This is my maiden entry in the Rice blogosphere, but I have stalked the REEP Blog for a couple months now.Â My name is Kap McWhorter and I have sojourned in education for the better part of the last decade.Â I have held administration and teaching positions in both private and public schools.Â I have been everything from the Campus Pastor/High School Religion teacher at a small private school to my current position with Humble ISD as Small Learning Communities Coordinator.Â Smattered amidst these varied experiences are extended periods of work in the non-profit sector and global relief organizations.Â These seemingly incongruous experiences have found harmony in my current work in directing Finding Heroes, a non-profit organization committed to providing meaningful learning experiences by connecting students and educators to the needs of their local and global communities.
Â I met a colleague, Raymond Green (REEP and YES Prep), for dinner in town last night at Barnabyâ€™sâ€”amazing food and conversation.Â I have lived in the Houston area all my life; however, when the battery on my cell phone died while leaving the city, and along with it my GPS, I was instantly aware of not only my obvious directional ineptitude, but also the apparent lack of any perceivable logic in the civic design of our great city.Â As I picked my way out of town and back out to the burbs, the lack of intention behind the cityâ€™s growth pattern became even more acute.Â Houston is a prime example of what is termed Urban Sprawlâ€”the decentralization or spread of a population without a well-defined center, characterized by discontinuity and a sort of leapfrog development pattern.
Perhaps it was the strange mixture of my dinner conversation with the angst of being lost in my home town, but sprawl became a hauntingly appropriate metaphor of the current crisis in education. William Damon, in his current work, Path to Purpose, describes adolescents much like my GPSless experience, â€śadrift.â€ťÂ In his study, less than 20 percent of adolescents expressed any clear vision of what they want to accomplish and why.Â A shocking 25 percent expressed no aspirations at all, many of whom claim to see no point in ever developing any.Â Like Damon, we educators perceive, â€śFor too many young people today, apathy and anxiety have become the dominant moods, and disengagement or even cynicism has replaced the natural hopefulness of youth.â€ťÂ Damon has placed the target squarely at the source of the problemâ€”we have failed to create opportunities for students to find any meaning or purpose to the growing obligations of their world.Â Unfortunately, we have not addressed this disengagement at the core, but rather responded by treating the symptoms through increased expectations.Â Rigor is the word of the day.Â Donâ€™t get me wrong, I think raising the bar for our students is essential, but if we keep acquiring new cognitive real estate through heightened expectations without providing opportunities to develop a larger sense of purpose, we risk amplifying our studentsâ€™ estrangement rather than alleviating it. We will respond with expansion rather than intentionâ€”cognitive sprawl.
We must address the essential question, â€śWHY?â€ťÂ We must value the punk, I mean challenging, student who asks from the nether regions of the back row, â€śWhatâ€™s the point?â€ťÂ If we continue to oblige students to achieve greater expectations with justifications like, â€śBecause itâ€™s importantâ€¦itâ€™s going to be on the testâ€¦youâ€™ll need this in college,â€ť we will end up sounding like this brief song from my kidsâ€™ favorite cartoon.
For real inspiration and innovation to return to our classrooms, we must model for our students the courage to ask dismantling questions and the resolve to authentically respond.Â We are charged with connecting students to their learning and their learning to their world.Â When they can affect meaningful change in the world with the skills they acquire in our schools, they will be inspired to exceed our expectations rather than obliged to merely meet our standards.
What do you think? I’d like to hear your thoughts. Drop a comment below!