What is worth knowing?

In my last post, I wrote about page 61 in Teaching as a Subversive Activity – where Postman and Weingartner asked the readers to contribute their questions to help shape an inquiry-based education, in response to their initial question “What is worth knowing?”

And now, I’m wondering… If you’re reading this…

What is worth knowing to you? What are the important questions? What are the unimportant questions that should still be asked?

What is worth knowing?

To start things off, my contributions to my campus’ local copy of TaaSA were:

  • Who am I?
  • Who cut the cheese?
  • How do I ride a skateboard? (actually, this was asked by my 5 year old son Evan)

13 thoughts on “What is worth knowing?”

  1. I’m realizing that Evan had the best (certainly the most relevant) question of the 3 we added to the book…

    @Rob – good one! and the answer will be different for every person, as will the path to get there…

  2. I vote for Evan’s question. Kids are so practical and honest. I just went and asked my 6 year old daughter what she would like to know. Her answer is, how to build a house out of cardboard for her stuffed cats. (Right now her stuffed cats are THE toy).

  3. Why are humans so resistant to change? And why don’t we understand that math is meaningful when we say that “most of us are average”? I’d also like to know why we continue to believe in political systems that seem to have stopped believing in most of us? And most importantly- if the guys at Google are so smart- why haven’t they figured out how to stop giving bonus points to spam links?

  4. @sami – I’m not naiive, nor overly romantic, but I just can’t resign education to be simply a tool for controlling the activities of the population. Of course that’s part of it – we’ve all been indoctrinated into political, economic, and philosophical camps, with varying degrees of success, but education has to do so much more if we hope to rise above the watered down lowest common denominator mass culture narcotic.

    Do we let people off the hook, and let them slide back into passive acceptance of hegemony? Or is it our role, our mandate, our moral imperative to do more? Not everyone will accept that there even is more (maybe it’s even essential that many reject the possibility), but I think it’s critical to try.

    If I accept that the mind resides completely within a person’s own skull (which I do), and that our understanding of reality is entirely shaped by our perception of it via our senses (which I do), and if I accept that at some point, my isolated and individual mind will shut down and cease to exist (which I do), then on a very real level my single most important act is to communicate with others. To share, to help in sense-making. Otherwise, it’s all for naught. Nothing more than busywork until death. So, if communication and sharing and helping to build understanding are the most important acts (above the simple biological imperatives) then education becomes the single most important activity that any of us can participate in. And not the cold, mindless industrial “learning factory” brand of education, but real, live, connected, and active inquiry.

    @Carolyn – kids are much more pragmatic than many people give them credit for – her number one priority is caring for her stuffed cats :-)

    @David – all good questions. where to start on finding answers?

  5. “…then education becomes the single most important activity that any of us can participate in. And not the cold, mindless industrial “learning factory” brand of education, but real, live, connected, and active inquiry.” (Darcy)

    The “real, live, connected and active inquiry” is what I want for my kids (and myself). If I can provide them with that kind of education then I will feel I have been successful.

    So to answer “What is worth knowing?” I would have to say – Knowing how to learn. Not how to memorize a list of facts or how to parrot back someone’s thoughts, but how to discover new things and form personal opinions that can be expressed and defended.

  6. @Sami – I’d have commented on your blog, but couldn’t find a comment form…

    I think “preaches” might be a bit strong, and I don’t think I’m riled up. I disagree with a few things you wrote in your post. First, I don’t think an emphasis on inquiry is necessarily “liberalization” of education, nor does it require anyone to lay down their lives in the pursuit of it. I don’t believe that education needs to be controlled by The Government – most of my best education has happened far away from any formal institution, far away from any political or economic power plays.

    If the practices of teaching and learning, of questioning, of investigating, of discovering, are to be of any value, they need to “belong” to the individual, not to The State. For that to truly happen, we need to realize that education is so much more than Education. It is continual. It is organic. It is not defined by anyone other than our selves. As such, any political control over our own teaching and learning has to be voluntary. That’s not to say it’s nonexistent, or even that it isn’t compellingly strong. Just that the control is voluntary.

  7. @Carolyn: Knowing to learn what and for what purpose? Personal opinions about what? For instance if it’s whether Obama will make a good President or McCain? If the medium is controlled so are the questions. The medium can limit the range of questions to those which are not substantial. For instance will McCain be a good President or is Obama and why? How about why do Americans only have two real choices? … or Canadians? The first question is unsubstantial if both parties have essentially the same platform. http://www.samikhan.net/story/2008/08/23/teaching-a-subversive-activity-part-v-questions-ask-yourself

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