THE BLOG
03/10/2014 09:11 am ET | Updated May 10, 2014

Qualitative Analysis: Education With a Heart

Stuart Gunter

Educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all.
-Aristotle

At my school, we celebrate Valentine's Day by setting up elaborately decorated boxes in which to put our Valentine cards. I received many cute cards from my students, but my favorite was from a colleague, who simply included that Aristotle quotation. What a reminder for Valentine's Day and school. We are a storytelling people. We love stories. We appreciate data and seeing information in all of its black and white glory, but we are storytellers at heart. My students are constantly clamoring for me to tell or read stories. I once had an old friend, Mildred Taylor, who was full of herself, an old spirit with stories to tell--and we heard all those stories over and over, on Sunday nights at the Little Grill in Harrisonburg, VA. She had a few catch phrases she liked to use on us, the college kids who were her rapt audience, as old Boone sat over his Old Milwaukee beer, having just cracked an egg into it. "If the right one don't get you, the left one will." "I hit him upside the head with a fryin' pan!" And my favorite: "If you don't understand it, stand over it."

I have been trying to understand the state of modern education and I don't. I can't. So I am trying to stand over it. I read articles. I hear stories from students, parents, and teachers that make me shake my head with sadness and a sense of forbearance. Although, I am trying to do something about it. I have more passion than answers, so what I can do is write about it. I can ask questions. I can shine a light into the murky corners, like the poor souls in the horror movies who ask, "Where is this trail of blood coming from?" Only to follow it to their grisly deaths.

What is education? Please humor me while I go to my go-to resource, the dictionary:

ed·u·ca·tion

noun
The act or process of imparting or acquiring general knowledge, developing the powers of reasoning and judgment, and generally of preparing oneself or others intellectually for mature life.

The act or process of imparting or acquiring particular knowledge or skills, as for a profession.

A degree,level, or kind of schooling: a university education.

The result produced by instruction, training, or study: to show one's education.

The science or art of teaching; pedagogics. (online dictionary)

I just read the Cashing in on Kids report about Jeb Bush's involvement with the Foundation for Excellence in Education (FEE for short--hilariously ironic). I wonder why few people know about this website? There are 253 likes as of today. That's not many. Here is some information attained through e-mails between key players:

Education has the potential to be an enormous business opportunity and corporate America is looking for a way in. In 2010 Rupert Murdoch, who now has a growing education division called Amplify, said recently that "[w]hen it comes to K through 12 education, we see a $500 billion sector in the U.S." Amplify is one of FEE's corporate donors. (Cashinginonkids.com)

Is this what education is? A way to make more money off of our children? Is this the drive of education in America? What happened to the democratic ideal of education creating an informed citizenry? What about the idea of teaching as an art or a science? Why do we want to be educated? What is the goal of education? Have we all thrown up our hands in quiet desperation? Are we just going with the status quo? Do we not want our children to understand the importance of knowing?

Certainly, this is an issue one person cannot fix. And like I said, I have more passion than answers. I'm trying to find the heart in education--discovering what my students want to know, letting them lead me and teach me. Where are we heading? We are adulterating our children...and I do mean that as a play on words. We are turning them into adults too soon and we are rendering them a poorer quality by doing so--the kids need to be kids, and they need time to be kids. They need to hear stories. They need time to learn as kids learn, not as adults want them to learn. There is plenty of time for that business when they grow up. And we, as adults, need to pay attention to what they are telling us. Ask your children how their day at school was and see what they tell you. Are they happy? Do they get to play outside? Do they get time to read? Do they get time to draw and hear stories?

We are a storytelling people. We have stories to tell. We love to hear them. Mildred Taylor told great stories. They were not part of any classroom, but they taught us who heard them to look at something with a different perspective. If you don't understand it, stand over it. I am trying to understand the state of education by standing over it. The more I stand over it, the more I see we need to support the students and teachers who tell the stories. What is our story? What will future generations say about the story we are telling? Let's make it a good one.