Fitting the Standards

10 Jan

Today was my first class of EADM 310 and we watched the TED talk Bill Gates on Mosquitos, Malaria and Education.  At some point in the semester we are going to have to reflect on everything we are learning so I might as well do it now.  This TED talk posed a large amount of questions for me, and also frustrated me quite a bit.

At first Gates talks about mosquito’s and malaria and I found a lot of what he said to be very interesting.  It is important to use what we have, all of the technologies and advancements, to better the world, but sometimes it seems like it is an after thought.  “Now that we have all this money we can use it to help others”, rather than doing it along the way.  The point he made that stood out the most is that if you try half-heartedly to force out a problem over the time that it takes to rid that same problem it will evolve.  This told me a couple of things: 1) Things are going to be constantly changing and 2) The society we are in values doing things as fast as possible.  This really led the way into how I thought about his views on education, and also made me think about how we help people.  Would it be more beneficial to try and fix the problem all at once and get rid of it for good or help as many people along the  way as you can?

He started off with asking the question, “How do you make a good teacher?” and his answer was, “You don’t.”  At first I thought that this was a great statement, saying that you can only teach someone how to do something so much and becoming a great teacher was up to that individual person.  This wasn’t necessarily what Gates was getting at.  Gates was trying to say that it’s needed to make sure that teachers are getting classified by their competence and not because of their seniority etc.  The main content of what needed to be achieved through education was that all people should get equal opportunity and everyone deserves to have good teachers.  This seems almost contradictory to what he finds to be the intent of what education is for, which was mainly to compete at a global scale.

Why do we use education to be “competitive”?  If we are trying to make sure that everyone has equal opportunity does that not mean that we are trying to lessen the competitiveness of education?  Gates talked about how we can compete at a global scale.  What does this really mean?  What does “competing at a global scale mean?  Does this mean that we are at par intellectually with other countries?  Does that really matter at all?  What I seemed to find from what he was talking about is that we need to increase our education so that we can be the top educated people.  Is it fair to use education as a means to become culturally superior?  Is that really the motive behind education?  If we are the most educated people what are the repercussions of that?  It is clear from Gates’ perspective that it means we can drive our country economically.  Is driving economics the sole purpose of education?

How can we measure who is the most educated group of peoples?  The easiest way, of course, is standardize testing.  Ha.  That frustrates me beyond belief.  First of all how can you possibly have a standardized test that would apply to every group of people in the world?  The cultural differences between people make it easy to see that you couldn’t because not everyone learns things the same ways, and that does NOT mean that a person is more or less educated.  Does testing really give any evidence as to how much knowledge a student possesses?  Putting emphasis on testing just gives reason to think that the only purpose of schooling has to do with the content learned not the actually process of learning.  Can testing really give evidence as to who is a good teacher?  Sure it can, if the only thing you find important is memorizing the content that is applicable to the testing.  I don’t understand how standardized testing can make or break if you have had a good education or not.

Standardizing the testing isn’t the only standard Gates talks about; the teacher standard plays a great role in his discussion.  I understand that teachers are held to a higher standard than others, and I agree with that.  I agree that in a sense we have standards for what a teacher is, we go to the university to learn how to be teachers after all.  What I don’t agree with is that there should be a set in stone standard of how all teachers are.  If we focus too much on what the standard of being a teacher is, how does that leave room for development?  Gates said that after three years a teacher doesn’t get any better, but of course this is a stat derived from test scores.  Is that true?  At the beginning of his talk he makes the point that things evolve and things change, is this aside from education?  How could we possibly make a standard for who a teacher should be and what they should do when things are constantly evolving and changing?  What works for one teacher might not work for another teacher.  Teachers constantly adapt to their surroundings.  If we accept that are students are not all the same should we then also accept that our teachers are not all the same?

You can never perfect something, there is always room for improvement.

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