Blogs on beliefs, #1 of 5

In TSVOTEP I wrote:

Our understanding of life is rooted in the beliefs that accompany and explain our experience . . .

. . . we feel a deep sense of ownership for our beliefs because, in the face of multiple possible beliefs, we choose them and hold them dear. We own them in a way that may be more profound than anything else we own.  (pp.  135-136)

In the mid 1970s my friend and I were exploring northern Wisconsin, when we came across a small sign that said the water springing from the ground formed the headwaters of the Wisconsin River.  We immediately imagined these puddles joining the Wisconsin River, the Mississippi River, the Gulf of Mexico, and finally the Atlantic Ocean.  We were so intrigued by this image of significance and insignificance that we both remember standing there, today — more than 35 years later.

Our beliefs are like the headwaters of a river. Their significance is evident in the life they support as they tumble toward the sea. Their insignificance is evident as they are swallowed by the sea.

That is the message of Peggy Lee’s song, Is that all there is?

The song says we experience life in our beliefs about such things as fires, material possessions, circuses, love, and death.  Won’t we all confront the final disappointment, asking, “Is that all there is?”

Beliefs drive much of human experience, but we rarely assess them, challenge them, or change them.  They may be life’s greatest paradox; we control them, and they control us.   We cannot be forced to believe something we regard as unbelievable, but we rarely alter beliefs to fit new situations.  Instead, experiences that contradict fundamental beliefs are interpreted within the framework of those beliefs.  Such is the nature of beliefs.

Using the river metaphor, this series of blogs addresses the following questions:

1.   How does the flow begin?  (Where do beliefs come from?)

2.  Why does the river flow?  (Why do we believe?”)

3.  How are rivers different as they flow through different terrains?  (How do religious, political, and educational beliefs differ?)

Education degrees come full circle

In colleges of education across the nation, aspiring teachers are taught to improve their teaching by applying what educational research has found to be effective. The assumption is that this will work better than trial and error. As educators earn higher degrees, their understanding comes full circle because trial and error is at the heart of all good teaching.

After earning a bachelor’s degree:

Teachers can identify education issues and make research-based suggestions for improvement.

After earning a master’s degree:

Teachers can identify the most significant educational issues and make research-based suggestions to address them.

After earning a doctoral degree:

Teachers can identify significant problems, hypothesize about the reasons for them, and know what research has found about them. They also know:

1. There is no sure way to successfully address the problems.
2. Different strategies have different benefits, but there is no way to know what causes what.
3. They hope trial and error works in their favor as they address their most difficult situations.

They are back where they started, and the circle is complete.

The Education Research Emperor is parading down Main Street. Although many admire his fine clothes, he is naked. I love irony.