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The Learning Conference 2003

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Presentation Details


Will Beginning Teacher Standards Produce McChoakumchild?

Lamont Lyons.

It may be an exaggeration to say we have finally produced the school Charles Dickens hated, but I believe we are dangerously close. And, we may have created the same kind of teacher education program (the factory, as Dickens called it) that produced McChoakumchild.

Louisa was told by her teacher not to wonder (Hard Times). In contrast, Lina and her classmates were told by their teacher to wonder why and wonder why. (DeJong, The Wheel on the School). In this paper I examine beginning teacher standards, NCATE principles and the school improvement and testing movement to see which kind of teacher is more likely to be produced by teacher education programs.

I also examine the philosophical implications of discouraging or inviting student to wonder: one denies them their present, and therefore the future; the other, by giving them the present, allows them to create the future.

The Gradgrind School prohibited Louisa and the other children from wondering because wondering put them in the present and would jolt them from passivity, turning them into active learners. Learning was for the future; children were not to bring themselves to school, their interests and passions. Having passed the national teacher exam, McChoakumchild was prepared to strip the children of imagination and sentiment.

In the other story, the teacher invited Lina and the other children to be fully present in their learning and said if they would wonder why, things would begin to happen. As the children came to life so did the community and everything changed.

I believe we should follow John Dewey, not Gradgrind, and give students and teachers more freedom to be excited and curious, to experiment, to doubt, and to embrace beauty and wonder as ways of knowing and being.


Lamont Lyons  (United States)
Department of Curriculum, Instruction and Foundational Studies
Boise State University

Lamont Lyons is a professor of graduate educational foundations at Boise State University. He has received several awards for outstanding teaching. In pursuing their work to radically change schools and the world, he and his students use the written, visual and performance arts and ideas from philosophy, quantum physics and chaos theory to challenge their ways of knowing, doing and being.

  • Wonder
  • Curiosity
  • Imagination
  • Moral Sentiment
  • Beginning Teacher Standards
  • NCATE Principles
Person as Subject
  • Charles Dickens John Dewey

(30 min Conference Paper, English)