Mr. Talbot responds to “Hype, Buzzwords, and Hope”


Dear Editors:

First, thank you for giving me the opportunity to speak with Dylan McParland for the “Blackfriar Chronicle” article on 21stcentury learning.

Second, let me address Dylan’s claim that he could not elicit any comment on the soda situation.  When Dylan arrived at my office wearing a “I ♥ High Fructose Corn Syrup Shirt,” I felt he was leading the witness, so I pled the 5th Amendment.

Most of all, I would like to comment on two things in Dylan’s article, and suggest some things for Malvern students to consider for the remainder of this year.

Dylan points out that technology “has facilitated [Connections, Collaboration, and Creation] and lowered the barriers that once held us back.”  I would tweak that just a bit: technology can catalyze Connections, Collaboration, and Creation, but a skilled teacher needs to use that catalyst properly.  (By contrast, haven’t we all surfed the Web, clicking through from site to site, without ever truly connecting with meaningful information, collaborating with anyone, or creating anything?)

In other words, technology—by itself—is neither good nor bad.  Our use of technology makes it one or the other.

I was pleased to see Dylan point out that students will still have to submit to standardized testing.  The Malvern faculty is keenly aware of this, so we will continue to prepare you for SAT, ACT, and AP exams.  However, I hope that you study for the SAT and ACT in isolation from our curriculum.  I also hope that, insofar as it is possible, your teachers limit preparation for AP exams so that you can spend your time in the classroom engaging creatively, thoughtfully, and authentically with the material.

For example, you may have to “learn History” by memorizing the dates and principals of the Vietnam War, but I’d also love to see you “do History” by interviewing a Vietnam combat veteran, doing additional research prompted by the interview, and then creating a documentary to demonstrate what you’ve learned.

At the end of his article, Dylan says, “[I]f in our idealism and hunger for change we fail to align ourselves with society, we will find that Malvern is producing intelligent and thoughtful men without an economical skillset.”  I have another perspective.  Educating for leadership means resisting total conformity.  Malvern is not in the business of building technocrats—highly skilled workers to do what other people tell them to do.  I have a hard time picturing St. Augustine nodding his head happily at the image of Malvernians bowed over a Scantron assessment.

On the other hand, there seems to me more than a touch of Veritas, Unitas, and Caritas in the learning that happens from Connecting, Collaborating, and Creating.



Christian Talbot