Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Instead of Asking "What If" I ask "Why If"

               Once again, disclaimer: I do not know squat about politics, other than the news says that the one guy is running against the other guy, and although there are other guys running no one pays attention to them. I’m a guy who comments on things he sees. Last time it was a well-known Republican and a comic book. Today it’s musings brought about a well-known Democrat and education. I give my opinion. Don’t like’em… there are still plenty of evil robot jokes. You’ll like those, unless you’re an evil robot, in which case I await to serve you my liege. So, here we go…

                A couple of weeks ago President Barack Obama unveiled his “STEM Master Teacher Corps” which sounds like a really bad movie starring Tommy Lee Jones as a retired Drill Sergeant who becomes a teacher to turn kid’s lives around. But in the end, they end up touching his heart just as much as they touch his. (I like Tommy Lee Jones, I just don’t think this is a good career move. Call me and we’ll discuss.)

                Moving on.

                “The STEM Master Teacher Corps” is an elite group of teachers (I’m being serious, this is in the official description) that would work to boost U.S. student’s worldwide performance in Engineering, Math, Science, and Technology. The plan calls for the hiring of more teachers, especially in Math and Science.  (For those who can’t tell “STEM” stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math.)

                This is where a lot of you are going, “yay? I guess? What’s your point? Aren't you always going on about teaching... Isn’t this a good thing?”

                Well, yes, the idea of anyone deciding that teaching is important is a good thing. But pay close attention to the title of this blog, and then pay attention to the emphasis on who he was going to hire. I’ll let it come to for a minute… and there it is. More Math and Science. This blog is called “Bad Shakespeare.” I’m studying to enter the cutthroat world of English teaching. That begs a BIG Bad Shakespearean Question: “Why then, are you studying English? What’s the importance of the arts if even as the President has decided that we are going focus on getting kids some education, we will be starting with science, math, and notably not English or the Arts?

                See, I had mentioned way back at the start of this blog that someone made a sarcastic comment regarding the fact that I was studying to be an English Teacher. Yeah, that wasn’t the first or last one, but while some are focused on the “teacher” part, others are focused on the “English” part. Some people feel that teaching English isn’t important beyond the simple reading and writing aspect of it. As soon as you get done with that part, it’s important to focus on the “real world” stuff, which doesn’t include the arts or Shakespeare.

                But that robs kids of something fundamentally important. Teaching the English isn’t just about showing them how to spell a word or correctly map a sentence, most of which can be done with a computer. It’s this good now, I can’t wait to see how well it’s done when my kids are in school. (Where they’ll all be monitored by robots, anyway.)Teaching English is about teaching something inside of us. It’s learning that each one of these words has its own little personality, and it’s up to you to figure how they should fit together. It’s taking a look at the bigger issues, like who we are as people, and boiling them down into bite sized chunks called “books” or “plays” or in some rare cases, “movies.” (For example Die Hard. That’s right, we’re all John McClane facing down our own Hans Gruber.)

                Humanity has always sought to create worlds bigger than just the stars and the moon or designing the next “wheel.” It’s seeing a beautiful sky and being so moved to tears that you want to write a book or paint a picture, not just being able to break it down to a chemical reaction and saying “that’s why it’s orange.” And none of this is saying these things aren’t important. They’re very important. But why do they have to be mutually exclusive?

                None of this is meant to knock down scientists who are very good at what they do, and are artists in their own way. I mean, I’m sure it was some kind of scientist who invented a way for us to get the McRib so quickly, so I guess they’re not all bad. It’s just that when it comes down to emphasizing a subject, English tends to get lost in the mix. History sometimes, too, but I’m not studying to be a History teacher history is boring that can go away. (I’m kidding. History isn’t boring, but it’s not as thrown away as easily as English and a study of the arts.) But once you leave out things like English and the Arts, you start to leave out critical thinking. You leave out that age old question that humans have been asking since the dawn of time "Why?"

                English helps us look at the world in a unique way. It’s also a uniquely human thing. All animals focus on science, math, or technology… whether it’s elephants figuring out a herd, or a lion thinking of a better way to take down an elephant… but have you ever heard lion poetry (which admittedly would be kind of cool)? Or an elephant try to figure how why he’s here? So, focusing solely on the “important subjects” can take away that uniqueness that makes us human. Then what are you left with? You’re left with robots that can add and subtract, but can do little to tell you the point of it.

1 comment:

  1. Well said. What we need is for someone to respect STEM AND the Arts and English.