It has now been years since I discovered the most exciting metaphor I currently own for what is collectively going on in “education,” “schooling,” and “learning.” I don’t now remember the day, time, or activity which brought me to the realization that the entirety of those ideas above are subsumed in the word, “conversation” but it was a point of excitement and paradigm shift. If education is best accomplished in a community (and it is), and if community is dependent upon a shared or common vision (and it is), then how does one seek to build that common vision?
Obviously it starts with having a vision of one’s own. That is accomplished I believe by entering into conversation with other minds and then thinking deeply about how your own views compare with the views you gather in those conversations. This is accomplished through experience (we all have educational experiences, so we all can think about what happened in our own past), through reading (education has been a common topic for thousands of years), through comparing contemporary models (education is a hot topic in the media these days, with lots of different ‘experiments’ going on at any given time), and most helpfully, by engaging others in direct discussion of their vision for educating their children. So before we can seek a common vision, each of us must have something of a vision in their own mind.
But most of us have our own vision. How do all these visions meld into one that is compelling enough to unite what are often quite disparate visions? This is where our previous discussion about “commitment” comes into play. We have to be committed to something that is bigger than just this moment or our own needs. We have to be committed to joining together rather than seeking our own. And this is precisely the nature of good conversation. We “talk together” (con-verse) about our individual visions and seek to bring those visions to a unified grander vision that is greater than the sum of its parts.
A conversation must have at least one thesis (conclusion) and thus some supporting premises (arguments). Anything that is less than this probably does not qualify as a vision, but rather an opinion or nicety. If we some end goal, some conclusion that we are seeking, and solid reasons or arguments for those ends, then we can begin to discuss the means to that end. So a good conversation seeks to compare and contrast various conclusions and their premises, in the case of a school these would center on the ends and means of education.
And brings us to the bottom line: How does a school conduct this kind of conversation? I don’t know if I have all the answers, but I certainly have some inviting ideas. I think that our Parent Service Fellowship can be an avenue. Finding ways for parents, faculty, board, and administration to regularly and clearly discuss the ends and the means together could take the form of various meetings, fellowships, conversations at ball games, newsletter articles (like this one), coffees, breakfasts at Spartan Café, etc. But the need I am seeing is for all of us to agree first on the end of having the conversations. If we believe such is necessary, I am confident the means will get hammered out. We will find a way to do what we believe should be done. Talk with me about this. Share your creativity. Help keep the conversation going.