The World

We don’t understand the world because there are so many parts to it that it is impossible. Even by chopping it up into smaller pieces we simply run off in different directions. And, that in itself is interesting. It is part of our intellectual culture that if you break something like a scientific problem down into smaller pieces, they can be studied, understood and be put back together as a whole concept or process and connected to other scientific knowledge. Unfortunately, this process often does not work.

Anthropology, as a science, is constantly having its explanations of how living species were created and developed trashed by the discovery of new bones, cave drawings, etc. The best way to build highways lasts only until it is found that actually it has problems and there is a better way. On the other hand, there are powerful forces in social institutions to keep going with what has been and what is.

Education seen as schooling is one of our worst problems. The newest and absolute best way to induce learning in a particular subject almost always has been used before, sometimes as far back as the turn of the last century (perhaps even further back), but no one knows about it. After all, that was yesterday and we have moved on. What is even worse is that particular practices are trumpeted in a school system as the newest and best when the same thing has been advertised in another school system in slightly different form and the two institutions never get together. Unfortunately, the superintendent moves on or the the sponsoring group runs out of money and the “innovation” dies. States, the Federal Government and private groups have funded many projects that die when the money runs out. Over the years public television has televised many innovative programs in public schools, yet there has been little acceptance.

Many years ago I was a small part of a project by the State Department of Education in Virginia to delay the certification of beginning teachers for three years until they had been evaluated on the job and, if necessary, provided assistance in improving. Colleges of education in state institutions did not like this because it put their quality of professional preparation on display. Never the less, the Department persevered and the program was implemented. One of my daughters went through the three year process of being observed and counseled by a team of former teachers. While no one enjoys being judged, she found the process to have been helpful.

However, the superintendent who implemented the program retired and colleges of education managed to kill the program on the grounds that it cost more than the old way of simply certifying any state graduate who got a job. That way, colleges of education did not have to worry about having their work being scrutinized.

It’s hard to make a case that change in social institutions is really change. Human beings make decisions on what they think/feel is best for them and that often is not what is best for an institution or the people that the institution serves.

  1. #1 by Terry Jackson on November 3, 2014 - 5:59 pm

    The older and more experienced I get, the more I appreciate the phrase “everything old is new again”. Is innovation really innovative? The program you instituted makes so much sense to me…. I hope this finds you well, dear Dr. Boswell. Hugs to you, Terry

  2. #2 by John Boswell on November 3, 2014 - 9:19 pm

    It’s good to hear from you again Terry. If you have time, use my Univ email and tell me how your dissertation is coming.

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