Smart, Dumb, Education

smart
adjective
  1. informal
    having or showing a quick-witted intelligence.
    “if he was that smart he would never have been tricked”

I normally keep my political thoughts to myself; discussing the politics of education on this blog isn’t what I’m about.  But something happened recently that has been gnawing at me.

On November 9th, after weeks of watching presidential debates, SNL spoofs and discussing what we think is important for America, my community of 110 students sat stunned in their seats.  We teachers weren’t in much better shape, but at our morning team meeting that day, we decided we would field any and all questions, concerns, fears and outbursts of anger that occurred the rest of the week and beyond if we needed to.  It was hell that first day.

A student came into my classroom, face long and sad.  I asked if there were any questions I could answer regarding the election.  His hand went up immediately.

Mrs. Stone, so, does this election teach us that we don’t have to be smart to become the President of the United States? Does this mean, we don’t have to know all the stuff you guys teach us?

It was almost as if he’d walked up to me and punched me in the gut.  Somewhere deep in my soul I was now furious.  After years of being told that getting an education, working hard and knowing what kind of “smart” you are is what will help you be successful in life was all shot to hell by the perceived “dumbness” of one man.

This isn’t to say our president-elect is dumb, but through the eyes of a 14 year old who wants to be successful, how is it supposed to appear?

dumb
adjective
NORTH AMERICAN informal
stupid.
“a dumb question”

I don’t think Donald Trump is dumb; not by a long shot. However, I think what he presented to the world and children in particular, who are trying to find their way and admire a certain level of intelligence and “smartness” in the adults in their lives, he might come across as not having a lot on the ball.  Try explaining that to students.  I couldn’t.

Instead, I reminded them that for many, being smart is a state of mind, not necessarily a state of being.  As was being dumb.  In either case, being educated was a factor in how they are perceived by those around them.  And being educated was about more than the formal activities that occur in school, it’s also about wanting, thirsting to know more about the world one lives in and will become a participant of one day.

It’s about respecting the cultures and customs of others as well as understanding and appreciating one’s own culture and customs.  It’s about recognizing that, at the end of the day, we all have to live on this planet together, taking care of it, as its our only home and knowing that the alternative to that will be, to future generations, seen as dumb.

ed·u·ca·tion
noun
  1. the process of receiving or giving systematic instruction, especially at a school or university.
    “a new system of public education”
    synonyms: teaching, schooling, tuition, tutoring, instruction, coaching,training, tutelage, guidance; More

  2. an enlightening experience.
    “a day with those kids was an education in patience and forbearance”

I think I would be safe in saying a lot of educators are concerned about the educational climate that will come with this presidency.  Now, nearly 2 weeks after the election, no mention yet on who will run the Department of Education and what will become of the initiatives in place.  Will all the money suddenly dry up because there are “more important” things to do with our tax dollars?  Will our children and their families face hardships that will impede educational focus for the students?

Will we just have to wing it?  Is this what we’ve been preparing for as far of PLNs and EdTech and all the “innovating” is concerned?

I hate to be a pessimist, but I see dark days ahead for education.  How will we continue to prepare our 21st Century students for their world when its very possible everything will be shoved back 50 or 60 years program-wise?

It’s still bugging me. Is being “dumb” the new smart?  Should we be ok with that?

Let’s stay vigilant educators.  We’re going to need each other more than ever I do believe.

Le sigh.

 

 

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