A FUN LOOK AT OUR SERIOUS WORK
BY ALAN SITOMER
Apr 10, 2013
I guess there used to be a time when my forefathers would run into problems and actually have to solve issues themselves. Like let’s say my great-great-great-grandfather’s fence became damaged in a cataclysmic storm and now his cows were at risk of being eaten by predatory wolves with an affinity for grass fed organic beef. What would he have done?
Fixed the fence. What would, moi
, his great-great-great-grandson do? I’d call a fence fixer—and proudly, too.
I simply don’t have the time or the wherewithal to actually go fix my own fences. However, what makes this matter worth blogging about is that I personally hold almost no shame about the fact that I wouldn’t hesitate to offload this job to someone else. (Besides, I shop at Whole Foods for grass fed organic beef; even though their prices are a tad high, the quality is consistently top notch.)
Indeed, my great-great-great-grandfather might be rolling over in his grave at the notion that his kinfolk can’t or won’t grab his own tools and go deal with the problem himself. But me, I don’t see it as a matter worth getting anyone’s dander up about. (Like I do when people end sentences with prepositions, I might add.)
Big point: I outsource where prior generations didn’t and while it might cause consternation in the hearts of the elders, it doesn’t rankle me one bit. As The Who would say, “I’m talkin’ bout My Generation.”
Now, fast forward to Google. When I ask youngin’z about dates of historical importance, moments of nation-shaping
salience, tremendously significant touch-n-go incidents that underpin the modern foundations of all that we say and do as modern Americans, what’s the response?
Y U askin me? Jst google it. (They even talk in text these days.)
Of course, this is where I get self-righteous. Okay, not remembering the exact date of when, say, the The Declaration of Independence
was signed (that would be July 4, 1776… It’s, like, why we have the holiday with hot dogs and fireworks, dude) is, I admit, not too big of a deal. But understanding the significance the event had on the way we conduct society today—and how our society will continue to conduct itself in the future—is fairly important.
Or so I
happen to think. But just because I think that way doesn’t mean everyone thinks that way.
“But, dude, I can Google that, too,” is what I hear in response. And indeed, this is also true. Google provides pages and pages of thoughts, opinions, ideas and so on the subject of interpreting the Declaration of Independence and extensive analysis on what ratifying the Constitution meant—and still means
—today. Pages and pages on this subject exist. From the left, from the right, from the center, scores of erudite ideas as authored by scholars, people who are well-versed in the nuances, claims and counter-claims have weighed in on the matter
“So why do I need to swim in these waters?” asks the modern kid.
Of course, this is when I go into diatribe mode about not outsourcing to Google when you can and should be able to think for yourself because the importance of being able to fix your own fence instead of merely outsourcing the issue to… Whoa
. Hold on a minute there. Has what I think just happened really happened? Did I just turn into my great-great-great-grandfather? I’m not even a member of the AARP
- It doesn’t interest me to fix a fence.
- It doesn’t interest me to reflect on the impact of the Declaration of Independence.
- But what happens when you can’t find a fence fixer and you have to do the work for yourself or you’ll lose all your cows?
- What happens when Google becomes inaccessible and you have to find the answers for yourself or you won’t be able to sustain our democracy?
- But I am teaching you a skill you need to know.
- But I am teaching you a skill you need to know.
- There’s un-quantifiable life value—especially in terms of self-sufficiency—to knowing how to make and fix things with your own two hands without having to turn to someone else to do the hard, heavy work for you.
- There’s un-quantifiable life value—especially in terms of self-sufficiency—to knowing how to think about things for yourself without having to turn to someone else’s thoughts to do the hard, heavy work for you.
Then, in a fit of frustration I exclaim, “YOU CAN’T JUST COUNT ON GOOGLE!”
But yes, we kinda can. If we are asking questions to which we already know the answers, that is. But if we are asking questions to which the answers are not yet in hand (i.e. How do we eradicate cancer? Can we heal the damage to our planet that industrialization has wrought? Can peace on Earth be delivered to all in a manner which all people actually feel peaceful towards one another?), perhaps therein exists our answer.
The answer is literally in our collective pockets (presuming you own a smart phone). Yet…
- The cure for the common cold? Can’t just Google it.
- Smartly assessing teacher performance in the classroom in a manner that demonstrates fairness, efficacy and balance? Can’t just Google it.
- Forecasting natural disasters in a way that can mean much less loss of life while also saving billions of dollars worth of property? Can’t just Google it.
But once these riddles are cracked, we will be able to “just Google it.”
My great-great-great-grandfather might have been right for his time, but my own feeling is that he’s wrong for mine. Question: Is this now true for our generation of educators? Are we dwelling on kids knowing skills that society has already rendered passé? After all, in modern times we plan on Google being here as much as we count on electricity being here, and I don’t hear anyone nagging kids to learn the art of candle making in case the lights go out.
Hmm, big question troubling me today: Can’t we/should we just outsource it?
It’s an ever-growing question. Alan Sitomer was named California's 2007 Teacher of the Year. In addition to being an inner-city high school English teacher and former professor in the Graduate School of Education at Loyola Marymount University, Alan is a nationally renowned speaker specializing in engaging reluctant readers who received the 2004 award for Classroom Excellence from the Southern California Teachers of English, the 2003 Teacher of the Year honor from California Literacy, the 2007 Educator of the Year award by Loyola Marymount University and the 2008 Innovative Educator of the Year from The Insight Education Group. He’s the author of six young adult novels, three children's picture books, two teacher methodology books, and a classroom curriculum series for secondary English Language Arts instruction called THE ALAN SITOMER BOOK JAM. A Fun Look at Our Serious Work appears quarterly on the Engage blog.
© 2013 Alan Sitomer. Please do not reproduce in any form, electronic or otherwise. Alan Sitomer recalls his first IRA Annual Convention New Year, New Appreciation for the Common Core