01 October 2007

Response to Unplugged Schools by Lowell Monke

Orion Magazine Sept/Oct 2007 Issue

I agree with the attitude of caution about technology in this article, but there is one fundamental contradiction in Mr. Monke’s presentation:
“Of course, symbol manipulation—reading, writing, mathematics—is the unavoidable nuts and bolts of schooling.”

The contradiction occurs on two levels; the surface imagery and the deeper concept. If there are “unavoidable nuts and bolts,” as he claims, then he envisions a machine that is constructed from those fundamental parts and is inherently mechanical. But, he is thus contradicting his argument against having schools that reflect mechanical thinking. We can give Mr. Monke the benefit of the doubt by calling this a metaphoric faux pas but, of even greater concern is the deeper conceptual foundation for schooling that he simply assumes as a given.

Whatever you create will, in some way, reflect the most basic materials you use to create it. In creating an education system, if you take symbol manipulation as the most basic element, then you will generate a system that is entirely limited by the nature of symbol manipulation. By invoking the image of “unavoidable nuts and bolts” Mr. Monke gives the impression that symbol manipulation is the most fundamental part of the machine, the basic part from which everything else in the machine is made. I argue that symbol manipulation is not basic and that a system of schooling that makes this mistake is (and will always be) incapable of consistently producing the kinds of good results Mr. Monke desires. I propose that the true foundation of good education is optimal states of mind and, therefore, a good school system must use this as it’s conceptual foundation in order to consistently produce good results.

Optimal states of mind are more basic than symbol manipulation.

To read the rest of this piece on our education system click here.

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