Monday, December 7, 2009

Big Ideas Fest, Evening #1

Just when I thought I could call it a day, the Big Ideas Fest gives us Sandy Shugart. Through a beautiful melding of song and spoken word, he opened our eyes to the generation gap facing educators in every setting: Modern vs. Post-Modern.

In a nutshell, Modern society members were born pre-1978 and have a concrete way of looking at the world. They value an absolute truth, even if they may not know what it is. They believe they can control nature if they just try hard enough, that life and it's components form a pattern that can be understood, and that institutions are inherently good. And when those institutions mess up, they get mad.

Post-modern society members were born late 1970's to present. They believe that the meaning to life is found within themself and can be wildly, or not-so-wildly, different from their neighbor's. They believe in the randomness of the universe, that shit happens even if they really, really try and that the ultimate source of inspiration and affirmation can be found in a group of their peers. Most importantly, they believe that institutions are inherently full of scam artists, and will often walk into situations with a defensive attitude. They've figured out that to many adults, they are a magnetic strip, a test score, a 'Funding Unit'-how much value can they place back on those adults?

Besides defining these two generations, how does this list help an educator? For one thing, it gives us huge insight into our students. How many times have your students given impulsive, emotional answers in the classroom without being able to back it up? Could it be because that's just how they FEEL? They don't really care what others think the answer is, because their answer is right for them and that's all that matters. How many times have we griped that students just don't care about their grades? Perhaps it is because they are not placing value on a grade from an adult they don't trust-C's happen.... shrug. They'd rather be texting their friends and gaining affirmation through peer connections.

Most importantly, this analyzation of the current generation can explain why students are so 'forward' with their teachers and professors. While a Modern teacher will walk into a classroom expecting respect and admiration, the Post-Modern student is already trying to figure out what scam the teacher is about to run. After all, isn't the teacher just a tool of the institution called school?? And most interestingly, many of the parents that elementary teachers are working with come from the Post-Modern era. We wonder why these families walk into conferences with fists blazing, ready to blame the school for any issue their child is having within the classroom. Have they not grown up expecting to be screwed over by school? Why would it be any different for their child?

Bottom line: education needs to become more about the learner, not the institution. We need to figure out how to reach this generation on their terms, which includes helping them unlearn the pre-conceived notion that we are 'out to get them'. Not an easy thing to do, coming from a Post-Modern society member herself.

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