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Imperator Majora

A Commodian Wit - Education

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Alright, Education, about time I approached this one. There's an interesting condition that constantly afflicts it, and an interesting counterbalance to that affliction.

So firstly, education as institution. You can say it is key to learned society to have a public, consistent education structure that serves as a universal rule, not necessarily rigid for every single participant, but consistent for each of them. Where you have educators teaching collectives, collectives filling the ancient cultural role of young'uns in various degrees of enthusiasm that fill the rooms. Administrators... money. Ah yes. Surely you wouldn't disagree that every individual would benefit from tailored education that speaks to their individual strengths, even if that strength might end up as being tough in a collective - whatever needs to be done to get individual students the most engaged. But surely you would disagree that doing so fairly for the population is not particularly feasibl- ah, hello parents, yes, we'll give you a blank check on this blog.

So. You have an institution goverend by money and social obligation to provide one of the most important jobs in the world - undumb the people who are going to run society in the future. The odds aren't entirely fair at the start. The most effective education is done by creating common ground. Per the last blog, you're appealing to the individual's understanding when trying to expand it, not your own, and certainly not the blanket assumptions of the average student that, by necessity, are the least common denominator used to make classes work. Various places offer different levels of classes, and that's good for them. Even so, the first source of disparity is a persistent one, present on every level of the structure. Funding, or desire for money, can further complicate the administrative problems of such a structure.

Particularly when you have, say, an American college that is indistinguishable at a business level than any other for-profit entity,using the gentle art of education as something of a shield for what can be ruthless or horribly impractical charges at times, leaving debt far down the line for a degree that, inherently, says very little about your true capabilities most of the time. Think about it. Especially with the 'wild west' of current online education, cheating is easier than ever. But there's always been ways to game the setup, to make the school afford you its measurments of worth despite questionable development on your own part. You might have been a student doing your best, and I applaud you for it.

Yet if you are one such student, you have many peers who skated by on the technicalities of the system,because they knew how to game that permanently inaccurate average that's put on every individual, where the structure suffers from its necessary impartiality. How can this be institutionally resolved? Honestly, I don't think it really can, not without addressing it as a cultural issue. I'm not a smart enough man to propose such a remedy.

Instead I'll propose the individual remedy and get into the second part.

In a system held back by its need to cluster everyone as averages, collectives, numbers despite some efforts to the contrary, by a desire for money that is sometimes more transparent than others, by instituting common cores that are rather exploitable by students who may be rather intelligent and have extreme potential otherwise (yet may lose it when the system is far simpler to score high in alone than learn & score in), you are left with the very front line of making it all work - the educators themselves.

The passion of individual educators can define or break the careers of students. Both are extreme, rare cases, yet their active ability to motivate or demotivate students is perpetual. Yet western education (as I know it, and I do not know of others) does not, perhaps cannot recruit purely on the variables that make someone a fine educator. They may know what they're doing. They may be nice. They may have great intentions. They might also suck horribly.

"How can they suck if they know what they're doing?!" In ways, it's easier to be an educator than someone who actually does things. In others, it can be the reverse. It takes a different mindset to appeal to the understanding of an entire classroom of individuals at heart - even if many will conform enough for your work (yes, we're first person now) to be done - than it is to do the occupation you're teaching in many cases. It is a balance of making the classroom function, of imparting true understanding, and of ensuring you don't lose the inevitable fringes that come in on good faith. Fail any one of these, and your credibility of an educator is damaged. Perhaps not in the eyes of the students or the institution, but in my opinion, at a moral level - you are culpable. It may have been an accident, you may have been getting on your feet, I understand things happen - but it happened; if nothing else, you are to ensure the same issues do not repeat.

You, in the position of educator, are responsible to ensure your class is not dysfunctional. I had several of them. They were classes that were clearly out of scope, or that had no appropriate substitutes. They featured educators grooming their favorite teacher's pets, or injecting needless politics into their lectures. That's not education.

You are responsible for actually teaching your class. This does not mean 'we're gonna watch videos the entire semester'. This does not mean you should depend on a third party that has even weaker grasps of the fundamentals (curse the first generations of 'online textbooks' that offer $50 incentives and charge students ~$300 to 'rent access'). This does not mean using systems so easily broken that C level students miraculously jump to an A after the first weeks because they discovered everything is posted online. Likewise, you are responsible for designing your learning curve to minimize this effect - you cannot blame the above on the student. The student is using the system as they see it. Some individuals are hopeless on this. Others are driven to it by bad design. Don't be a bad designer. Plan your class and think of the nuances.

Yes, what I attribute as responsibility is hard for many people. Well, you're either a natural educator, or yes, you will indeed have to work hard. Because another aspect of the paradox enters here, not everyone's a good educator, even necessarily can be a good one. Nonetheless, we're speaking in ideals. Onto the next.

You cannot get everyone. You, the educator, are as responsible for getting most people, and doing diligence that is within your power to understand why those who aren't keeping up are doing what they do. Sometimes the issue is beyond your control. If you put some thought in it and you cannot fix the problem, then you've done your work. But you should at least try to do that in the first place.

Just a few rambly thoughts and muses I had on the subject. As might be hinted, my college years have tales of some very, very, very incompetent, outright broken professors, yet there were some lights at the end of the tunnel too. And then there was a spectrum in between, a true demonstration of the fragility and variety of a common system for the individual matter of learning (which, impressively enough, at least still makes it through for most people). Perhaps I'll discuss some of the cases in vague another time.
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  1. Flinn's Avatar
    Before I started the export business 15 years ago, I was a teacher (English and Spanish, mostly in Elementary School) during 2,5 years, and teaching is the hardest and most complex job I did in my whole life.

