While reading the first chapter of Critical Issues, entitled Learning and Understanding, I came across this quote: “Acceptance of polar opposites in oneself – provided that one doesn’t act on the bad impulses – can contribute to inner harmony.” In context, the book is describing energy cycles that contribute to learning and how we must strike a balance within ourselves philosophically in order to function at our highest potential.
Honoring the importance of balance in ones’ opinions, dogma, or perspective seems to be the most important takeaway I’m receiving while reading the book, Taking Sides. No matter which chapter we dive into, I find myself agreeing with both sides of the specific argument and relating to the pros and cons presented. I believe that the insight to be gained is that we are to approach issues such as school governance, or academic standards with an open mind. Initially, I felt very much opposed to National Standards and the reputation that entails. I ought to mention that this was an uneducated bias on my part, having yet to work within the school system, but simply reacting off of hearsay and assumptions. Upon further investigation, I come to acknowledge the beneficial aspects of national standards, such as national consistency and fluidity between states in order to provide a smooth transition for children who are transitory.
I am really enjoying reading Critical Issues, in particular, as I feel like it offers a unique perspective on topics that are truly important and ought to be addressed within our school systems. In the chapter entitled, “Making a Living,” the author argues that the best teachers build upon students’ interests and do not attempt to subject them to the same mold. Arguably, the most important lesson to teach students is how to become a continual life learner and to live “the examined life.” Success looks different for different students. Motivation works differently for different students. Being understanding of those differences, not only regarding controversial systematic issues in education, but also on the micro-level when it comes to students as individuals with varying needs, will foster the most influential teachers.