against what I’d been taught & thought I believed…and the reality is that there was some deconstruction and rebuilding that went on. Most of which has been deconstructed and rebuilt a few times over…which is precisely my point. I was able to keep on learning. Those habits that started in 1986/87 became a lifestyle of sorts.

Some of that lifestyle was formal. Grad school and such. Some of that was informal. Just finding a classic that I’d been exposed to somewhere along the way and re-reading (sometimes even reading the yellow/black Cliff’s Notes for the purpose they were intended rather than entirely supplementing for the test) and discussing with friends. In short, my recliner and coffee shops became the place of my continuing education.

And so much of what I learned resonated with my punk rock background/ethos/leanings and so much of what I learned exposed the philosophical flaws and logical conclusions of that position. In short, my continuing education became much more revolutionary than the punk revolution that youthful me had such high hopes for. And, yes, I found that my initial infatuation with Jesus Christ held legitimate and revolutionary insights and became strengthened in some ways…and, yes, the deconstruction and rebuilding continues in that vein as well.

And, as I became a parent, I wanted my children to have that perspective about their educational opportunities. That they would be challenged and disrupted and provoked in the best of ways. When it didn’t (and there were a few times the suburban university student-making factory failed, but thankfully, my kids seemed to get teachers that went beyond teaching to the tests), my wife and I could give them a different perspective. Just the fact that Sunday morning brought both the New York Times and Dallas Morning News allowed us to show them two ways of thinking about the same thing.

As an aside, both Kid1 and Kid2 had varying degrees of appreciation for our approach. Don’t let me paint the picture that they were always all-in on learning about the issues, much less multiple ways of thinking about the issues. A lot of times they just wanted to sing and dance loudly to whatever pop star they were into at the time.

And, yes, they’ve also taken positions, both philosophically and practically, that are different than where I’ve currently landed on things…some of them I view as crucial. Yes, it makes me uncomfortable. So it goes.

Which is why I thought Frank Bruni exposed a few things in his article this morning that might be good for a bit of discussion here…so, if you can, read the article to get context, but these should get you going:

WHEN it comes to bullying, to sexual assault, to gun violence, we want and need our schools to be as safe as possible. But when it comes to learning, shouldn’t they be dangerous?

Isn’t education supposed to provoke, disrupt, challenge the paradigms that young people have consciously embraced and attack the prejudices that they have unconsciously absorbed?

Isn’t upset a necessary part of that equation?

So, the first question: Are we okay with provocation, disruption and challenging paradigms–even the ones we hold dear? Are we living in such a way that we’re deconstructing and rebuilding? If you have children, are you okay with encouraging their process of going through the same thing?

While these efforts differ greatly, they overlap in their impulse to edit the world to the comfort of students, and that’s especially troubling in this day and age, when too many people use technology and the Internet to filter a vast universe of information and a multitude of perspectives into only what they want to hear, a tidy, cozy echo chamber of affirmation.

THE efforts are also inextricable from subtler, more pervasive dynamics of caution and conformity in our classrooms and schools, where “failure” and “disappointment” are sometimes dirty words. When teachers inflate grades, they’re making education a feel-good enterprise rather than a feel-rattled one. When high-school students obsessed with getting into elite colleges avoid any courses that play to their weaknesses, they’re treating education in precisely the wrong way, no matter how understandable their motivation.

Have we allowed education to be an echo chamber of affirmation, both for ourselves and (if applicable)? If so, what can be done about it?
Do you agree that grade inflation exists? Are we treating education the wrong way? If so, what can we do about that?

Welp, that’s more than enough, patrons…have at it!