In his article titled “The Neoliberal Arts: How college sold its soul to the market,” (Harper’s Magazine, September 2015) William Deresiewicz argues that “College is seldom about thinking or learning anymore… The purpose of education in a neoliberal age is to produce producers.”
He goes on to state, “Everybody talks about the STEM fields — science, technology, engineering, and math — but no one’s really interested in science, and no one’s really interested in math: interested in funding them, interested in having their kids or their constituents pursue careers in them. That leaves technology and engineering, which means (since the second is a subset of the first) it leaves technology.”
I agree with his overarching premise that we need to celebrate learning and the pursuit of learning.
I agree with his idea (although it is a pretty academic) that teaching young people, at all age levels, to think critically, tackle big questions, engage in debate and discourse, study the humanities, create, and be creative is critical.
Don’t get me wrong. I love robotics clubs, Lego Engineering and externships with Boeing as foundational components of out of school time programs. We teach personal finance classes, how to complete a FAFSA and coding for most of our students. I am not suggesting we not do STEM. STEM programs (and the funding that supports them) are fabulous. But, I do get nervous that the national push for all things STEM nudges out the Great Books Clubs or the Community Service Clubs. It has been a while since I saw a grant opportunity for the development of a philosophy club.
I wrote about work/life balance for the BOOST Breakfast Club Blog once before. I guess I am back to that theme, the theme of balance. We need to make sure our programming catalogues are balanced with Science labs and debate club, Robot Competitions and character development courses. We need Gardening Clubs that blend lessons plans on the life cycle of a plant with purposeful discussions on how to find joy in watching things go from seed to fruit.
Later in his article, Mr Deresiewicz states:
Instead of treating higher education as a commodity, we need to treat it as a right
The article was about the state of higher education but I wholeheartedly agree with his message. I would take it further in saying we need to treat the after school programs that teach students to confidently speak with adults, engage in collaborative and active learning and deep dive into content areas that are meaningful to them is also more than a commodity.
We have a unique blend of traditional after school programming and adventure education here at arc.
My team is tired of hearing me say, “Teaching rock climbing is less about teaching figure 8 knots and equalized anchors, it is more about teaching a young person to find themselves in the process of facing a scary and significant challenge.” I guess the lesson in rock climbing for me is more about finding one’s soul.
For breakfast, I had oatmeal and cantaloupe for breakfast today. I washed it down with a few cups of coffee as I scanned emails for crisis while tying my daughter Sydney’s shoes for school. Typical Friday morning!
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