LETTER: The joy of learning is being lost, writes Carbonear educator

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What exactly are the policy-makers trying to achieve in education these days?

letter to the editor

By Kumbakonam S. Ramadurai

That is the question from me, and a host of friends, teachers and others that I have been in touch with.

Long ago in 1996, I wrote my first letter to The Compass about how joyful it was to be teaching in this rural town. The students were as young people were in those days — enthusiastic, adventurous and foolish at the same time, and capable of being happy with life’s basic motions in nature, family, friends, learning and sport.   There was not much separation between person to person or between the young and the old in the community as a whole. Things were done by humans, using humans.

How naive that letter seems now!

Since then, our ever-growing cyber infrastructure has changed all that. It has since then given more power to the already powerful wealth-seeking corporations, with governments playing second fiddle necessarily. 

Witness the proliferation of PPts (Power Points), DLs (Distance Learning), video-deliveries, webinars, computerized testing — in short, multi-media (with a minimum of human teachers).

As we know — or should — the origins of this corporate cyber-persona of education were from the United States and is spreading steadily in the other nations of the world in inverse proportion to their distance from the US.

Naturally, Canada is getting influenced strongly, and finally Newfoundland.

As a result, people are brain-washed to think of education as a commodity, teachers are viewed as paid brokers or facilitators, students expected to act as clients or consumers having the corresponding consumers’ rights.

The success of the present cyber-based business model of education is measured in terms of skills training and making professionals for job markets.

The joy of learning and obtaining knowledge for its own sake (Shakespeare, Gandhi, Einstein …) is not one of the parameters of cyber success-measure.

Computers are good in dealing with inhuman data (as they are bad in dealing with matters of the human heart and mind — like learning).

Education is not only for learning new things but also for inspiring personal growth. Personal growth involves developing discipline and understanding to enjoy life — nature, poetry, music, reading, conversing — along with inner strength to face personal and societal challenges.

Education should further enable the learner to contribute to the wellness of the whole community.

These cannot be accomplished by replacing teachers with multi-media procedures. A cyber-based business model of education does not understand such values. We need more teachers.

To compound the problem, the policy-makers have introduced new “freedoms” for the learners: they do not have to meet deadlines for homework, can do the tests when they feel “ready” or “would like to.”

How can students ever learn meeting deadlines that life is full of? How about the discipline needed to get serious things done on time? How can one get ready for the next step (e.g., chapter in mathematics) if the previous one has not been learned?

How about learning to control one’s emotions and other personal feelings detracting one from doing important things? How can one climb the learning curve if the steps needed can be postponed almost indefinitely? Will a hockey coach allow his students to do that?

It is in the hands of parents to communicate to the board policies that are beneficial and policies that are not beneficial for their children at school. They are the ones with common sense, are most concerned about the welfare of their children, and have the democratic power to express their wishes and concerns.

The teachers themselves do not officially say much these days because just like everyone else, they are also viewed as mere workers with well-defined job descriptions — giving opinions regarding education is not one of them.

Parents, speak to the board of education people and let them know what you would like to see happen and not happen in the schooling of your sons and daughters.

— Kumbakonam S. Ramadurai writes from Carbonear. He has taught mathematics and physics for some 35 years in three universities and two colleges, and has tutored numerous individual students in mathematics and physics at all levels.

Organizations: The Compass

Geographic location: Carbonear, United States, Canada Newfoundland

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Recent comments

  • What they want
    June 07, 2014 - 09:35

    Pacification and conformance.

  • Dave Paddon
    May 28, 2014 - 10:13

    Dear citizens of Gander. I recently heard that the international lounge at Gander airport may be facing demolition. This strikes me as disappointing and short sighted and although I don't live in Gander I DO consider myself an "interested party". Let me explain why. As a citizen of this province I am aware that the artifacts and symbols of my culture and history reside in various places. I think of the Rooms in St.John's as an overall repository for our art, our archival material and significant objects from our past. Our medical history is well preserved in a number of places but the Grenfell residence and museum in St.Anthony come most quickly to mind. The missionary presence is well represented in places like Hopedale with the wonderful old Moravian buildings. And so it goes. This is all good and reassuring. But how about our aviation heritage? I will confess to a slight bias here as I have been a commercial pilot for about 35 years. Nevertheless it seems obvious to me that this province has a rich aviation history which is worth preserving and I can't think of a better place than Gander for a proper facility. Some of you may have visited the North Atlantic Aviation Museum in Gander. It's an excellent facility but much too small. An effort is apparently underway to expand the present building to the point where the Lockheed Hudson bomber can be brought in out of the elements. This is good but not enough. (The Hudson is one of only six remaining on the planet and it disturbs me to see what is, essentially, a priceless artifact sitting outside and subject to all that our climate can throw at it, not to mention the attention of vandals.) All of the aircraft need to be housed and there needs to be sufficient room for future acquisitions as well. I am certainly not the first person to think of this but it seems to me that a perfectly obvious course of action would be to attach a large aircraft display building to the old departure lounge. This would make a first class facility and ensure that an important part of our collective past is not lost through sheer neglect. It also seems obvious that particular emphasis should be paid to landmark events such as 911 and the Arrow Air tragedy. Gander is already a bit of a pilgrimage point for many Americans and it would be nice if we had the best possible facility for them to come and reflect in. It may well be that financial support would be forthcoming from south of the border. Let's not forget also that the history of aviation is not just about airplanes and pilots. How long has there been a major ATC centre in Gander? Would it be possible to have an ATC component at a new museum? How about a large repeater screen with a feed from the Centre so that people could see a depiction of the North Atlantic track structure and the thousands of aircraft that use it daily? Of course I am talking about large amounts of money here but I'm sure that a concerted effort, properly directed, would have the desired effect. In terms of ongoing support, why not include a restaurant and conference centre in the design? . It seems to me that we must be just about a century on in terms of aviation in our province and I know that the 100th anniversary of Alcock and Brown's Atlantic crossing is coming up in 2019. Wouldn't it be grand if the new facility were to open in time for that! In closing I would like to appeal to the citizens and community leaders of Gander to give some serious thought to what is, I think, a grand and worthwhile project. After all, if St.John's can have The Rooms then surely Gander can have "The Hangar".