Thursday, November 25, 2010

Why Don't Educators Ask The Important Questions?

There's a popular story that is often circulated by teachers.  Here's the story from

One at a Time
A friend of ours was walking down a deserted Mexican beach at sunset. As he walked along, he began to see another man in the distance. As he drew nearer he noticed that the local man kept leaning down, picking something up and throwing it out into the water. Time and again he kept hurling things out into the ocean.

As our friend approached, he noticed that the man was picking up starfish that had been washed up on the beach and, one at a time, he was throwing them back into the water.

Our friend was puzzled. He approached the man and said: "Good evening, friend. I was wondering what you are doing."

"I’m throwing these starfish back into the ocean. You see, it’s low tide right now and all of these starfish have been washed up onto the shore. If I don’t throw them back into the sea, they’ll die up here from lack of oxygen."

I understand," my friend replied, "but there must be thousands of starfish on this beach. You can’t possibly get to all of them. There are simply too many. And don’t you realise this is probably happening on hundreds of beaches all up and down this coast? Can’t you see that you can’t possibly make a difference?"

The local man smiled, bent down and picked up yet another starfish, and as he threw it back into the sea, he replied: "Made a difference to that one!"

—Jack Canfield and Mark V Hansen
It's a cute story.  The boy represents teachers perpetually trying to save as many kids as they can.  It gives our job purpose.  We spend our time and effort trying to figure out better methods to save as many starfish as possible.  

So what's the problem?

Nobody ever asks why there's so many starfish washing up on the shore in the first place. 

This is the exact same problem we face in the education field.  We obsess about trying to solve a problem without considering prevention.  A lot less starfish would die on the shore if we can come up with an effective way to keep them off the beach in the first place.  Maybe then we really could save them all.

1 comment:

  1. Wrong interpretation. Every year, every teacher has between 15 and 240 new students to teach. Every year, those students grow, change, mature, suffer, celebrate, etc. inside and outside of school. You can't prevent them from reaching the beach. However, as many of your other posts have pointed out, maybe the 'solution' is we need more people doing the right thing to help them all back in the water (organic teaching, no homework, no busy work, etc).

    Great site...