S3E10: Developing Math and Science Literacy Means Moving Beyond the “Right” Answer

When using the “Scientific Method,” we ask questions, observe the world, and interpret what we find. Sometimes this leads us to change our initial ideas—but no matter what, we lead with curiosity. So why is it that science education today so often focuses on memorizing facts and solving tidy problems with right and wrong answers? In this interview with Dr. Gopal Krishnamurthy we ask these questions. Topics covered include foul-smelling childhood experiments, an engagement with non-standard mathematical notation, and the ways that today, “despite the best efforts of our teachers, learning is critically endangered.”

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Episode Notes

Visit Antioch’s website to learn more about the MS in Environmental Studies, Science Teaching that Gopal is the director of.

Learn more about Gopal in his faculty bio and his personal website

Gopal’s article “Taking ‘Mistakes’: A Mathematical Tragicomedy” can be accessed online (requires a subscription). 

This episode was recorded May 9, 2022 via and released May 25, 2022. 

The Seed Field Podcast is produced by Antioch University.

The Seed Field Podcast’s host is Jasper Nighthawk, and its editor is Lauren Instenes. Special thanks for this episode goes to Karen Hamilton and Melinda Garland for their contributions.
To access a full transcript and find more information about this and other episodes, visit To get updates and be notified about future episodes, follow Antioch University on Facebook.

Guest Bio

Dr. Gopal Krishnamurthy’s work is in transformative education, teacher education, science teaching, and scientific inquiry through which he explores environmental studies. He is dedicated to transforming and re-wilding learning, curricula, and educational environments. Gopal’s on-the-ground understanding of education draws from over 20 years of diverse teaching experiences in the USA, UK, and India and his work as Head of School at an international, non-profit, secondary school in England. He holds a BA (Hons) in Physics, MAs in Education and Philosophy, and a PhD in Education. Gopal is the director MS in Environmental Studies, Science at Antioch New Engalnd.

S3E10 Transcript


[00:00:00] Jasper Nighthawk: Welcome to the Seed Field Podcast, a show where Antiochians share their knowledge, tell their stories, and come together to win victories for humanity. 


I’m your host, Jasper Nighthawk. Today, we are joined by Dr. Gopal Krishnamurthy, the scholar of education who’s written widely about rewilding learning and bringing the tools of drama into science and math classrooms, among many other things. There are so many directions that I could see a conversation with Gopal going, but for today, we’re going to be focusing on how we develop math and science literacy.

I think a starting point for this conversation is going to be focusing in on the difference between memorizing information and learning the skills and passion for exploring and finding things on your own. This might be a false dichotomy, but I want to set it up with a little story that I think will give some context for why I’m interested in this question, and also that Gopal and I can talk about more. When I was in college, I was a student of literature, but I still had to take some math and science courses in order to graduate. The first course I took was great, it was called plant biology. Even though this was a subject that was pretty broad, I found myself just loving it. We went on field trips every month, we would just walk through the forest. We had three different professors, so they would all come with us on these field trips.

There were maybe 20 students in the class, and we would just have these wide-ranging conversations about the world that we saw around us, making observations. We also got to use a science lab and design our own experiments, and I remember growing a cucumber plant and making a time-lapse video of it. My experiment, I was just watching how it did this thing called nyctinasty, which I always remember that word, where the leaves would relax at night, and then they would perk up and look up at the sun during the day. 

That was a very positive experience. Then I took this other course that was called primitive navigation. It was all about how, for millennia, indigenous people have been moving around our forests and deserts and oceans, often lacking compasses or physical maps, and yet they were able to get exactly where they want to go.

Looking back, I can see that calling indigenous people primitive and calling the way they moved around primitive navigation was a little piece of white supremacist language that should have been a warning to me, but I signed up for the class because I thought it was a really interesting subject, and I ended up hating it. It was just 75 students all sitting in this darkened lecture hall, watching this one guy up at the front. The actual assignments that we had were not to go out and to navigate on our own, but instead, to memorize dozens and dozens of stars and all of their coordinates. In that course, I really felt like my life force and my brain was just draining away. To me, that really signifies the opposite of learning.

To understand the difference between this education that fills you with confidence and curiosity, and this education that doesn’t, it doesn’t even necessarily deserve the word education, I have the perfect person. That is Dr. Gopal Krishnamurthy. Gopal, before I bring you in, let me just say a few words about who you are. Gopal is the director of the Master of Science in Science Teacher Licensure at Antioch New England, where he also serves as core faculty in the Department of Environmental Studies and Sustainability. Because we have multiple campuses, Gopal actually lives in Ojai, California, and he also teaches at the Antioch Santa Barbara campus.

