It was so interesting how I’d registered for our class with preconceptions of, “Oh we’re going to tow the party line in Academia” and “Isn’t it great that we know we’re edu-ma-cated” and so forth…and then I read the first couple of readings. Then I listened to the first podcast and thought, “WHOA. Stop the press!” I love being surprised. It seems that this class is going to take more of a dynamic approach to our course topics.
What the heck does it mean to be educated, and who decides what makes us educated? Case-in-point: My dear friend is an “uneducated” Sri Lankan with the most basic of high school educations; in fact, I suspect there is a learning disability or two lurking about. However, put him in a kitchen, and he can make the most phenomenal 5-star cuisine, running rings around anyone else I’ve ever met. It gets better: In the jungle, he’s your man, knowing exactly which vegetation to eat, how to cook it, and how it will benefit you ayurvedically. And that includes ayurvedic massages, too. And flowers? He designs bouquets for royal galas here in Qatar. And folkloric dances? He can twirl 20 plates and do backflips in killer headgear looking like this http://www.google.com/imgres?imgurl=http://wwwdelivery.superstock.com/WI/223/442/PreviewComp/SuperStock_442-6573.jpg&imgrefurl=http://www.superstock.com/stock-photos-images/442-6573&usg=__74R1E7Tn49k6Ypuo6Z0U7EjqQTo=&h=275&w=350&sz=149&hl=en&start=0&zoom=1&tbnid=Jwzegcvc0Q_iXM:&tbnh=123&tbnw=156&ei=AJzxTajiBo_Atgedza3kAg&prev=/search%3Fq%3Dsri%2Blankan%2Bkandy%2Bdancers%26hl%3Den%26biw%3D1259%26bih%3D590%26gbv%3D2%26tbm%3Disch&itbs=1&iact=hc&vpx=397&vpy=280&dur=4649&hovh=199&hovw=253&tx=118&ty=158&page=1&ndsp=23&ved=1t:429,r:17,s:0&biw=1259&bih=590 (not all at the same time, mind you).
Yet he can barely read and write.
Yet he’s far more interesting, observant, and worldly than most “educated” people that I’ve met. I watch as colleagues here and there meet him and quickly dismiss him in a fairly arrogant manner.
Then when the colleagues are gone, my other half will imitate them flawlessly – their gait, their table manners – making me laugh so hard I tear up.
Just as we need to ponder what writing really is and just as we need to reconsider how we should educate the masses, we must also ask ourselves what it means to be educated in the first place. Different people learn in different manners. The vast majority of my students, Gulf Arabs, come from a distinctly oral / aural tradition, and they would often rather do ANYTHING than read or write. When I create lesson plans, I try to make activities student centered as well as adaptable to varying learning styles – tactile, oral / aural, visual, etc. With a big inshallah (‘Lord willing’), a lot more students grasp concepts, incorporate them, and struggle less when I approach activities from different angles.
As we read this week, professors are nervous. We don’t know what the hell the future holds for us, we certainly can’t take control of independent learners who actively pursue the information highway, and sometimes – oftentimes – our desperate attempts at keeping up with the times are underwhelming.
I suppose we have to choose our battles; for example, I’ll never allow Tweetspeak to enter the rhetoric of an English assignment. But we also have to be…more…fluid…in our approaches. Let information wash over us like water, try to digest information as we comfortably can and not worry so much, yet REMAIN LEARNERS OURSELVES. We have to be malleable to change; otherwise, we’re done for. With open minds and a positive attitude, education in the 2010s can be more invigorating and dynamic than ever before.