Oxygenate the water

In modern education, I suggest that we must hold onto the things from the past that we know serve our students well, while being mindful that we ought to seek new ways to improve the students’ educational experiences. Always aiming to apply best practice, surely, we educators should prepare every member of the new generation to – but, all in good time – actively participate our evolving, somewhat turbulent society. A tall order, certainly…

How Mexican society functions now in 2024 is decidedly different than, say, just four decades ago. Its needs are new. They have to be. The population, for one, has doubled to some 130 millions in those few years. That’s dramatic growth…and change. Thus, in considering and reconsidering the nature and functions of education, the key question to pose has to be, are this different population’s needs really being met? Thoughtful teachers, in the front line, try to get students to weigh the options and to be critical thinkers. To be themselves. Daily.

In order to progress, new ideas in society need to oxygenate the water. Understood. Yet, at the same time, an imposed and narrow educational approach – dictated from whatever source – that consciously takes advantage of, or distorts, our young persons’ real needs should be avoided like the plague. For the children we have the privilege to help educate are not the tools of anyone. They are not means to be manipulated to meet the ends and agendas of others. Instead, along with the acquisition of knowledge, transferrable skills and (therefore) understanding, well-taught students are building and discovering their very own, unique characters, then better able to face real, meaningful and, hopefully, exciting challenges that life inevitably will bring.

Time taken reflecting on what we educators do in schools, and why we do it, is never time wasted. Having reflected, were the students’ apparent needs not shown to be foremost in our thoughts, something very wrong is happening.

Now, in 2024, and with society very much embedded in the Technological Age, it goes without saying that our world feels even more fast-paced than ever before. However, whatever the claims that are made for technological advances swiftly assisting and improving educational outcomes, our professional relationship with our students – calmly, face to face – far outstrips the putative powers of any devices that may be used in our classrooms. Devices are adjuncts to great teachers. There is no denying it. Yet, teachers please note, still remain the real agents of change. Don’t be persuaded otherwise.

In similar fashion, our students are not there to become clones of those who pedal rigid ideologies. (This deeply flawed and narrow-minded methodology has been brilliantly satirized by C19th British novelist, Charles Dickens, in his opening chapter of “Hard Times”.) As regards finally adopting one’s own philosophy of life, there’s time enough for all that to be resolved when the student enters the rough and tumble of the outside world. Then, he or she can settle upon following and promoting the logic of his or her personal and group loyalties.

Students at school still need their space. They are their golden years. Powerful external agents in society should not impinge upon students with their own – and, yes, admittedly real – lead-heavy demands. (One hears such rumours!) Let the student enjoy his or her years of schooling, a time to have the freedom to explore a range of approaches to acquiring and understanding knowledge. In short, authorities presenting students with an imposed diet of prescribed, limited ideas is a poor substitute for the myriad dishes of what should be a delightful banquet of concepts and choices.

Tom Wingate
January 2024

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