August 1, 2016
Online Journal - Pedagogy - Has It Changed Or Have We? Food for Thought
Teresa VanWart Ferreira, Principal, Coralwood Adventist Academy, Edmonton, AB

The 21st Century has ushered in a time of educational analysis. Are we on the brink of complete education overhaul, for which we have teetered on the edge of for the past 20 years now? What does this mean for Adventist Education? These are rhetorical questions, because I think we all know the answer.
 
The Huffington Post1 posted an article about the divergent and emergent student body we are engaging with in the classroom. And while I don’t agree with necessarily everything it said, there was definitely a key undertone of change. Our foundation in the past has been ‘reading, writing and arithmetic,’ which, author Erin Reilly, coined the new terms outlining a “four-sided framework called the Four C’s: Create, Circulate, Connect, and Collaborate.” This framework and terms better address not only the changing landscape of the classroom with technology integration at every level, but they better address the needs of our student population, before we over-diagnose and over-medicate them.
 
At the ASDASA Educational Leadership Conference last year in Texas, I heard Marie Alcock assess the student brain this way – years ago 80% of the student population had linear brains (the generational brains that comprise many of our teachers today) and the other 20% learned ‘differently.’ Today, that statistic is flipped on us – 20% learn in a linear way and the other 80% have what she called “spider brains,” alluding to a spider web brain that can multi-task while being able to handle overstimulation.
 
Learning how to teach to the student and their needs will change the landscape and layout of a traditional classroom – theory vs. exploration. But what do we believe as Adventists? Have we not always triumphed exploration and being 3“thinkers, and not mere reflectors of other men’s thoughts” (Education 17.2)? Or have we lost this somewhere along the way; have we strayed from the divinely appointed educational path?
 
About a month ago, my sister sent me a quote from Belt of Truth Ministries2 and asked me what I thought it meant: “Ninety-nine students out of a hundred are automata, careful to walk in prescribed paths, careful to follow the prescribed custom. This is not an accident but the result of substantial education, which, scientifically defined, is the subsumption of the individual.” This quote came from one of the founders of the education system in America, William Torrey Harris, and her real question was concerning the word “subsumption.” In other words, the individual is subsumed and the general becomes the standard of existence. It is amazing that our current western education system was intended to take our individuality in an affect to essentially clone us into automatons. And Adventist Education has followed.
 
So, how do we get back to undoctrinated education where the individual is taught to thrive as a reflection of Christ? How are we to segway out of western educational culture like the Hebrew friends in Babylon of old, and grasp the education intended by God? These are questions only you can answer as an administrator/educator, but I leave you with the following study quoted by Belt of Truth Ministries2 about what is NOT working in western education:
 
    “In a study on divergent thinking:
  • 98% of children aged 3-5 scored what would qualify as creative genius.
  • After five years of schooling, they retested the same children: only 32%.
  • After five more years of school: only 10%.
  • By age 25: only 2% of the population remain as divergent thinkers.”
 
References:
1Morgan, Michael. “Are Your Children Divergent? Yep. What Now?” huffpost.com. April
04, 2016.
 
2Ritsema, Scott. BeltofTruthMinistries.com.
 
3White, Ellen G. Education. Pacific Press Pub. Assoc., 2002.