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Alex Halavais

When I was a grad student there was a young prof who had a sign in his office that said something along the lines of "I want to inspire." I despised that sign. I wasn't there to inspire, I was there to impart knowledge.

In time, though, my opinion on that has changed. Student-centered learning suggests that the student is *responsible* for his or her own learning. Nonetheless, telling students this yields no particularly good results. Inspiring them to take on new learning experiences, and providing a structure in which they can experience this, is where it's at. I can't claim I am able to do that consistently, but I'd like to. And so I don't think I give any of those answers, but I probably fall somewhere between A & B.

I also think it is partially an issue of context. I've taught in private schools of relative privilege, and in public schools (like UB) where that is less the case. Many students come in not realizing that through education and work they can achieve greatness; not *just* wealth, but this is part of it. Many of them are willing to work hard, but are unaware of the ways in which directed work can yield real results. A little bit of A is necessary in these cases. And I would argue that a little bit of D is also necessary. If you tell a black student in our school that they will have as much opportunity as a white student, they will rightly think you are an idiot. It's still true in this part of the world that many black applicants will be dismissed out-of-hand for jobs. The version of D that you have to instill is combined with a heave dose of B and a bit of A. The world ain't fair, get used to it, and if you have to make your own fairness by working your ass off.

Those in privileged schools come in assuming that they will achieve greatness, because it is expected of them. Unfortunately, many of them are right. The reality is that many of them can spend four years partying, and then have a relative or friend-of-a-friend give them a job. Some of them are wrong. In these cases (B) is especially important.

But in the end, I find that it is much harder to reach the students of privilege. They want a high grade, and to get out with a degree with as little effort as possible.


Hi. Just found this blog. Terrific.

I wrote about the Prince Charles comments too, but had a different take. I think his view is fairly classist. It fits well with ideas of U.S. education from the mid20th century, when one the main jobs of educators was to sort kids early on into appropriate tracks. At one point, the Dept of Ed published a piece claiming that only 20 percent of kids should be going to college, and the rest be trained for other types of manual and service labor.

I don't buy it. And much of the history of education from the civil rights era forward is about changing this notion in education.

Dave Shearon

Exactly, asyb. And aren't schools like that great places for students ... and teachers! Who couldn't retire from a career spent living out that belief without a feeling of satisfaction and accomplishment? And, wouldn't it just follow that central office programs would have to be facilitative, rather than directive, if that were the view of all professional staff. From that perspective, it has to be the faculty in the school taking the primary leadership with administration seeking to grow capacities, both in staff and the system, to offer differing opportunities to meet differing strength patterns.


If you decide to believe in B, it challenges you to rethink other beliefs. You no longer can merely say wealth or race or genetics makes no difference, but you have to believe it. As a school you have to stop looking at and placing emphasis on things like numbers of free lunches or poverty levels. Belief in B means you start from scratch, looking into the eyes of every student and seeing that the same hope and dreams exist equally, and then finding a way to help every student create their own tools so they can make those hopes and dreams come true. It also means that it is okay for people to have different hopes and dreams and truly meaning it.

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    January 21 "Resilience for Law Students, George Washington University School of Law, Washington, DC

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