Friends, Colleagues, and Neighbors,
It has been a while since an update. The main reason for the delay has been my job as a faculty member in the College of Education and Augusta University. I have been teaching two different classes that are closely related. The subject? Place-based education. For those of you that aren’t familiar with this term, place-based education is an educational idea in which the content of the classroom is based on the community and local issues. Instead of studying the rainforest in elementary school, study the Georgia forest. Study local history, economics, literature, art, biology, chemistry, agriculture and business. Get community leaders and businesses involved in the schools. Teach students to cherish the community, the people, and the environment.
For those who might question this vision, what is it that we want our children to know and to be able to do? Do we want students to know history or think like a historian? If we want them to read, does it matter what they read? Why not read something that has context? Beowulf? Separated by time and culture and language? Use local literature.
A popular argument against this idea is that if you only learn about what is local, what if you move? Learning about where you live is transferrable. If you know where to look, what to look for, and how to find things, you can live anywhere. However, learning about where you live also causes students to appreciate where they live. In turn, there is less violence, less vandalism, and a greater since of community. Volunteerism goes up. People help each other. And, communities tend to thrive.
Now, there are three issues here. It isn’t about only teaching what is local. I am not advocating abandoning what we do in schools. I am talking about enhancing and making education relevant. Second, what about standards? There is ample research suggesting that teaching just to standards limits education. Getting the students interested in what they are learning does more toward improving test scores than the drill and kill that we do now. Finally, what about tradition? We all know we learn in school. The problem is that this doesn’t really change. As things advance in science, math, literature, historical knowledge, business, music, art, and technology, our schools are not following along. We still insist on teaching the same things that the generations past learned. We are locked into a curriculum that doesn’t move forward. That is okay. How many times in your life have you been crippled by not knowing Shakespeare, the date of a war, or endoplasmic reticulum (wow…I spelled that right on the first try). Yes, if you are an English major, a historian, or a biologist, that is important. But, for everyone? By making education locally relevant, to learn the subjects in the context of place, education comes alive.
In schools, we need to create thinkers, historians, writers, musicians, farmers, graphic designers, mathematicians, and scientists. We need our schools to teach skills that will allow students to do things, not just know things. We need teachers to have the freedom to teach creativity and critical thinking over characters, numbers, and places. We need forward thinking schools and not schools that are stuck in the past.
My name is Andrew Kemp and I am running for the Columbia County School Board—District 3. The election date is May 22, 2018. I urge you to vote. I prefer you to vote for me, but most importantly, be a part of the process of democracy.
PS—I would appreciate any support you can give to my campaign. I am finding that even the smallest things (website support, advertising, etc.) quickly add up. If everyone were able to give $10, I would be set for now. I have been looking into the costs of yard signs and other campaign items (buttons, pens, shirts) and they are expensive.
With the exception of a year, I have been a teacher or a student for my entire life. I have taught on many different levels. I have been a middle school teacher (okay, for one semester for student teaching...because of this, I have a profound respect for middle school teachers), high school, undergraduates and graduate students. I have coached soccer in youth leagues and high school. Education is in my blood.