OMG, we’re dumb!

I feel so invaded! I’m reading my way through several books about education and I just picked up John Taylor Gatto’s Dumbing Us Down (1992). For those of you who have read it, you’re probably chuckling and thinking to yourself “yep, I felt the same way at the time.” Here’s this award winning teacher of 30 years who unabashedly states, as of page two, the seven things he taught in class every day, including: confusion, class position, indifference, emotional dependency, intellectual dependency, provisional self-esteem, and that students can’t hide–they are always being watched. Well, it’s hard to read through his explanations of each section and not think loudly “Yeah! That’s exactly what it was like!” I’ve been controlled my whole life, and so have most of you.

I’m not about to give a review of the book just yet, as I’m only on page 28! I can only imagine how I’ll feel by page 106. I can tell this read will be much like John Dewey’s short book Experience and Education (1938) where I put a book mark on nearly every page. I’m keeping an eye out for those ideal quotes that can support the comments my subjects have made in the media I produced for the installation.

Andrew describes his great learning experiences

I’ve been combing through and transcribing my video footage recently and loving the similarities and contrasts that the subjects share about their educational experiences. In the clip on the left, Andrew, a math and science instructor, shared his vivid recollection of instructors who had a huge impact on him; one of them was so influential that he followed in his footsteps. Following my review of Andrew’s interview, I turned to August and Olivia–senior year high school students. A fascinating moment in their conversation with each other revealed that August’s difficulty with math had much to do with the significant lack of passion that her instructor exhibited in class. Too bad. August really appreciates math but her marks suffered as a result of her difficult class experience.

I asked each interviewee to address the camera/audience at one point in the interview to share their feelings about a component of education. In August and Olivia’s clip, they share what they feel every instructor needs to know about teaching, should they want students…to care.

Instructors, this is for you.

In the new-media workshop I’m taking, our Prof., Richard Lachman, is helping me to envision the layout of the installation. My vision of it’s organization within a classroom has been so firm for so long. Now, however, I’m loosening up as new logistical questions come to the fore. Sound, for example, needs to be so carefully designed to ensure that none of the tracks compete with one another. There has been speculation as to whether the video monologues projected on the blackboard would distract from the audio that the audience would be listening to on mp3 players. Some colleagues feel that such an ambiance would be a welcome layer to an otherwise silent room. Richard remarked that the large scale video would be more of a distraction than the sound would be.

Now, I’m beginning to consider spaces outside the classroom as well. How will an audience be directed from the front door of the school to the classroom installation? The ideas around this requirement are adding an additional layer of excitement to the project. Heck, I wonder if I could take on a whole school?

About cayoup

Colleen Ayoup was born and raised in Montreal, Quebec. She has been engaged in media creation for nearly twenty years. After attending the Dawson Institute of Photography (Montreal), she worked as a commercial photographer for several years until the craving for different creative pursuits gave way. This desire led to two subsequent degrees in Psychology/Film Studies and Film Production (B.A., B.F.A) at Concordia University in Montreal. Her short fiction films and documentary, Kings (2001), about drag-king culture in Montreal toured festivals internationally. In 2004, she joined the National Film Board of Canada where she coordinated Doc Shop, a program designed to give emerging filmmakers an opportunity to learn trade skills from industry professionals and produce a short documentary for broadcast on CBC. She also contributed to the development and creation of CitizenShift (, the NFB’s first social-media website that she subsequently coordinated for five years. She is a recent graduate of the Master of Fine Arts program in Documentary Media at Ryerson University (Toronto, ON)