Sharing The Book of Learning and Forgetting

Posted: October 25, 2011 in Uncategorized
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For the last couple of weeks I’ve been slowly making my way through  The Book of Learning and Forgetting by Frank Smith. It was a reading suggestion from Jack Deskins, who is the Arts Coordinator for the West Virginia Department of Education.  It’s been one of those books that I start highlighting from the first sentence because it just goes with my thinking so well.

Today was one of those fun days at school when 1,000 things are going on and kids are being called out of class for various things. My 2nd block class ended up with about 25% of the students left in the room when all was said and done.  Grant was one of the 6 left behind.

My first year teaching at my current school I had Grant in my beginning guitar class.  He drove me a bit insane. He’s one of those kids that’s too smart for his own good…the kind that makes teachers crazy because they can’t really teach him anything in the regular classroom. His thinking just surpasses what the “normal” teen has going on in his or her brain. (Or at least my perception of what they’ve got going on.)

Skip two years and I have Grant again in Music Appreciation.  We regularly talk about issues in education in this class. We’ve watched a Ken Robinson TED Talk. We read articles about high-stakes testing.  I encourage them to take charge of their learning and to not let it be something that just happens to them between the hours of 7 and 3.  I decided to share the book with Grant.

I let him read the preface. He latched on to the last line.

“But if you relax and simply read the book for interest, you’ll probably enjoy it more, learn more than you expect, and be less likely to forget points that are most relevant to you.”

Makes sense doesn’t it

It did to Grant. It’s pretty exhilarating to see a student get worked up over education…to see him go off about reading choice and other ed issues.  “Ms. E, the girls over there couldn’t tell you what was in the chapter Ms So and So assigned them to read for a test, but every one of them could tell you that Edward has his shirt off on page 254 of Twilight. You know why? That’s what they WANT to read. It means something to them!”

 “We’re not even being educated for today or tomorrow. We’re being educated for the past. This makes me angry. The sad part is it won’t make any of them (gestures to the other students) angry.”

Later, I offered to let him borrow the book once I finished. He said, “I don’t know if I can read that book. That’s the kind of book that will motivate me to do something and then it’ll make me angry when I realize I can’t do anything.”

So, what would you tell Grant? How can we justify giving him, and all the other students we see, an education that isn’t what they need to be successful? An education that doesn’t teach them to think critically or to question what they’re doing and why?

More than that, what do we do about those other students who are walking along being blissfully ignorant of the fact they’re getting shortchanged because we’re forced to teach to the test in the name of accountability?

(I did ask Grant if he minded me blogging about our conversation. He gave permission. Also, the quotes from Grant are his words. I took notes while we chatted.)

  1. […] mine made a blog post a while back (read it here) about a book she’s reading.  She stated that it is inspiring to her, as well as at least […]

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