In San Francisco at the end of April, I had the opportunity to hear James Paul Gee speak a couple of times about learning and new media literacy. Gee has done a lot of great work in the field of video games and learning and new media literacies, but what struck me the most was a topic that he kept coming back to; the problems with processed food. He drew parallels more than once between the nation’s consumption of processed foods leading to illness and death and the nation’s educational problems. My ears perked up as soon as he began talking about the dangers of processed foods, since with the last year I’ve read a couple of Michael Pollan’s books, and subsequently purged almost all of the processed foods from my fridge and pantry. Gee’s words really stuck with me over the last couple of weeks, and I finally realized why. What we have right now in the United States is Processed Education, and it’s killing learning.
So what do I mean by Processed Education? It’s the status quo. It’s the factory model, one size fits all, standardized testing version of “education” that is happening as we speak in our public schools. I call it processed, because it is top down. It is state and federal legislators making educational decisions. It is Race to the Top. It is state standardized tests (the Monsanto of education; an attempt to educate everyone that ends up destroying everything good about education). Processed Education is the equivalent of feeding everyone government cheese so that no one goes hungry.
What I call Unprocessed Education draws on a number of different sources for wisdom on teaching and learning. The Waldorf approach to education, Montessori education, constructivism, sociocultural theory, and unschooling, among others, have informed this view, along with the reality that most kids need a place to go during the day while parents are working in our current economic reality. I call it Unprocessed Education, because like the unprocessed food movement, it puts control back where it belongs. In the unprocessed food movement, that’s with home cooks, parents, and individuals; people like me who are making their own bread and avoiding GMOs. In unprocessed education, that should be students, teachers, and parents. They are where the power should sit, they are where the money should go, and they will be the evidence of learning.
I’ve boiled my anti-Processed Education rantings down into a nice, handy-dandy chart for you to have and share. Isn’t that nice?
Do you agree? Disagree? What is stopping us from moving to Unprocessed Education?