I am toiling away at the gargantuan task of the Unfamiliar Genre Project, a project of self-inflicting pain, for which I am supposed to write in a genre that I am not familiar with. As a writer, this task is quite daunting to me. You wouldn’t think so since, as I just declared I am a writer, and I should be thrilled to accept the challenge. In reality, however, I am a writer of the less confident distinction. I stick to my strengths. That is the only way I have known to be a good writer. I’m thinking that maybe the point is, not to be a typical good writer in the mindset of ,“if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” but to be a diverse one that can adapt to new genres and bring new ideas to foreign ways of writing.
Another facet of this challenge is the content. I am writing about education as if I suddenly wield some authority on the matter, when I’m still a lowly undergraduate student. So I’ve read a few books and taken a few classes, but that doesn’t make me special. I suppose the authority I wield is a fresh take on an ancient subject. It was just yesterday I sat in the place of my soon-to-be students, and I remember quite clearly what worked and what didn’t. That might be my most challenging obstacle, overcoming my own bias on research proven methods of teaching, when they didn’t work for me. When I am a teacher I will make sure to focus on the needs of the students to tailor my lesson to a diverse audience of learners.
I have been reading up on the opinion columns of education, attempting to assimilate myself into the culture. It seems the hot topics of today are: standardized testing, the cost of higher education, the education of the teachers who are teaching students, and diversity. These issues now seem like age-old dilemmas of education that we’ve been discussing for years, even before No Child Left Behind, which begs the question, why hasn’t anything changed? Standardized testing still dominates curriculum, higher education still costs an arm and a leg, less than adequate teachers are still slipping through the cracks and dragging their students down with them, and diverse populations are still being omitted from course content. The discourse on these subjects is prevalent but to no effect. A lot of the problems seem like they could be solved with more funding. Money can’t buy happiness, but it could improve the school system, which would make me happy. Since funding is scarce, though, we have to make do with what we’ve got.
Since my project is supposed to be based upon my touchstone beliefs about education in the past, present, and idealistic future, I will focus on these issues which seem to keep reappearing no matter the time. They stem from the fundamental questions of: How do we assess knowledge without restricting curriculum? How do we accurately assess the performance of teachers? How do we extend equal opportunity to those of lower income? And, how do we create an equal learning environment with equal representation in the content for diverse students? Some of the solutions seem simple while others incredibly complex. The reoccurrence of these problems is a testament to the complications surrounding their resolution. For my Unfamiliar Genre Project in my opinion column, I will address my take on the issues of the past, present, and future of education. In order for change to occur, as an educator, I must share my opinion, however uncomfortable that makes me. The authority I hold in this subject is my tremendous belief in the power and equity of knowledge, and my ardent hope to defend it.