Gopal is himself a longtime teacher whose repertoire includes mathematics, physics, theater, philosophy, geography, environmental studies, and education studies. Among many things he’s done, for six years, he was the head of school, which is kind of the same as a principal in America, but he was the head of school for a progressive international school in England. He’s also a scholar, and has published and spoken widely. Gopal, welcome to the Seed Field Podcast.

[00:04:26] Dr. Gopal Krishnamurthy: Thank you very much, Jasper. I’m very happy to be here with you. Just picking up on that example that you gave of your own background, in terms of seeing leaves and seeing them perk up as you used it. I think that itself, for example, your curiosity around that could really inform a kind of science curriculum. What do you see, or what can one see that makes one say that a leaf is perking up? What can one say about ourselves as human beings? What do we observe to say that we are we’ve perked up or not, and what are the conditions that will make possible perking up?

That’s sort of– Just straight from what you said, I think your early science experience can actually be a whole curriculum investigative module, if it’s anchored on that curiosity. I’d like to use the non-technical term, perk up. I love that orientation, so thanks.

[00:05:28] Jasper: Yes. Although I love that term, nyctinasty, but perking up is what is actually happening and what we observe. Yes, I love that, drawing that out. To start off, before we get back to that question, I want to make sure that people who are listening to this who can’t see us, don’t necessarily know us, know a little bit about what positions we’re coming from, because this question of how we educate students to enjoy science and math can also end up touching on questions of power in our society. For myself, I would like listeners to know that I’m a CIS man, I’m white, I hold American citizenship, I have steady income and housing, and I’m not currently living with a disability. Gopal, as much as you’re comfortable, what position do you bring this to this conversation?

[00:06:18] Dr. Gopal: Thank you, Jasper. In so far as identity is dynamic and carries with it an open question of who am I, which I still hold as a question, I do like to think of this in terms of my current positionality. I was born in South India in Chenai. It was a cesarean birth, and we’ve always had a joke with my mother when she was alive saying that right from the beginning, I was headed in a rebellious wrong direction or upward direction. I was a cesarean birth, apparently rebellious from the start.

I was in India till I was 18 years old. I’ve lived, studied, and worked for several years in India, the UK, and the USA. I volunteered and worked in schools where salaries were equal, whether it was head of school, teacher, gardener, et cetera, irrespective of qualifications, or even more radically, in schools that salaries were based on need. We’d just discuss amongst each other what our needs were, our basic needs, and how to take care of those needs, and we all had food and accommodation, and the same minimum wage typically.

I have now a US citizenship, but because of working in India and the UK, consequently, I have little or no savings. I’m not eligible for social security, at least as yet. I currently have a steady income and housing. As far as my qualifications, I have an undergraduate in Science, a Masters in Philosophy with a focus on logic and applied ethics, and a Masters and PhD in Education with a focus on cultural perspectives and teacher education.

I came from a low middle-class background in India, a substantially lower middle-class background in India, but was lucky to have scholarships throughout my education, including my schooling, so I don’t have student debt. For the moment, I’ll leave it there. It’s a dynamic, with that question of who am I still being asked as an open question.

[00:08:24] Jasper: Well, thank you for sharing all of that. Also, I like the way that you frame it too, I think of– From Dickens, “To begin with the beginning, I was born.” I want to stay in your background for just a minute, and I wanted to ask you about your own experience as a student of science and math before you became a teacher yourself. What were your early experiences studying these subjects?

[00:08:49] Dr. Gopal: Well, let me go back to even before schooling. I think with regard to science in particular, but also education more broadly, I want to really say that my parents supported my curiosities, although they were really not well off. We were quite poor, and money was a struggle. As a family, I think it was less than between $30 and $40 a month for the whole family. We weren’t well off, but in very, very small ways, my curiosities were supported by my parents.

I remember in my childhood, we were in this apartment, and we had around six windows. I remember even now, I had different bottles and mixtures of sand, water, milk, ink. Some of them reeked, they smelled really badly, but my parents really allowed me to play around and just mess about with stuff. At home, I had this extraordinary support from my parents, and at school, one other aspect was– I’ll just draw attention for the moment to a math teacher at school, at high school really, who was very interested in not only mathematics, and astronomy, and so on– He was actually a coach in these Math Olympiads. More interestingly, what was for me the draw was that his passion was very understated. We have a version of passion as drawing attention to the subject matter and supporting my own curiosities, rather than displaying how knowledgeable he was. That was a very strong, for me, experience in seeding my own childhood curiosities.

