There is a churning in the world of education. Teachers, parents, administrators and policy-makers are being driven to question anew: ‘What are we doing with our children?’ ‘What values, dispositions and concerns are we creating in them?’ ‘What is the quality of relationships with peers and others that our children are imbibing?’ ‘What will be their relationship with the society and environment they are part of?’ ‘Will future generations be able to find wholesome responses to the many complex challenges of their times?’ These questions are not speculative or academic, but stem from sensitive observation of everyday realities, as much in the classroom as in the society around us.
No statements of educational aims, no ideals of what a child should become, no precast curricular objectives have the power to address these actual concerns. They merely become moulds in which we try to restrain the boundless energies of the young, and narrow our thoughts and actions as teachers. It is the process of questioning that stops us in our habitual, well-worn tracks: we pause, look again, think afresh. This allows for the emergence of discontent, an inward churning, a discarding of what had been taken for granted, and we may search out untapped capacities of the mind. Only then will new avenues of action be revealed–in classroom practices, curriculum, school organization or relationship with our environment. Such questioning helps sustain a live atmosphere of learning in schools. And isn’t this necessary, given the irrelevance that educational aims and practices can descend to?
The spirit of questioning provides a space for reflection and dialogue. It dignifies the teacher, enabling in him a learning about his own understanding of education. In questioning and working together – unfettered by hierarchical thinking – lies the possibility of cooperation and collective action. And when inevitable differences and conflicts do arise, can they too not be met in a spirit of learning? This implies being inwardly aware, listening to each other and relating with affection. These too are perhaps very real issues in school education – for the relationships and culture that we adults create, shape the values, dispositions and concerns of our students.
This issue of the Journal presents writings on a wide spectrum of educational concerns, often expressed in the form of questions. The writers engage in philosophical inquiries, raise questions regarding our understanding of children and our approaches as teachers, offer insights into different dimensions of learning, explore implications for new kinds of curricula or classroom organization, share experiential journeys and outline interesting projects.
The Teacher’s File this time comes in the form of a poster insert, describing a project aimed at making students more discerning readers of the newspaper. This idea, we hope, will be adapted for use in other classrooms. The rapid evolution of information technology, more than any other development today, is shaping post-industrial societies, and the mindsets of young and old alike, and it is worth pausing to reflect on its serious implications for education. Our Points of View section brings together some thought-provoking, often cautionary perspectives on this issue, again raising questions more than providing ready-made answers.
Many of the articles in this issue are an invitation for you to participate in the reflections and questions of the authors. We hope you will find here relevant ideas and responses to your own concerns. Most of all, we hope you will enjoy your reading of the Journal.