In Miller’s article on “The Coming Apocalypse” he challenges the way institutions impart knowledge and stimulate thought. He argues that while our world is becoming more global and interactive, our teaching system has remained in the stone age, with kids still learning the same things our parents learned, despite the changing times.
I was impressed by Miller’s analysis of the current education system and his conclusion that we are not giving our students a practical real-world up to date education and that the things being taught in school are irrelevant to our lives, lacking inspiration to generate new thoughts and ideas amongst students.
Watching the video’s Miller recommended in the article reminded me of another innovative teaching process, that like Miller’s project, is geared to generate new ideas on things relevant to our lives now. I once watched a clip on a high school that had one grade read only “Fast Food Nation” and they applied it to every one of their classes. (This reminded me a bit of Miller’s “Reading in Slow Motion” idea). The students read the book and it was looked at through a different perspective in each one of their classes. In biology the students learned about the science behind nutrition, in history they learned about the history of food, specifically, fast food corporations in America. Through the lens of their communication classes they were allowed to report on the effects of fast food in society, etc. The idea is that the students were encouraged to thoroughly read a text, analyze it intensely, and involve themselves in it. The fact that it was a very relevant book at the time really brought students to see the real world applications of these lessons. The students loved it so much they began their own projects relating to their learning; some passed out nutrition info at McDonald’s restaurants to customers, others wrote to editors and such, all choose something that really struck them and went with it. (I am currently looking for a link to this video, it’s been a while since I’ve seen it, I’ll post it as soon as I’ve tracked it down.)
My question is one of working with relevancy. Do you think real current world relevancy is the answer to our educational systems problems? Do you think new ways of real world project based teaching might allow students to generate new ideas and take meaning out of courses? Or do you think there is a reason we stick to these classic texts and pedagogies? Is a child missing something if he reaches age 18 without having read “Catcher in the Rye”?