Some Thoughts on Learning, Money, & Public Education…

Occasioned by State of Texas (et. al.) v. United States of America, United States Department of Education (et. al.).

  1. learning is learning in relationships.

learning to learn is learning to relate. it’s learning to glow & gush about something (whether it’s about braiding technique or bicycle spoke decor or anglerfish or horses or a raspberry pi or long division) in a way that draws others in.

and it’s learning to be drawn into a new world in imagination—to peek and poke; to see someone’s sharp-toothed gooze-dripping monster-drawing and try one in secret; to hear about french kissing and have the dolls try it out.

learning to learn is learning to oscillate between trying things out for yourself and asking a friend who does different things (or does differently) and looking to people who’ve been around the block more than a few times.

learning to learn is learning to imagine & to try for something… and to re-imagine & fail & re-try & half-succeed & re-imagine & re-try & more-succeed with others.

learning to learn & learning to relate & relating to learn aren’t separable.

2. money can (but doesn’t always) buy students & teachers & admins & caregivers a greater capacity to attend to one another. it can make different & deeper relationships possible.

funding for formal education isn’t first or primarily money for stuff. it’s always first money for relationships. salaries are the biggest expense & students’ basic needs are high-priority, even in the worst of situations. some commonplace insights behind these arrangements:

  • you can have the sexiest computer lab in the world, but if you don’t have humans who glow & gush about what we can do with computers, it doesn’t matter. if someone who knows there’s no one gushing is in charge of the budget, it’ll get cut. on flip: glowing humans have magical ways of sharing, even in non-optimal situations.
  • you can have the best-trained, on-firest teachers in the world, but if they can’t afford to outsource some food preparation, some clothing care, some transportation costs, etc., they can’t bring that energy and attention to their colleagues & students. — same if they can’t afford to fill a prescription or take a vacation, etc. — and if they find themselves buying classroom supplies nonetheless, their powers to attend carefully to colleagues, administrators, staff, caregivers, students suffer.— [and woe of woes when a teacher can’t afford to end a relationship with a better-paid partner or to be choosey about roommate(s). (…so not okay for better-paid partners and generous caregivers to make it seem as if teacher pay & provided supplies are sufficient on their own… be generous, but please, make it clear that subsidies are subsidies.)]
  • you can have the awesomest students ever, and if they don’t have food and if they’re embarrassed about smelly clothes and if they can’t show up until they’ve taken care of a sibling or a caregiver, their powers to attend and relate suffer, too. — on the flip side, students who aren’t looking first to survive (and money can help, but it is certainly not everything) usually have available a wider & deeper range of relational possibilities.

again: money can (but doesn’t always) buy stuff that facilitates learning to learn (i.e., money sometimes frees us to turn attentions and energies to human relationships).

3. to consider exchanging education money for… what? the power to publicly say, “we don’t like trans* people & we really don’t like the federal government telling us what to do?” (as if someone out there hadn’t heard already…)—to consider that exchange is… well outside the bounds of commonsense.

4. instead i propose that Texas drop the lawsuit, redirect a substantial portion of public higher-ed monies to public primary and secondary ed, and revise its policies and curricula to optimize conditions in which humans can learn to learn.

learning to learn, after all, is how you wind up able to enjoy life with others. — it’s also how you wind up with the ‘skills’ pro-faux-educators are so obsessed with… like posing & solving problems. and seeing what’s at stake… or how to combine one kind of thinking with another. and communicating clearly. and risking an educated guess. — (it’s also how you wind up making sensible decisions about whether where people pee is so important that it warrants a battle…)

so hopefully even the hyper-meta-edu-consultants could agree that it’s important to rework policies & curricula & even practical implementations to support learning to learn (i.e., optimal conditions for human relationships).

…insofar as it’s about refining a power to learn to learn, post-secondary ed depends for its possibility on secondary & primary ed. (and i’m pretty sure, but i haven’t seen sufficient concrete evidence, that it’s way better to get a grasp on the basics of learning to learn when younger than older.) hence the proposal that we redirect taxpayer cash…

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