Education ∪ Math ∪ Technology

Tag: reform (page 1 of 1)

Toxins in schools

No peanuts allowed
(Image credit: Schockwellenreiter)

It occured to me today that schools spend an enormous amount of effort to ensure that they are free of toxins for students. We ban common allergens from the school that are life-threatening for some students (like peanuts) and we build our schools so they do not contain asbestos insulation or lead pipes. Some schools are very concerned about the effects of wifi on students, and so have banned wifi from their schools. When we have a belief as a community that something is toxic for our students, schools rally to protect students from that toxin.

So why are so many schools toxic places for LGBTQ youth?

Obviously many schools have made an effort to develop cultures which are supportive of all of their students, but there are places where physical toxins are banned, and emotional ones are encouraged and even nurtured.

On motivating mathematics education

Here is a funny comic from the Fake Science blog.

Fake science - Use a ruler to find the third side of a triangle


The problem is, there is a kernel of truth in this satirical comic. Given most problems we will encounter in life, we would use a ruler to find the third side of a triangle. Obviously I think that there are good reasons to learn the Pythagorean theorem, but for most real life applications, one could draw a careful scale diagram (an incredibly useful skill in itself) and apply ratios to your measurements of your diagrams to find the missing length.

So why do we teach the Pythagorean theorem? Is it because of the power this abstract idea has? Are there other abstract ideas which have equal value? Could you imagine a mathematics curriculum which includes lots of rich abstract ideas, but happens to not include this theorem? How important is this theorem anyway?


Reform Through Action

Footprint From SpaceToday I participated in an event which was held simultaneously held in 16 other cities around the world organized by and the Vancouver Public Space Network

On a very cold day in Vancouver, we headed to David Lam park and stood around a field holding green umbrellas. We arrived early in the morning and draped green across our umbrellas and held them up in the air. Our objective was to focus attention on climate change and participate in a community building activity.

My son was a little trouper for most of the event, but eventually we went to a nearby coffee shop, grabbed a hot chocolate to fortify ourselves, and then came back to the field just in time to be photographed from space and from an airplane.

Human beings are capable of organizing themselves into such intricate and amazing patterns. This particular project was dealing with climate change, which is a serious issue for our planet. The reform over how we utilize resources on our planet is under way and although it has not made enough of an impact to slow climate change, already there are many things that we do differently because of it.

Similarly our entire education system is a such an amazing machine when you look at all of its pieces. So many different people have to cooperate to make our education system run.

There is something fundamentally wrong with the machine though because it is no longer functioning as it should. The machine was built for a very different world than the one in which we live. Just like we need to change how we consume everything our planet has to offer, we need to change how we educate our youth. The changes that are needed for either problem are not small, they will require wholesale rethinking of our resource and education systems. We need to rebuild our machines.

The problem is that both of these machines have a tremendous amount of inertia behind them. Most people who are bound by these systems can’t see a different way of doing business. Worse, even those who have the ability to step outside the box and visualize these problems from a different perspective cannot agree on what that perspective should be. We are trapped by our inertia and it will only be through great effort and quite possibly sacrifice that we will solve either of these problems.

We must solve these problems. It is not acceptable that we continue to plunder our planet the way that we are whether or not you believe that we are causing great damage to our climate. It is similarly not acceptable that our schools are not preparing our students properly for life. The machines of education and resource management do not require some grease or some minor fixes to start working again. Both of them need to be rebuilt completely.

Thankfully, there is hope. So many people came together today to support a climate change awareness initiative and so many continue to work on solving this important problem. Similarly there are so many educators now who are aware of the issues we are having in education, and who are working to try and affect changes in their schools. The only question will be, will we be able to make the changes we need before both systems collapse completely?