Sunday, November 29, 2009

Education for a democratic and pluralistic society: part 3 of 3

(As part of my Masters of Education, Instruction and Curriculum, I'm required to take a course called Education for a Democratic and Pluralistic Society [EDTE 251, Loeza]. Within this course, I was supposed to write two position papers on a topic of my choice, conduct an interview, and create a presentation using technology on the same topic. Here is part three of three of my technology project.)

The interviews:

The teacher

> J.H. is a sixth year 2nd grade teacher in the Washington D.C. area (urban, public school). She attended school in Abington, PA and College Park, MD. Overall, she was satisfied with her education.
> She believes education is important because well-trained and skilled individuals are needed to contribute to their nation’s growth.
> She would like to see future schools build a solid foundation in abstract concepts and higher level thinking, more technology, and more training on the IEP process for classroom teachers.
> She would like to see less testing.
> She believes the high amounts of worksheets have not changed over the years (negative reaction).
> If she could reform schools, no limits, she would increase teacher pay, hold parents responsible for doing their part in their child’s education, and create a more concrete discipline system with clear consequences and rewards.

The student

> N.M. is a sophomore at a Sacramento area high school. He believes that knowledge is power and that without education, society will become corrupt.
> He would like to see more school supplies, such as laboratory equipment and computers, available for student use. He would also like to see schools remodeled so as to match “East High’s (the high school in High School Musical)” aesthetics.
> He would like to see less education budget cuts and a halt to increasing class sizes.
> He is not satisfied with his current education because “teachers don’t know how to teach anymore.” His elementary and middle school experiences were “hundreds of times better” than his high school experience so far.

The (future) parents

> J.M. and S.C. are married and are in the process of planning for a family. They went to school in Stockton, CA, San Diego, CA, and Berkeley, CA. Overall, they are both satisfied with their educations.
> They believe education is important because society needs a certain level of basic skills to benefit from, and contribute to, their communities.
> They would like to see more homework that is actually corrected and graded, grades based on the student’s work (as opposed to the level of parent involvement in the student’s work), creative writing, and traditional math facts drills.
> They would like to see fewer “useless school projects” that are irrelevant to the subject matter, such as student films on random topics.
> They believe the presence of games at the elementary level has not changed over the years (positive reaction).
> If they could reform schools, no limits, they would like to implement longer school days (with longer breaks, “like French schools”), a wider selection of electives, and emphasize education/career options other than four-year universities and “mass produced” white-collar jobs. They would also include meaningful instruction on world financial systems as well as home economics for the modern student (since “parents are now such workaholics that they no longer have time to teach their children basic life skills”).


It was not surprising that all of my interviewees had a high interest in education reform, considering their backgrounds. However, I was not prepared for their detailed discussions on items they would like to change. It was obvious that all interviewees had thought about education reform, either on their own or in discussions with other people, prior to the interview.

Putting aside any questions of practical feasibility of their ideas, all interviewees seemed willing to take education into their own hands, shaping it into the way they want it to be. Even the student, who spoke in complaints during the interview (which might be partly contributed to the fact that he is a teenager), showed confidence in his bearing and voice that he could overcome any shortfalls of the public education system. Thus, supporting my second thesis on enabling individuals to contribute to their communities in a grass-roots manner.

It must be noted that all interviewees come from middle- (the adults) to upper-middle class (the teenager) backgrounds, which highly contributes to the way they value their own opinions and the belief that positive changes in education will happen.

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