And your pacing guides, and your required reading lists….
I firmly believe that if I were to enter the classroom again, I’d be fired before October.
But, hear me out…
“The child who is explained to will devote his intelligence to the work of grieving: to understanding, that is to say, to understanding that he doesn’t understand unless he is explained to.” (Rancière, 1991, p. 8)
I have the privilege of taking a summer course with a professor who embraces intellectual emancipation. We’re reading, The Ignorant Schoolmaster, by Rancière which reminds us that we are all born with intellectual power, but that power is stultified, or rendered stupid, because teachers become master explicators. The above quote shows what happens when students are explained to. They begin to doubt themselves, they don’t realize the true power of their intellect, and they become stultified. How sad.
I have also had the privilege of meeting a 20 year old who despises reading. He said he’s never picked up or read a book on his own, and he shared his frustration with me that he never understood why he was reading things that didn’t mean anything to him in school, like Romeo and Juliet. He also told me that he loves The Freedom Writers movie, and wishes his school experience was more like that.
I brought him a copy of The Freedom Writer’s diary on Monday, and something that shouldn’t surprise us happened, he opened the book and began reading it on his own.
Imagine if we gave students the ability to realize their intellectual power? Imagine if we threw our curriculum away and listened to what students wanted to learn? Imagine if we allowed curiosity to take our students to intellectual heights instead of filling their heads with knowledge that one person decided was important enough to be a multiple choice question on a test? That would be intellectual emancipation at its finest.
Some teachers are already doing this. But if they’re like I was in the classroom, they’re doing it subtly while still meeting the demands of their “superiors”. My question for all teachers is, “why do we continue to do things we don’t think are right for kids?”
Gruwell, E. (1999). The Freedom Writers diary: How a teacher and 150 teens used writing to change themselves and the world around them. Main Street Books.
Rancière, J. (1991). The ignorant schoolmaster: Five lessons in intellectual emancipation. Stanford University Press.