What Do You Do When You Feel Overwhelmed?

Liz Coleman who’ll be speaking tomorrow at the NAIS conference answers the question in the title of my post by stating, “You have a mind. And you have other people. Start with those, and change the world.”

That quote is how she ends her talk about reinventing the liberal-arts education and its importance, saying that our current state of education is more likely to “engender a learned helplessness than to create a sense of empowerment.”

Teachers are faced with one-size-fits all scripted curriculums that don’t often help kids think for themselves. They are bound by inflexible standards that delve into the minutia of a subject matter for which they and their students are held accountable for.How could kids possibly do so, if teachers aren’t thinking for themselves?

Another quote from her talk:

“This brew, oversimplification of civic engagement,idealization of the expert,fragmentation of knowledge,emphasis on technical mastery,neutrality as a condition of academic integrity,is toxic when it comes to pursuing the vital connections between education and the public good,between intellectual integrity and human freedom.”

I look forward to hearing more about her talk at the conference with the title Independent Matters as I predict she will call upon educators to think for themselves and provide ample opportunities for students to do the same. Grappling with controversy is not new. Educational leader Ted Sizer was wrote about it many times. Controversy isn’t a bad thing if there is civil discourse. It allows people to find the common ground. Usually good ideas emerge from the diverse ideas of many people. Even if you take the extreme voices in politics and take a closer look, there is a lot of common ground where one can start.  Make no bones about it, Coleman does not mince her words. In fact, they are carefully chosen . Finally, here,s one more quote from this talk:

“The problem is there is no such thing as a viable democracy made up of experts, zealots, politicians and spectators.”

Here is the rest of her talk: 



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