The Reflective Educator

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Day: April 29, 2011

Donor’s Choose for Global Education

I just sent off this email to someone in the UNESCO office for Global education. What do you think?

Hi there,

I have an idea which I would like to share. There is a website called Donor’s Choose, which lets people choose funding for education projects sponsored by teachers all over the United States. It’s been working well in the US, and you can find out more about it here: http://www.donorschoose.org/

My idea is for a similar website, but focused on education projects all over the world. People could fund particular projects they find appealing directly, and we could help spread the job of keeping the people receiving the fund accountable to everyone who is donating for the projects.

Perhaps with each project, we could send a cheap digital camera, and the people participating could mail back the SD card once they have some photographic evidence of their project being completed. I’m not exactly sure on the accountability model that would be appropriate, but I’d see it as a self-reporting system for project completion tied to the donors themselves being able to report if there is no evidence that a project has been completed.

It would essentially work like a micro-credit system, with lots of small donations being used to fund small projects around the world directly, as opposed large amounts of aid being applied to big projects.

An example of a small project that could be a kick-starter funding is one we are working on through our school, specifically, building a wall for an elementary school in Kipevu. See http://kipevu.org for some details on our project. We’ve discovered that there are many small schools in the area which also want walls around their grounds, before libraries, computers, electricity, or anything else, they just want their schools to be safe.

The reason why this project would work is that it would add a real human connection to the projects that are being done, one that it is hard for people in the developing world to see. Further, it would focus on projects that people want solved in their local communities, rather than massive aid projects like essentially failing the One Laptop per Child program.

Thank you for your time.

David Wees

 

I teach kids, not subjects

I listened to a podcast recently where a teacher made the claim that his job is to teach chemistry, not values, and I would argue that if this was really the case, he is failing at his job. If we think of values as being a set of cultural norms, then it is easy to argue that it is impossible to engage in the act of teaching without teaching values.

When we establish classroom rules, we are enforcing our own cultural norms over what is considered appropriate behaviour. For example, if you set the rule that only one person should talk at a time, you are enforcing your cultural norm about respect. If your students come to your classroom without this norm, and you are successful in your indoctrination, when they leave the classroom with the norm, you have taught them a value.

Even if you establish your classroom "rules" democratically, there is still an transfer of values that occurs. First, the value of democracy itself, that it is worthwhile to engage in conversation about things as important as rules, and the rules that are established will likely not reflect the values of an one individual, but rather a blend of the group.

School is filled with hidden values that we pass along to children, as John Taylor Gatto pointed out in his essay, "The Six Lesson School Teacher." Be on time, finish your work, respect each other’s personal space, don’t pick on people, be nice, and many more.

It is impossible to engage in the act of teaching, or even in any communication whatsoever, and not teach values. In every interaction between two or more people, there is an establishment of norms, sometimes explicitly, sometimes implicitly through body language and sometimes through exclusion of people not following your norm.

So when someone says they teach x and not values, I would challenge them and push them to see that this is impossible. We should at least be explicit with each other as educators what our cultural purpose is; the indoctrination of children to our society’s belief system.