Have you canoed in white water? How did you prepare for it? These questions are just the beginning of a new feature of the Riding the Current Blog – a co-blogger, Dennis Rader, who will over time present his unique insights on learning. Dennis has been introduced in these pages before, and I have known him for many years. What I love about Dennis is that he thinks so creatively about learning, two of my favorite topics. And so, I have invited him to join me here. But rather than prattle on, let me let Dennis speak for himself –
I am an educator, tasked with making possible futures more real for others. But as the French poet Paul Valery warned us almost a century ago, “The future is not what it used to be.” It sure isn’t—and getting more Alice-in-Wonderland-like all the time. So how can educators better prepare people for the future facing them today? I am asking for your help in addressing that concern.
When Madelyn asked me to guest author “Riding the Current,” I thought of the following sad story:
Two young women entered a canoe livery on Elkhorn Creek in Kentucky. The creek is as wide as most rivers and it can be too powerful for inexperienced canoeists. The water level was up and moving swiftly and the owner of the livery expressed his concern. The young women assured him that they were certified canoeists.
Several miles later they entered a section of the creek dominated by “The Claw,” a huge downed tree with its extensive root system pointing directly into the flow of the stream, a death trap where the unwary or incapable can become wedged by the force of the stream and entangled in the roots. The raging water slammed the two women into “The Claw.” They were capsized and trapped in the roots. One woman survived, but one drowned.
In the investigation that followed, it turned out that the organization providing the training and certification in canoeing had never prepared the young women for white water. All of the training had occurred on a placid lake. The young women had assured the owner of the canoe livery that they were certified canoeists–when they were only prepared for flat water. They were in no way ready for white water. They were confident but not capable—they had been educated for a placid world. As a result, one woman was wounded and one was killed because of schooling that failed to prepare them for the experience of white water. That is dereliction of duty, a moral crime of criminal proportion.
Drawing upon the analogy of that sad story, my questions for readers are:
Can you offer other cautionary stories? Can you provide heartening examples of those who managed to deal with the sudden rush of white water?
What can educators do to prepare people for riding the current of today’s white water world?
What are the characteristics and capabilities necessary for dealing with the problems and possibilities of these tumultuous times?
How can professional training be redesigned to help those already in the canoes dealing with the white water?