“The Secret Sauce” for Education

Twice in the last 24 hours, I have heard the expression “the secret sauce” in regard to education.  That is what prompted me to write this entry.  My main question is simple, “Could there possibly be a secret sauce?”  My first reaction is no.  Let me explain why I think so.

For many years, educators and educational researchers have tried to figure out the “best way” to educate our youth.  None of these theories have completely fit the bill and all have tended to leave certain types of students struggling to learn because the method in which they were taught did not work for them.  An educator’s perspective oftentimes clouds the issue; although we try to be objective in our pedagogical development, the fact is that humans see things first through their personal lens.

The secret sauce, on the other hand, which I believe is a play on McDonald’s “special sauce,” is a recipe that does not vary.  It works for that organization and I cannot see them changing it.  They might, but it will always be secret and always be ONE solution. There are not 100 different “secret sauces” at the same time, in other words (“I’ll have secret sauce number twelve, please”).   In addition, they are not necessarily concerned with pleasing or supporting everyone with their “secret sauce.”   If you do not like it, do not eat it.  Educators, on the other hand, are trying to figure out ways to include everyone and create a positive learning atmosphere.  Educators are also not trying to find the best “topping” for a pedagogical method; educators are looking for what goes into the, pardon the pun, meat of the method.  So, applying a “saucy” solution to our educational situation would simply never work.

There are many other reasons why trying to find that secret recipe for education is a futile exercise.  I cannot go into them here, but perhaps in later posts.

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School Uniforms Cause an Uproar

The other day, I had the pleasure to observe two sessions of a Freshman Transition class. During the second session, the teacher needed to change gears on the fly and abandon reviewing an assignment because there were too many students who had not finished the assignment yet. So, she taught the children how to take notes instead, using a review of the upcoming dress code changes. The school is going to institute a rather rigid dress code that basically requires them to wear a uniform. Students will be limited in their color and material choices. The changes are not going over very well with the students.

I smirked when I heard the kids complain about the new dress code. Actually, I thought, I would prefer it if I were them. Heck, it is one last thing to worry about in the morning. I have three colors for shirts and three for pants. I cannot wear jeans. All right, here is my shirt, here are my pants, away we go to school. I remember a good friend telling me when I was a teen that she did not mind her school uniform because she never had to think about what she was going to wear to school and everyone looked the same so no one could tease someone else about their clothing. As a kid who had to wear rather cheap clothes to school, I would have appreciated a uniform that brought me to the same level as everyone else.

I giggled when the teacher said, “As a teacher, guys, I have to tell you that I am sick of seeing a fifteen year-old’s underwear. This will make me, as an adult, feel much more comfortable in school. Besides, I still don’t understand why young men would want to emulate this style. First of all, it’s OLD, at least ten years’ old. Second, it came from prison, where men were not allowed to wear a belt for fear they would strangle someone with it. So why would you want to emulate that?”

What do you think about school uniforms? Good? Bad? Stifling creativity and expressive freedom?

Community Based Organizations

Today, I interviewed the presidents of two community based organizations in a small town in the Poconos. I was very impressed with both men and found their commitment to the community to be genuine and invaluable. One gentleman has been in the community since he was an infant and his family has been living in the area since 1876. The other was a transplant to the community from a large city and started getting involved as soon as he and his wife moved there.

What impressed me the most is that both men appear to be tireless. What irked them the most was that the notion of voluntarism has disappeared in many respects and that it is hard to get people involved anymore. Both spoke of the aging population of community volunteers and the need to get students involved in the community again. I say I could not agree more, while I struggle with the notion that I, too, am hardly good at volunteering for anything. When my son started school, I tried to get involved in the PTA, but found that I was not part of the established group and did not feel welcome. So, I stopped. I should not have, and I regret that now.

What do you feel about volunteering? Do you volunteer or are you involved in any CBO’s?