Do we as teachers take the path of least resistance or do we struggle for something more? This question I think is essential for all teachers, future and current, to wrestle with as it will really determine the effectiveness of their teaching and the meaningfulness of what lesson they are completing with their class. Below I will lay out a brief analysis on this question, and how to go about implementing such practices in class. Comment your suggestions, thoughts, opinions below!!
Do we as teachers take the path of least resistance or do we struggle for something more? This question I think is essential for all teachers, future and current, to wrestle with as it will really determine the effectiveness of their teaching and the meaningfulness of what lesson they are completing with their class. This was also a question which I had to ask myself many times throughout my student teaching particularly when the material was somewhat unclear to me, or when attempting to teach a higher level concept or lesson to a lower level class. This issue arises particularly when reading the pieces by Peter Seixas and William B. Stanley which both discuss they different ways in which Social Studies is and should be taught in a high school classroom. In both of these pieces, to me, it boils down to the question which I already posed, should we as teachers take the path of least resistance or the road less traveled when educating our students. After reading these articles, I have a greater understanding of the assumptions behind each method, and have come to the conclusion that as teachers we should expect the most out of our students, and attempt to have them reach their ultimate potential and that can only be done through challenging them to think about, synthesize, and analyze information in a truly meaningful way.
In both Schweigen! Die Kider! by Peter Seixas and Two Cheers for Postmodernism by William B. Stanley, the concept of postmodern education in history is posed up against the social narrative concept of history and the struggle to get children to think is at the heart of the dichotomy. First, when discussing the traditional notion of social studies education there seems to speak of it in terms of what is the easiest thing to do, the type of education which requires the least struggle on the part of the teacher and the student. While the authors seem to have differing opinions on the conceivability of postmodern education, they both see traditional education as the path of least resistance. In Stanley’s piece, he seems to assert that postmodernism is not in itself a positive means of educating society, because as a whole most are not capable of the thinking inherent in the concept of postmodernism. For Seixas, postmodernism is a way to challenge the students into thinking about history in a way which goes beyond the traditional constraints of history, facts included. Their writings on this topic truly bring me back to the question posed earlier and lead me to an answer.
I think Stanley is possibly sound in his argument, but I believe he is flatly wrong. We should not teach to the lowest expectations of what society thinks of the people which inhabit it. I believe that we should expect the highest of our students and challenge them to actively engage and think about the history in a way which becomes meaningful to them and helps make them into better citizens. Stanley’s assertion that trying to make students into better citizens is misguided, is misguided in itself, because who is to say that students can become capable of the thinking that is required of them. It is truly up to the teacher, and having children think about the history and politics of the past and now can help create the active, engaged minds which we strive for as teachers. This is without a doubt a challenge and it may not be reached in one quarter, one semester, or even one year, but if we all put in the effort to attain this goal, it is certainly reachable for most of the students we encounter.