Monday, May 3, 2010

The North American House Hippo

It's fairly common for teachers to teach students to be critical assessors of Internet resources. After all, most of us recognize how ridiculously easy it is to create a very professional -yet fake- looking website. The North American House Hippo documentary should be proof enough how authentic something entirely fabricated can be portrayed.

But how often are students actively encouraged to question the teacher?

Or their parents?

I proudly hang a sign in my classroom that reads:

Think for yourself, your teacher might be wrong.
I refer to this poster all the time.

Throughout the year, I encourage my students to alter the poster's intended target. During our World War II unit, we swap teacher for government. During our discussions on rewards, punishment and other forms of manipulation, we swap teacher for bully, friend and even parent.

It's very important that students know that questioning their teacher is not only tolerated, but that they are expected to do so.

I want them to question authority.

Before you leap at me through your keyboard, let me be clear that students need to be taught how to be critical of others while remaining respectful and civil. When I explain all this to my students, I typically say that I want them to think for themselves. This does not automatically mean that they should not listen to their teachers or parents, but that they need to listen first and then decide if what is being said makes sense.

I am not proposing students go running around willy-nilly, refusing to listen to anyone. Rather, I am actually advocating for quite the opposite. I want them to be incredibly mindful while listening.

I want them actively listen to others and reflect upon what is being said.

I want them to ask questions.

I want them to think.

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