“Doing School” – A must read for any would-be teacher

Doing School
"Doing School"

For a brief while (and I’m sure this will be revisited at some stage) I had an addiction to education content on iTunesU. For the uninitiated: iTunesU is a resource provided by Apple and a wide variety of universities to make some of the university content available as either audio or video to the general public. This eventually brought me to a presentation at Stanford University by Denise Clark Pope: essentially promoting her book “Doing School: How We Are Creating A Generation of Stressed-Out, for sale Materialistic, advice and Miseducated Students”.

“Doing School” is a compelling and fascinating read. Clark Pope follows five “successful” students from a variety of backgrounds, tadalafil at a likewise “successful” school, for a whole year. Maintaining the integrity of the study, she looks at the high school education experience only from the point of view of the student: following them for their entire school day (and sometimes in their extra-curricular activities) and interviewing the students themselves across the year.

The stories of these five teenagers are certainly absorbing. Each provides an insight into the pressures placed on high performing students: from parents, teachers, the college admissions system as a whole and certainly the students themselves. But more extraordinary was seeing the impact these pressures had on each student – as they cheated, manipulated, wore themselves into the ground and compromised to build up the all important GPA, or to better their chances with a college admissions board.

While there are undoubtedly parts of the book that are noticeably more relevant for US readers than for us here in Australia, there was nevertheless plenty to be gained for a prospective teacher like myself. While for the most part teachers play only bit-parts in the student’s stories, there were a number of places where teachers showed up: as enablers of poor behaviour, manipulated and naïve cogs in a much bigger machine, and occasionally as wise counsellors – able to see a bigger picture of unhealthy single-mindedness. All in all, “Doing School” represents a sobering look at how (and indeed what) we teach our “best and brightest”. I’d recommend this book very highly to anyone working in education.

4 thoughts on ““Doing School” – A must read for any would-be teacher

    1. You’re welcome to borrow it if you like: my mum is actually reading it at the moment, but once she’s done I don’t mind passing it on at all.

  1. Geoff, the more -aware- teachers we have out there, the better for the kids, so thanks. I love what you’re doing and (importantly) the way you’re doing it.

    Like work, I think it’s hard to react across or against a perceived systemic pressure without a solid, hard-to-shift and my-roots-are-down-into-this-stuff set of ethics, standards and ingrained behaviours.
    As a parent, I see cultivating those as my role with my boys. Actually, it’s more like responsibility. Duty.

    The clock is ticking, and already, with a 3 year old, we’re seeing -uh- different input coming from the other kids at child care and so on. It’s not going to be a series of free kicks.

    I’ve got less than ten years to get this stuff into Toby, and get it in far enough that it becomes Who He Is, not just what he does when Mum and Dad are looking.

    On one hand scary. On the other, what an amazing privilege and responsibility! So glad for my church, family, friends to help support, encourage and inspire us.

  2. It certainly is scary, but I think in many ways that’s why it takes a community to raise a child. And in some ways that’s not necessarily even embedding a set of ethics that look like a laundry list of immutable truths, but more as an ethical framework and structure through which to make tough (and easy) decisions.

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