I hear the word “authentic” a lot lately, usually in the context of the learning experience. The way the word is applied to learning seems to be in order to make a point that the “real world” is the ultimate classroom. Usually, such a point is followed by another that uses the words “factory-model learning” in reference to a public school classroom. In other words “authentic” simply seems to be another word added to a growing stack of words and talking points trying to invalidate both the classroom model and public schools as a whole.
Frankly, I think this, as a talking point, has been so overused that it’s worn out and is almost a cliché. There’s some validity to the argument, of course, but it seems that those who employ it are more interested in making noise than anything else. I don’t think any classroom teacher will deny that learning can take place outside of a classroom, and I don’t know any classroom teacher who thinks that he or she has a monopoly on learning. If anything, I know many teachers who enjoy it when their students bring new things to the table and are frustrated that more of their students don’t realize that learning does not happen in a vacuum. In fact, there’s a strong argument to be made for more learning happening outside of a classroom than inside of it. What I question is why the pendulum has swung all the way to where a classroom is not “authentic.”
When I was in school–and yes, I know that sounds very, “Hey, kids, get off my lawn!”–I heard teachers use the word “microcosm” quite a bit. Now, it was often used in the tired old context of “School is your job!”, but I did start to wonder lately if the idea of school as a microcosm for the world still held any weight. I know the world has changed quite a bit since I walked the halls of my alma mater (go Flashes!) but now that I have experience in the working world–both in and out of public education–I see how some of the rules and tenets I grew up with still apply.
So, since lists are fun, here are five (with the disclaimer that I teach high school, so while you might be able to apply some of this to elementary/middle school, I in no way believe that one size fits all) … Read the rest of this entry »