Thursday, February 08, 2007

Freedom and Choice

For those of you following this little corner of the universe you will know that my entry of January 31 caused some comment. OK 5 comments really aren't that many but when one comment is a lot for this blog, five are a lot!.

Other than being out of town for a few days which kept me away from my computer I also decided to let a few days pass before I made a related entry. Today is that day.

The comments - especially those by Brenda and Lace - having to do with freedom and choice have gotten me to thinking.

Brenda said quoting Lace

"I am intrigued by this:
"My question: who benefits from the concepts of "freedom" and "choice" -- and how do the two concepts operate together?" But obviously it will take some pondering. Want to offer any more direction?"

Brenda also said:

"Students should have doors of opportunity opened to them, and be encouraged to explore a breadth of subjects in high school so that they may travel wherever their adult interests (or needs) take them."

Freedom and choice!!!!

When I was going to high school - in the dark ages of the 1960's - I was white (still am), I lived in a middle class family, my parents were upwardly mobile (at least for me), I went to a good school, I was a decent student. And it was the 60's - everything was about freedom and choice. The cafeteria style high school was taking over the lockstep curriculum. There were no barriers for me.

But Brenda's phrase "doors of opportunity" reminded me of what Mr. Derksen, the guidance counselor and my parents all said. Take anything you want at high school, they said. But in order to keep all your doors open we suggest you take all the sciences and mathematics.

So what did that really mean?

What it meant was that if I took the sciences I had a chance to go to the university and become a doctor or a dentist. And if I didn't make medicine or dentistry I could always slip down to being an accountant or a lawyer or even a teacher or a social worker.

The illusion of freedom and choice was there. I wasn't The Other - in fact, the school and its programs were created for me - the typical, bright, white middle class male.

but the reality was that there was no freedom and fewer choices.

All because the Faculty of Science at the University of Manitoba required science and maths prerequisites.

I believe that my average in first year science was somewhere in the low 30s.

Is it any different now? My guess is that guidance counsellors and parents are using the same phrase - keep your doors open. The university hasn't liberalized much of its entry requirements. Check out the admission requirements for the U of R and let me know if you find any practical and applied arts entries.

In my opinion most high schools have lost their way. They have forgotten why they exist. Here are a couple of purposes I would like to see as the core functions of high schools:

1. Living with themselves and each other. This purpose follows the development of adolescents. The questions they ask: who am I? how do I fit with my friends? my family? society?

2. The world. Students at high school are generally naive about the broader world. The high school experience could introduce students to aspects of the world they were unaware of or never imagined.

3. Their future. This is related to their question of who am I? The question here is who do I want to be? How many high school students realize that people actually design furniture, create candy, study the polar ice packs, and on and on?

4. Coping with that future. Notice I didn't say how do I prepare for that future? Preparation is always better when the goals are clear and established. But coping with my own future personally and in society should be considered at high school. How will I communicate? How will I make decisions? How will I manage myself economically? socially? culturally? religiously?

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1 Comments:

Anonymous Brenda said...

Brenda says:

I understand better now what was meant by the comment and I see how the illusion of choice can help to preserve the status quo.

I suppose that my concept of "well rounded" has been limited by thinking within the confines of our existing structure of education and I sometimes forget to venture outside the system.

It's good to be reminded that four years, September to June, Monday to Friday, 8-3, subject by subject isn't the only way that we can do this.

Thanks for the dialog!

9:47 AM  

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