Why Educate?

To be capable of wonder is to be fully human.
  – Carlina Rinaldi
?Photo taken by my dad – Arlen Fowler in Utah.

Today I drove from Tulsa to Dallas and had a good five hours to think.  Lately, my thoughts swirl around our educational system and such things as the movies “Waiting for Superman” and “Racing to Nowhere” that point to the troubles we face.  And as I thought about it, I kept coming back to the question, “Why do we educate our children?”  Really.  What is our aim?

I looked in the dictionary to find the root of educate.  According to Webster’s “to educate” means “out to lead.”  Makes sense!  When I educate, I am leading the student.  Where am I leading them?   Where are you leading your students?

I remembered my own education, specifically, high school.  I would cram for tests, memorizing the content, take the test, pass, and quickly forget the material.  It was all short term memory.  Clearly, teaching is more than the content of the curriculum.  Webster’s defined teaching as “to show how to do something.”  As an educator, I am committed to delivering more than the memory work.  Teaching a child to read does not mean you have taught a child to think, to wonder, or to be amazed by learning new things.

I have a sticky note posted in the front of my lesson plan book that says, “A good education gives you goosebumps.”  It reminds me to not forget to add a little wonder and curiosity in the plan.  In my world, assessing, dibeling, and benchmarking kindergarteners is not producing goosebumps.

In her book, Bringing Learning to Life, Louise Boyd Caldwell, says this about the schools in Reggio Emilia and people’s responses when they visited – “most adults feel awestruck, speechless, often moved to tears. . . (they) immediately sense the extraordinary meaning and beauty of everyday life in a school for the youngest citizens.”

Where am I leading my students?  Maybe to be awestruck and speechless by the extraordinary beauty of everyday life.   Not a bad place to start.

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  1. Great question. I wish our politicians would ask that question more often. As a public school teacher myself I am working hard to fight the testing craze…the more emphasis and stakes we place on the tests the less magic our kids get.

  2. Carol says:

    I really enjoy your blog, even though my son and my students are now older than this age. I thought this was a beautiful post, and it really got me thinking. I hope it is OK that I used this same title for a post that was in part inspired by your story–where I did quote you and include a link to your post.

    We have so many debates in education these days, but we really need to get down to asking basic questions like this, I think.

    Thanks for getting the ball rolling….

  3. sonia says:

    Dear Sally,

    I am an Early years teacher, working in Qatar and like you I am a Reggio inspired teacher. I will travel to Italy this year again!

    You keep my inspiration high!
    Thank you so much

    • Sally says:

      Thank you so much Sonia. I am so excited you are going to Italy. It is one of my goals for 2014!!

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