Monday, January 30, 2012

Educating the next generation of cargo-cultists

If you ever read any of Malcolm Gladwell’s books, you will have encountered the famous “cargo cults”, where Pacific Islanders built imitations of landing strips, airplaines, etc, hoping that magically attract the wealth of more advanced cultures.

Of course, you could argue that Spain’s massive airport over-expansion is a more advanced form of cargo-cultism. It would be interesting to know exactly which magical rituals they were hoping to invoke by building an enormous (ironically slightly Easter-island like) statue of a corrupt Valencian politician next to the plane-less Castellon airport..

But enough about airports and airlines. It was just meant as an introduction to my son’s latest homework assignment.

“Today we are studying cameras in science!” he says.

“Great! So what have you learned?”

“Well, they have given us a sheet with a picture of a camera and all the names of the buttons and we need to memorize them. Flash, macro, zoom, show picture, power.”

“Do you know what flash is?”


“Did they explain to you anything about how a camera works?”


“Did the teacher bring a camera to class?”

“No. Just the photocopies.”

“What about the button to take the picture?”

“Well we don’t need to learn that one, it doesn’t have any label”

And this is supposed to be one of the best schools in Spain.


Anonymous said...

I teach at one of the best universities in Catalunya... and by the level of the undergrads I can totally understand what you mean by your comment on "one of the best schools in Spain"

Josh said...

My three year old daughter goes to a public school in a crappy neighborhood in Badalona. On Friday she came home and proudly announced that she had learned how to paint "like Jackson Pollock".

The school has, in its favor, massively involved teachers, a fabulous principal, and autonomy from the education ministry. I wonder which of these ingredients most contributes to the quality of the schooling.

In any event, schooling here seems not to be regarded as much more than a way to keep kids off the street until they are ready to either drop out and compete with the Romanians for construction jobs, or get a degree and head off to Germany for a chance to find real work.

emma said...

That is how they teach english as well - abstractly - with instructors who dont speak the language.

Aurora said...

A new program on TV3 "Mestres" might provide some insights