Wednesday, February 20, 2013

On "Resources"

Why does it seem to me that people so often scamper after "resources" to help them complete their work. Teachers want pre-fab tests, students completed notes, administrators pre-made forms, and so forth. Just this morning I perused a new listing of "resources" for use upon the resignation of Pope Benedict. Shouldn't the priest know the prayers, I thought, and the choir director the music? Isn't it their job?

Those who claim to be learning seem the worst perpetrators. These alleged students love summaries, outlines, notes, charts, diagrams, examples, and the like. What they don't realize is the work of making such materials is the work of thinking and learning, that is, what you might call for the student his job.

Teachers might be worse, actually. Why should there be any such thing as a "text book" at all. Isn't it the teacher's job to explain the material, not just present an explanation of it? Isn't it his job to come up with examples and evaluations? Similarly, if it is true that the making of such materials is the process of learning, shouldn't the teacher have already made such during his own education? Could Luke have skipped his training with Yoda or was the learning in the doing?

Yet to make any of these observations is to be accused of forcing professionals to reinvent the wheel. Such a rejoinder of course misses not only our point about the process of education, that there are no shortcuts and that knowledge must be cultivated, but one more important.

Using prepared materials can lead toward an accidental homogenization of thought. Where everyone uses the same materials because they are convenient everyone starts to do things the same way whether appropriate or desirable. This problem strikes me particularly pernicious to education where the result is intellectual and creative standardization. The student invariably becomes the material and even the teacher, a fact not wholly avoidable, or lamentable. I think of the eclectic college professors and preachers who influenced Jefferson and Coolidge, the countless composers Mozart met on his tours, and of course Luke and Yoda. The results of such sundry learning are regions, states, schools, programs, and people with eclectic characters, each a curious and created union of minds. In contrast, centralization of the materials of learning, teachers and books, is also centralization of the stuff of learning, ideas, and such a homogenizing process strikes me both stultifying and dulling.

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