    Yes, what I attribute as responsibility is hard for many people. Well, you're either a natural educator, or yes, you will indeed have to work hard.
    So true, I've had some terrible professors at the High School, to the point that I was so pissed off that I was very close to not to go to the University afterwards

    You cannot get everyone. You, the educator, are as responsible for getting most people, and doing diligence that is within your power to understand why those who aren't keeping up are doing what they do. Sometimes the issue is beyond your control. If you put some thought in it and you cannot fix the problem, then you've done your work. But you should at least try to do that in the first place.
    True again.. it's hard to discuss this point without sounding discriminatory, but people are different, and as teacher/educator one should do the best for the most.. and someone will inevitably be lost on the way

    Great blog anyways
    Updated April 30, 2020 at 05:50 AM by Flinn
  2. Imperator Majora's Avatar
    I was a teacher (English and Spanish, mostly in Elementary School) during 2,5 years, and teaching is the hardest and most complex job I did in my whole life.
    There's a funny thing I notice about teachers, between three levels. There's the ones who find it relatively easy, and also tend to be the least effective. There's the ones that try, but poorly (willingly or not), and remain relatively ineffective. There are finally the ones who try and understand the scope... yet those find it hardest of all, because it is at that level that one understands the scope of the issue and what may be necessary to be effective for how complicated it can truly be. They may miss, but also tend to have the highest amount of students who acknowledge that yeah, they were helpful. And that's about the best you can hope for. I call somewhere between 2/3 the brink of success, all things considered.

    One of my favorite college professors was not a perfect professor, not the most effective or experienced at all, yet came at things from a perspective of a student (admittedly, nerdy and 'step above' as a sort of teacher's pet/high grade achiever) who also had some promise as an educator (commonly helped out students in a TA period during the same time I was in college). I find her immensely more effective than some of the long-established educators because she was humble, she didn't even think she was fit for the job, and yet she did things the best she could and did them well. Just as I have tales of useless professors at the same institution, there's a small handful like this who I consider rare lights in a fundamentally flawed (though by necessity) structure. Still, it's a lot more hit or miss than the level you're at, where you're introducing an entire spectrum of someone's education for that period of time at a very formulative point in their lives. I can only imagine the stress would be that much higher. Knowing the content is all well and good, to be effective at redistributing it... another subject entirely.

    And incidentally, I think I'd be a horrible teacher >.> all the thought and philosophy in the world pales to execution, and time in tech support since has clearly highlighted my flaws even if I do better handling things in person, which I could thankfully do more often.

    So true, I've had some terrible professors at the High School, to the point that I was so pissed off that I was very close to not to go to the University afterwards
    This is really a tragedy, and I know quite a few people who either had similar or smaller scale problems that abandoned courses and paths simply because of one ineffective/terrible teacher or even multiple teachers/the institution.

    True again.. it's hard to discuss this point without sounding discriminatory, but people are different, and as teacher/educator one should do the best for the most.. and someone will inevitably be lost on the way
    A hard conversation perhaps, but hard things should sometimes be discussed without fear of sounding insensitive. Perhaps a level of insensitivity in approaching such problems is required to at least attain awareness, if not a solution. Alas, for the idealism above, even the ideal solution cannot be ideal, for it will be too focused to be economically expedient, and one individual with a plan cannot control so many steps. Someone always loses in the end. There's a silver lining that makes me think it doesn't have to be this way as much as it often is, though. I know institutions that appeal to the average, but then appeal to the minority that doesn't fit with plenty of money (in some cases though, unfortunately overcome by greed). I have a limited degree of faith that something can be done to appeal to the majority, and then clean up all but the stickiest cases that fall outside of it. At that point it's something of a collaborative effort between administration, educators, guardians and the student, and one can only hope that each rung will carry its weight to success, and hopefully not be sabotaged by economic consideration that results in time, money, and effort being squandered. But trouncing corruption is its own problem.

    Thanks for the comment, and for presumably then reading this bit >.>
  3. Flinn's Avatar
    A hard conversation perhaps, but hard things should sometimes be discussed without fear of sounding insensitive. Perhaps a level of insensitivity in approaching such problems is required to at least attain awareness, if not a solution. Alas, for the idealism above, even the ideal solution cannot be ideal, for it will be too focused to be economically expedient, and one individual with a plan cannot control so many steps. Someone always loses in the end. There's a silver lining that makes me think it doesn't have to be this way as much as it often is, though. I know institutions that appeal to the average, but then appeal to the minority that doesn't fit with plenty of money (in some cases though, unfortunately overcome by greed). I have a limited degree of faith that something can be done to appeal to the majority, and then clean up all but the stickiest cases that fall outside of it. At that point it's something of a collaborative effort between administration, educators, guardians and the student, and one can only hope that each rung will carry its weight to success, and hopefully not be sabotaged by economic consideration that results in time, money, and effort being squandered. But trouncing corruption is its own problem.
    so true.. I'll add to that that the participation of families can also do a lot.. it was so at the least in my times at school as a student, whenever someone was in trouble due to personal issues or limitations so to say, the input and extra support from the family could do miracles sometimes.. however I agree, the collaborative effort is the key, as well as the firm will from the student to do they part, otherwise it's for the most wasted time (and money, sadly ).

    Excellent blogs and level of thinking, please keep them coming dude
    Updated May 04, 2020 at 04:41 AM by Flinn
  4. King Athelstan's Avatar
    You present a good reflection on how the situation is here. While US education is quite different from Norwegian, the principle points and objective (and objectiveness) remains. I'm about to finish my first year out of five on my way to becoming a teacher, and it's exactly how to be a good one, to read the classroom and see the individual in the masses that I need to look at in principle. I might have taken "be the change you want to see" too literally

    You can't do everything perfect, but you can do a helluva lot of stuff right