Friday, September 6, 2013

What the hell is water?

Here is an excerpt from David Foster Wallace's commencement address that he gave to the graduates of Kenyon College in 2005:
There are these two young fish swimming along and they happen to meet an older fish swimming the other way, who nods at them and says "Morning, boys. How's the water?" And the two young fish swim on for a bit, and then eventually one of them looks over at the other and goes "What the hell is water?"
Wallace goes on to say:
The point of the fish story is merely that the most obvious, important realities are often the ones that are hardest to see and talk about.
I love using this anecdote to talk about how and why we need to seriously rethink school. After all, it really hasn't changed all that much.

Preconceived notions about what school should look like heavily influences what some believe children should be doing during school. As a progressive teacher, my challenge is to engage those who have never been invited to reconsider their assumptions about education. Many people are reassured by signs of formal-traditional schooling and are disturbed by their absence.

In many ways, we are all like the two younger fish -- we all need an older fish to tap us on the shoulder and challenge us to pause and reflect on why we do what we do. After all, no matter our expertise -- no matter how experienced we are -- we all need to pause and notice the water.

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