Pictures of an Education

By Aaron Barlow

In “My Pedagogic Creed,” John Dewey writes, “I believe that the question of method is ultimately reducible to the question of the order of development of the child’s powers and interests. The law for presenting and treating material is the law implicit within the child’s own nature.” Teaching centers on the student, not on learning outcomes or assessment.

As a nation, we’ve recently kept our attention on tools for organizing education, often ignoring teaching. Both are critical to successfully engaging in the art of education, but the emphasis on measurable outcomes has overshadowed attention to student engagement. We need a return to balance, allowing us to focus on the dynamic of the learning process. Organizing tools keep the wheels spinning smoothly—and that is all they should ever do.

A return to educational flexibility is needed, too. As doctoral dissertations extend beyond ink on paper, we must learn how to adapt—not by making rules but by exercising the art of judgment. In this issue’s lead feature, “Embrace and Ambivalence,” Virginia Kuhn makes the case for accepting form created by and “productively aligned” with content in the digital dissertation.

In “The Art of Becoming Yourself,” Chad Hanson reminds us that a college education isn’t just about training—it’s also about growth. We wouldn’t be wrong, he says, to institute a tradition of having college graduates prepare a “graduation story.” The art of telling this story would provide a more useful evaluation than many tests.

In his article, Howard Brody argues that the lack of means of evaluation is not the same as the lack of value. By exploring the encroachment of “economism” into education, Brody shows how the humanities can challenge it and how the art of the humanities can succeed.

No act of education can be adequately described by a catalog entry or syllabus. Darren L. Linvill, in “The Bias Fallacy,” points out that a course description is not the course itself and that education extends far beyond political labels. There is an art to teaching that transcends bias.

Looking beyond the classroom, Steve Aicinena tells us why he remains an athletic director, having watched a campus grow into a real community. This community is certainly part of the art of those who create our colleges.

Kenneth Bernstein, who has just retired from a career as a public school teacher, speaks to college professors, alerting us to the changes in K–12 education over the past decade—changes now affecting student readiness to take on college work. All of the teaching arts in the world can’t undo the damage of misguided policy, but ignorance is worse.

Over the past year, Academe has been paying close attention to the accommodation of faculty members with disabilities. Stephen Kuusisto, in “‘Extreme Bold’ in the Faculty Ranks,” talks about the work that we, as college communities, have left to do. Leadership must come from the faculty—leadership that is itself part of the art of education.

This is my first issue as faculty editor of Academe. I follow Cat Warren, whose vision and talent already inspire and challenge me. During Cat’s three-year tenure, Academe did more than speak to the faculty—it spoke for the faculty. Over my three years as editor, I hope the magazine can continue to provide a strong voice for the profession. The faculty, after all, is not packed away in some ivory tower; it is a vibrant and necessary part of the wider American community.

Thanks, Cat. If we can stay true to the course you’ve navigated, Academe’s sails will continue to fill.

Comments

Aaron,

This column is dead on. Education is so much more about experience than about performance and procedure. Most of us failed in grad school, as we fail in our professional lives, and as we failed as undergrads. The experience, the training, the development of resolve and awareness and wherewithal in the face of adversity: These are the core of learning. The good teacher, and the good institution, provides flexibility by allowing its teachers to create structures in which students can both fail and succeed without necessarily having to produce a result that can be uniformly measured. If we are going to assess, we need to do so with greater latitude and longitude. Bravo, sir.

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