We need student-controlled education

Students should be controlling our education

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We need student-controlled education

Connor Mochi/ Daily Collegian

Connor Mochi/ Daily Collegian

Connor Mochi/ Daily Collegian

By Joshua Raposa, Collegian contributor

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On the day before my high school graduation, my religious studies teacher, Bill Mackinson, advised, and perhaps forewarned, the class, “Gentlemen, do not let schooling get in the way of your education.”

I am currently a junior in college and I am only now beginning to understand what he meant by this seemingly paradoxical statement.

At its core, the above statement echoed that of the 19th and 20th century educator and philosopher John Dewey.

Juxtaposing the characteristics of the United States educational system and what he characterized as a “progressive education,” Dewey wrote: “To imposition from above is opposed expression and cultivation of individuality; to external discipline is opposed free activity; to learning from texts and teachers, learning through experience; to acquisition of isolated skills and techniques by drill, is opposed acquisition of them as means of attaining ends which make direct vital appeal; to preparation for a more or less remote future is opposed making the most of the opportunities of present life; to static aims and materials is opposed acquaintance with a changing world.”

As to whether we, the student body, can abolish those restrictive and obstructive elements of the UMass curriculum will be entirely up to us.”

If we are to apply Dewey’s concept of a “progressive education” to the University of Massachusetts educational system, and thus if we are to “actualize” our own education for our own potential, a basic requisite of logical steps are required. These steps, and their justifications, are given below.

Whether we, the student body, can abolish those restrictive and obstructive elements of the UMass curriculum will be entirely up to us. Our determination and ability to collectively organize will be the defining elements in whether we dictate the course of our own education and, as Dewey would argue, our lives.

As such, I’d like to propose, to the student body, the following for consideration:

  1. Abolition of the General Education Curriculum

Such a curriculum (1) presupposes that the administration has the right to dictate the terms of our education based on their conception of “well-rounded,” either because we are too benighted or unintelligent to pursue such a course of action ourselves and (2) drains the student body of the funding and time that otherwise would have gone to pursuits we deem interesting.

  1. Abolition of Involuntary Lectures

UMass’ current format of the “educational process” is inherently antithetical to the actual process of learning itself; learning is garnered from experience, not from the passive reception of information.

  1. Abolition of Grades as the Metric of Evaluation

A true education is not dictated by what one receives on a test, or even an assignment, but what one learns. The goals of education and evaluation are incompatible with each other and require re-conceptualization.

  1. Abolition of Required Assignments

The student is currently over encumbered with an unnecessary amount of useless and busy-work assignments; the student ought to decide what is worth their time and energy.

It might be of use to address the concerns some may have from the above considerations.

Generally speaking, someone reading these points might argue that I have provided no countervailing proposal to replace what I have proposed to abolish. I would respond that it is not my responsibility. It ought to be, and will be, the responsibility and wish of the student body to articulate the form they see as most compatible with their vision of an education.

One might also argue that in the absence of the current educational structure, UMass students would be incentivized to not learn, that they would become lazy or that they would do nothing but party. One may argue that it is necessary to coerce them at this age because it is in their best interest to do so.

To these counterpoints, I would argue that the average UMass student learns far less, likely nothing, in this rigorously articulated structure as opposed to what might be called a “Deweyite” one. Secondly, interest and curiosity in a subject is found from internal mechanisms, not external. And finally, those who would be lazy in a newly articulated and liberating structure hurt only themselves and waste only their money by choosing not to take advantage of an education.

To those interested in seizing control of their own education, of their own investments and of their own livelihood; to those who seek to define their learning trajectory without restriction, without arbitrary confinement and without financial squandering: I ask you to consider the above, not as a prescriptive document, but as a potential invitation for social change – one that we wish to see and one that we deserve.

Joshua Raposa is a Collegian contributor and can be reached at [email protected]