Saturday, January 7, 2012

What It Means to Know, Part II - Visiting with 'DocHorseTales'

Morning Light (2008, by M.A. Reilly, West Milford, NJ)

In a recent post about what it means to know, I was graced with several responses.  One of those responses by Joseph McCaleb (@dochorsetales) was so illustrative that I wanted to re/post it as its own post. 

Joseph wrote:

Amen, sisters! To know when divorced from to love breaks the bond between education (knowledge) and responsible consciousness (knowing) and civilization (knowing in social action). Renewal comes in your art, Mary Ann, with its passionate care. Educators lose contact with their profession when such experience and articulation of it is not nurtured. I think if we are to have such schools, teachers must be connected not with test data but with our souls. My source tends toward expression in digital media about my engagement with horses...

This is the video Joe posted a link to and it chronicles his learning while working with a horse.  There's a lot to be learned by viewing the video: about teaching, learning, coaching, and the relationship of all of these with authority. Take a look.

Reins of Power: On Knowing from Joseph McCaleb on Vimeo.

I appreciate the amount of immersive learning that Joseph must have engaged in for him to be able to summarize so well the gifts of learning he composed while working with Cammy and being coached by Zeta and how he is able to deconstruct the authoritative 'school' texts we are conditioned by.

Screen Shot from Joseph's video.
Joseph captures so well the importance of empirical immersion. Without experience, our knowing often rests at the proverbial surface.  This in and of itself isn't wrong.  What's dangerous though is to confuse, surface knowing with anything deeper.  I think when we do this we fall prey to authoritative manipulation. We substitute knowing deeply through experience with stuff we have been told.

IS this not what we see in those classrooms where formulaic 'workshop' models have replaced more organic ways of working?  For many children prefabricated units of study have replaced work the children and the teachers might have jointly composed. These prefabricated units truly resemble the assembly line (think Modern Times) where the student dutifully lines up for his/her dose of memoir, fiction, essay and poem, moving through the year from one task to the next and where teachers are made to address the children as 'writers' or 'readers' in lieu of their actual names.  It is efficiency that is being privileged in these scenes. We also see the substitution for an authoritative discourse for deeper knowing in literacy classes where the teachers make students use computers software like Accelerated Reader as a substitute for cultivating deeper ways of understanding the nuances of reading.  In these classrooms telling replaces apprenticeship and instead of the teacher having to deepen his/her own understanding of the students, content, and craft--he or she can adopt the language that has been provided.

Thinking is optional.

Doc's video shows us that there is no apt substitution for experience.

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