Why Educate?

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I can’t teach you anything!

Unless you want to learn something, that is. I can’t pour milk into a closed bottle, coffee into an upside-down coffee mug, or knowledge into a closed mind.

Some days, teaching must feel like giving an answer nobody asked for. Teachers work best when students ask questions, wonder about things, or become curious about anything at all.
So, education is a two-way thing – or nothing at all.

Fortunately, not a single student knows everything – yet (though a few think they do), so America’s 3.6 million teachers have about 57 million mostly-empty schoolchild minds to fill this year. But like an empty bottle, it can’t be filed unless it is also open.

Minds are not like bottles. Minds have to open themselves. As a matter of fact, I’ll go out on a controversial limb and say that a teacher does not open minds. A teacher invites minds to open. The difference is critical.

The student who wants to learn learns more and better than one who does not. Strategies that try to make a student want to learn can come up short because they misplace the responsibility for learning. The student is made a passive recipient.
There is something a good teacher does, though, that helps students open their minds, ask questions, and be curios. A good teacher creates a safe place to learn, a place that invites minds to open. The environment matters.

This week the Jamestown Gazette’s guest contributor, Joni Blackman, brings us a cover story about Jamestown’s new LEAP Summer program and the Success Academy. It is a place where teachers create that safe, inviting space for learning.

The program was created when teachers discovered that some students cannot learn as well as others because their environment is not a safe, inviting space that nurtures learning. The Jamestown school system is reaching beyond its old limits to help young minds open up.

Research has shown that when students as young as pre-school age are given a head start in learning, their lifetime achievements are far greater than predicted by the difficult circumstances some were born into.

But the most amazing result is that the children of those children grow up even more successful and prosperous. Creating a place and a way to learn for children who are not blessed with those advantages at birth creates a benefit that expands even farther into future generations.

Abraham Lincoln once said, “The philosophy of the school room in one generation will be the philosophy of government in the next.”

Jamestown’s new LEAP Summer program and the Success Academy are an investment in our future, our children’s future, and the future for everyone’s grandchildren.

Another president, Franklin D. Roosevelt, put an even finer point on it when he said, “Democracy cannot succeed unless those who express their choice are prepared to choose wisely. The real safeguard of democracy, therefore, is education.”

And in the Jamestown Gazette’s ongoing quest to bring education to all, we hope you enjoy the read this week.

Walt Pickut

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Walt Pickut
Walt Pickut’s writing career began with publishing medical research in1971 while working at the Jersey City Medical Center and the NYU Hospital and School of Medicine. Walt holds board registries in respiratory care and sleep technology as well as bachelor's degrees in biology and communication, and a master's degrees in physiology from Fairleigh-Dickinson University in New Jersey, with additional graduate work in mass communication completed at SUNY Amherst. He currently teaches Presentational Speaking in the Houghton College PACE program at JCC and holds memberships in the Society of Professional Journalists and the American Society of Business Publication Editors. He lives in Jamestown with his wife Nancy, an MSW social worker, and has three children: Dr. Cait Lamberton in Pittsburgh, Bill Pickut, a marketing executive in Chicago, and Rev. Matt Pickut in Plymouth, IN.