The Rush to Revitalize Education

Yesterday was the first day of my New Literacies course. After having a discussion on what different students in the class thought of when they heard the term ‘new literacies,’ the instructor, Mary McVee, showed us the video, “Iowa, Did You Know,” which is shown below. While it specifically addresses the state of Iowa, many of the messages it contains can be relevant across state borders. Following the viewing of the video she asked us to talk about what stood out to us, what narratives were in place and if we had questions spurred by the piece. While the activity lightly skimmed the key questions raised by NAMLE’s core principles of media literacy it did get the class thinking and engaging in deep conversations.

What stood out to me most in the video was the perpetual focus on the problem of employment and Iowa being ‘behind.’ It then used technology in schools as the answer to better prepare students for employment.  The video stated that 44 schools in Iowa have implemented technology in their education, but what significance does that hold if we are not aware of how that technology is being used?

To go deeper into the superficial answers the video provides, I have begun to question the normalized concept that the main purpose of education is to prepare individuals for employment. What is at risk if employability is put at the forefront of learning one may ask? My response is responsible citizenship… on a local, state, national and global level. If we are not taught how to question but merely expected to know how to answer then the problems caused by capitalism and corporations will simply be fed by submissive graduates who are programmed to serve the larger institutions firmly set in place.

In the fall I was fortunate enough to attend the Symposium on the Historical Roots of Media Literacy. I was reminded at that event of the importance of learning from our past. I am so enthralled by the present and the potential of the future when it comes to ‘new literacies,’ but I think I need to grapple with the following question first: What is the purpose of education? and furthermore, What should the purpose of education be? If I can come to terms more with answers to such large questions, then perhaps I can more clearly focus on exactly how new literacies, media literacy, technology and so forth fits into this notion of ‘education’ we so often take for granted.

Going off the suggestion of Dr. McVee, I am going to look further into the works of Horrace Mann to try and better understand the premise of public education in the United States. With such an investigation I hope to learn more about the similarities and differences that exist within the pressures and expectations of ‘the school’ then and now.

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