Wednesday, March 5, 2008

The Way of Progress

"I was taught that the way of progress is neither swift nor easy." -Madame Marie Curie

Patrick Woessner began an interesting Twitter discussion the other day by mentioning that he was helping his son study for a quiz about the Amish. He commented
I spend much of a snow day helping 8 year old study facts about Amish culture...interesting but relevant to him how? Lots of time spent helping [son] study for quiz on the Amish...I'm about ready to toss the computer
When I pointed out the irony of using a computer to study a group famous for their policy of rejecting all labor saving technologies, he responded
Not to worry...they were old fashioned drill and kill worksheets

This exchange started me wondering why his son was studying this particular topic: as part of a unit on world religions; for a discussion of attitudes towards technology; in relation to local history? "Drill and kill worksheets" don't sound like inquiry-based research.

Is it possible that one source of digital inequity in our educational system is an Amish-style attitude towards technology and change? Just a thought.

"Change does not necessarily assure progress, but progress implacably requires change. Education is essential to change, for education creates both new wants and the ability to satisfy them." -Henry S. Commager

"Out of time" by Sleestak66


Anonymous said...

Oh Diane... there are two million ways to make kids sit up and go, "WOW" about the Amish, and consequently about the choices our own society makes-- Hand dipped candles and quilts. Bread. Challenge the students to live like the Amish for a day...and here the Amish are, flattened onto a drill and kill ditto. I want to DIE. :)

diane said...

I totally agree. The kids could become Amish reenactors and have an incredible experience.

But I stiil wonder why that particular topic was chosen. Could just as easily been Shakers or colonists or Pilgrims.

It's the focus and the activities that make the learning come alive for students.

Anonymous said...


Nice post and I agree 100% with Dina's comment. The Amish were the topic because they were in the textook; curriculum by publishers makes no sense to me.

I'll let you know how he did next week when we get the quiz back. In the meantime, I took the idea a little further with a post of my own:


A Keeper's Jackpot said...

I agree that the learning experience would be more meaningful if they were to act out the Amish life.

I remember in 8th grade we had "Ellis Island Day" where we were randomly assigned a character, a life, and a country. We had to choose an appropriate name for our nationality, dress up, and act the part which required researching the country we were from and what possible hardships made us want to go to America. I certainly learned more than I would have just memorizing facts about Europe. We even pretended to go through the immigration process.

At the end there was a field trip to Ellis Island.

diane said...


I enjoyed your post - you took the conversation in a different direction, like a critically-thinking 21st century citizen should :-)


I was one of the Inspectors at Ellis Island Day: once you poor immigrants made it through the process (and not everyone did) I administered the oath you took.

As both the mother of a participant, and an adult volunteer, I observed the excitement that a good learning activity can generate.

It doesn't sound like Pat's son got to experience that feeling.