Capitol Polemic

Staircase Detail Up to DomeHistory and JusticeFreedomCapitol Bldg RotundaHouse Chambers Hall to House of RepsCapital Bldg Daytime19th Century Handpainted Ceiling_House at CapitalDuring a trip to Washington D.C. Congressman John Mica offered to take our group on a special evening tour of the Capitol Building. He is a real history buff and with 21 years serving in the House of Representatives he has a few good stories…

These photos taken with my smartphone speak for themselves. The quality of workmanship and art in the architecture, paintings and sculpture makes my proud of my government. Washington D. C. has long been my personal inspiration.

The workshop I attended was a special session of Florida State Public Universities. We met with representatives from Department of Defense and major uniform services, and then with staffers from Democratic and Republican representatives with the Florida delegation.

Given the acrimony and loss of the traditions of discussion and respect for disparate viewpoints, many Junior Conservative representatives have never experienced what staffers described as the Regular Order of legislation. They all expressed dismay with ongoing sequestration, little hope of a bipartisan spending bill, and the general loss of appreciation for the 200-year-old process of compromise to pass bills that work for the America Public.

Capitol Nightime

The Heart of Our Democracy

FreedomEducation is the focus of my professional life. My ideas about education – what it is and what is should be – have evolved.  Formal education, as in public schools, colleges, and graduate schools, is under constant revision in our democracy. Ideas change as the society-wide discussion continues.

Our country knows that an education is at the heart of a democracy.  Without informed citizens, a democracy cannot out last tyrannical and opportunistic forces. Education develops our best nature while ignorance breeds the opposite.

In its simplest form, education is a framework for learning. Children learn to attend. From the self-directed learning of childhood, the classroom and teacher focus their attention to particular facts and phenomena.  Children are taught to use tools for discovery, primarily mathematics and reading.

In the early days of education we were satisfied that kids would grow into adults who could read well enough to understand voting instructions and could sign their name in cursive. Later, we became more ambitious. Courses of study made it possible for average citizens to attain higher levels of performance for career tracks that moved them from blue collar to white collar work, or to scholarly levels of study.

Education became a means of social and economic equality in America.

Education in our public schools today is still very goal oriented but may have lost track of the original idea: that educated adults help preserve a democratic society. With the advent of the Internet, increasingly finer discernment is required of students in complex learning environments, and a complex, interconnected global community.

Social media offers students sophisticated tools for communication – perhaps beyond their intellectual and emotional development. Technology is driving society—proven to be an upside down relationship.

The role of the teacher has returned to guide and the classroom to a framework for learning. Students explore their own interests using online tools that transform learning. Teachers and curriculum need transforming, too, to meet students in the new learning reality. How will technology aid or hamper our democracy?

What do you think?

Resources for Exploring This Topic

Alive Enough? Reflecting on Our Technology – an interview with Dr. Sherry Turkle, Professor of Social Science of Science and Technology at M.I.T.

How Technology Is Changing the Way Children Think and Focus – Psychology Today Online, article by Dr. Jim Taylor, December, 2012.

The Science of Attention – interview with Dr. Adele Diamond, Professor of Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience at the University of British Columbia.

NEA Policy Statement on Digital Learningdiscusses the recognition of the new learning environment and changing role of teachers but cautions that education leaders need direct the uses of the technology as opposed to private owners of new technologies.