Cafés are about access & community. Schools are about control & isolation. #edchat

I have nagging questions about my teaching and my profession. This one is haunting me this week:

Public libraries, cafés and even fast food restaurants have better access to the web than your school–or mine–does. I can walk into a shop (like the delicious Mink in my neighbourhood) and connect any wifi device I happen to be carrying–smartphone, tablet, laptop–in a moment without having to register my device with the IT department. I don’t get yelled at for sucking up bandwidth. I can access any website I please.

Students hangout in these places because these places are about (better) access and community, about getting work done and hanging out. I think the sharing of food is an important factor, too: food (and fire) are more powerful social media than anything online.

In comparison, schools are about control and isolation. Even public schools are not public spaces–the good ones are are walled gardens. And once inside them we further compartmentalize and spend most of our time in rooms about of about 75 square metres (according to specifications put out by the provincial ministry of education here in British Columbia.)

To be sure, some control is good. As a colleague pointed out, we must keep in mind developmental differences between K and 12 and older. He rightly said it would be morally and prudentially wrong to let children run about online, in coffee shops or even in schools without adult guidance–he chose that word over “supervision” carefully–at whatever appropriate levels.

But I’m not suggesting that we give up adult repsonsibilities. I am asking, if it takes a village to raise a child, why do we cut our students off from the (online or real) village for so much of their day? Are we sure that the cost is worth the gain?


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