Friday, December 16, 2011
Ursula Franklin. Education as a production model.
I've been reading some material by Ursula M. Franklin and this caught my eye: " ...[P]roduction models are almost the only guides for public and private discussions. It is instructive to realize how oten in the past the prodction model has supplanted the growth model as a guide for public and private actions, even in areas in which the growth momdel might have been more fruitful or appropriate. Take, for instance, education. Although we all know that a person's growth in knowledge and discernment proceeds at an individual rate, schools and universities operate according to a production model. Not only are students tested and advanced according to a strictly specified schedule (at least at the university where I have taught for the last twenty years), but the prospective university students and their parents are frequently informed that different universities produced different "products." Within all production activities, complaints of users are taken very seriously, and those complaints can often result in modifications of the production line. Thus, adverse comments from captains of industry may results at universities in the establishment of extra courses such as entrepreneurship or ethics for engineers, spelling for chemists, or fundraising for art historians. The implication is that choosing a particular university, following a particular regimen, will turn the student into a specifiable and identifiable product. Yet all of us who teach know that the magic moment which teaching turns into learning depends on the human setting and the quality and example of the teacher - on factors that relate to a general environment of growth rather than on any design parameters set down externally. If there ever was a growth process, if there ever was a holistic process, a process that cannot be divided into rigid predetermined steps, it is education. " [p.22, 23] - Franklin, Ursula M. The Real World of Technology. CBC Massey Lectures. Revised edition. Toronto, Ontario: House of Anansi Press, Inc., 1999. Some judicious searching inside the book on Google Books or Amazon should get you a look at a few more pages. Her lectures are supposed to be available as audio files via CBC Radio: http://www.cbc.ca/ideas/massey-archives/1989/11/07/1989-massey-lectures-the-real-world-of-technology/. Franklin's comments got me thinking about things we do at schools that are good for schools that might not be good for all students. Even outcome measures like "graduation rates" imply that graduating is the only goal even though a student might be interested in picking up a course or two.
Posted by Ilene Frank at 12:07 PM