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Vision of Education in 2010: More Cowboys and Cowgirls in Schools

Teachers, help all your young students to grow up to be cowgirls and cowboys. That’s a refrain I have for education by the year 2010.

Cowboys and cowgirls: They are the can do, will do, that’s done students and staff whom educators may harm by insisting on teams, cooperation, and group activity over individual prowess and competition. These are the Albert Einsteins, Thomas Edisons, Marilyn Monroes, rodeo performers, fighter pilots and early adopters of technology in schools today.

Probably all students and educators have some cowboy or cowgirl sentiments hidden from public sight. Some disguise themselves with respectability as good students and teachers. An occasional school administrator understands the can-do way of life enough to initiate it briefly. Many educators act as though they consider cowgirls and cowboys as abrasive, audacious, foolish, high risk takers, loners, loose cannons, mavericks, misfits, has personality disorders, or uncooperators.

Social independence: This is the degree to which others allow a person to have options and to make choices about his or her personal behavior, including in school.

Cowboys and cowgirls give priority to social independence over other options. They learn by learning how to learn. That’s different from learning something in order to do something else. They learn the way some of us learned to swim, run a race, etc.

We know them as people who use common sense, based on expanding experience. They develop an exceptionally high level of commitment to what they consider worthy of concentration and focus. They can maintain this commitment in the face of opposition.

In today’s corporate-life based community, we rely on cowgirls and boys to create things and services we think we need and want. We know them as jobbers, project people, scientists, entrepreneurs, fighter pilots, inventors, the doers upon whom all of us depend to support our ways of life.

More often than fits our convenience, they set their own schedules and express themselves irrespective of common consequences.

Implications for Schooling
Cowgirls and boys enjoy learning, because learning provides them with more options. They respond to options. The more choices others allow them, the more they respond.

Cowboys and cowgirls prefer coaches over instructors. Coaches advise learners how to improve what the learner does.

They learn by doing, that is, by figuring out and working with answers to the question, “How?”

Some teachers regularly support cowboys and cowgirls in schools. It’s possible to support more students learning to live independently.

Tablet PCs, Ultra Mobile PCs, other ink-enabled and advanced electronic tools can make learning easier by cowgirls and boys than to meet these same criteria without them.

Cowboys and cowgirls have lived around me most of my life. I’ve sought them out in schools and business, and have tried to support their efforts to learn more. They taught me something fundamental to their way of life.

“Learn the codes (behavior patterns) people use to learn. A teacher or another student can introduce you to the codes they use. You must learn to identify learning codes in whatever you want to learn.”

Learners use two sets of codes to learn a task. Each task has its own process and distinct content. In academic terms, the process consists of how to do something. The content consists of what occurs because of that process.

Ultimately, cowgirls and boys learn these codes only by learning something else, anything else. Then, they use these codes to adapt to whatever situation in which they find themselves, whether in school or racing a deuce on 10th Street.

Personal Interest
It concerns me deeply to see people turn from can-do learners to “bored,” disrespectful complainers waiting for permission to learn the next lesson in a textbook.

In various words, they describe that they have to acquiesce to ridged normative structures operated by uninspired teachers. How sad. How unnecessary. And probably, how incomplete a description of educators’ efforts on their behalf.

In the spirit of comity, I offer the refrain to help students learn to be cowboys and cowgirls as a way to offset rigidity of large schools.

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