I wasn’t so enamored by people who had this extraordinary display of knowledge of how much knowledge they had garnered, and knowledge of facts, and so on, but really, in very understated ways, drawing attention to the subject matter, to the phenomena that were at hand that were accessible to all of us, and allowing that to be the beginning for my own curiosities.

[00:11:15] Jasper: Yes. Well, maybe we could connect that back to the story that I told in the introduction about these two different courses that I took. One where we spent a lot of time in the field, having conversations, making observations, and another where we were really more expected to memorize a sort of ream of knowledge that felt disconnected from anything we might do with ourselves. Does that line up with your own experience as a student of science, but also as a teacher, of sort of two different paths that educators can take?

[00:11:43] Dr. Gopal: I wouldn’t frame it with that dichotomy. What I would say is, in so far as the child– Or in my case, my own experience was being a scientist or being involved in the scientific process, in scientific inquiry myself. Then the knowledge falls into place from that scientific process of investigation. It’s not so much that there is first a textbook knowledge, and that’s somehow divided or separated from this kind of curiosity that sustains itself. Even in your example, that term– Remind me again of the term?

[00:12:27] Jasper: Nyctinasty

[00:12:29] Dr. Gopal: Nyctinasty. That term comes and falls into place because of the living curiosity and investigation and inquiry that you’ve engaged with in the field visit with the plant, then the definition finds its right place. Actually, when I look at a butterfly, the life cycle of a butterfly, I’m paying attention to actually observing what happens in the various phases in its life cycle, from that understanding and curiosity, when I go to the textbook, the knowledge of the textbook falls into place. It’s not so much, is my actual experience of the world fitting with my textbook definition, but more, my experience of the world is primary, and the textbook definition is just one way of describing that experience, if that makes sense.

[00:13:20] Jasper: That makes a ton of sense. I like that you challenged the dichotomy between observation and knowledge that might have been captured before that we’re encountering through a textbook, that the two have an interplay. Maybe what I’m getting at is more the relationship between the teacher and the student, than the relationship between the student and observed knowledge or experimental knowledge, and received knowledge or textbook knowledge.

I was very interested in one of your syllabi, you reproduced this image of two different ways that we could visualize the teacher. One was the teacher sitting at the top of a ladder, and they’re kind of the bearer of this heightened knowledge, and then the students are at different levels progressing up the ladder, ascending towards the teacher’s level of knowledge. Even that term “level of knowledge” is kind of suspect perhaps. Then you had this other image of a leaf, and the teacher was kind of maybe the central vein of the leaf, but the students were arrayed around in these sub-veins.

[00:14:23] Dr. Gopal: Okay, so I think that’s helpful, that visual– That metaphor is helpful for us in the conversation. By the way, that draws on the chapter “On Living in Trees” by David Hawkins. Really, he speaks of it in terms of thinking of subject matter as organized, and indeed, the world as organized in a ladder-like fashion. We have to go climb this ladder of knowledge where you have– You can even sort out the student who has learning difficulties, or disabilities if you will, as it’s called, then you have the average learner, and then you have the gifted and talented, and then you have the knowledgeable teacher up at the top-end of that hierarchy, and everybody is progressing up on this ladder.

In contrast to that, we have a completely different metaphor for teaching, learning, and even how curriculum and subject matter is organized, and that’s the leaf-like or meshwork or network of learning. I want to also just bring in an intermediate middle visual that I don’t think was there in the diagram that you’ve seen. That is where students are not– Say if you have three students, they’re not all placed one behind the other, they’re slightly spread out, but it’s still behind each other in a ranked upward-facing hierarchy. That’s the metaphor for what one might call individualized instruction, or differentiated instruction, but it still doesn’t actually reconfigure profoundly and paradigmatically the relationship between student, teacher, and subject matter. The ladder is still intact.

The third possibility is not even seeing these students as being sorted into different ability levels, and subject matter being batched in this linear way, so I go from addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, long division, fractions, algebra, precalculus, calculus, and so on. But to really think about it in terms of this meshwork or this leaf-like network where different students are located on different aspects of the leaf, and the subject matter is interconnected with those veins of the leaves.

The teacher– Although in the way in which you’ve brought up that metaphor, the teacher is on that central vein, that’s not necessary at all. The teacher can move to any position on the leaf, and it’s a dynamic situation. The teacher can be at the center at some points, the teacher can be at the periphery at different points. Also the students– Sometimes the student’s learning can be at the center and the focus for everyone, including the teacher and the other students, and sometimes they can move elsewhere on the leaf.

There’s a huge shift, and it’s a paradigmatic shift, it’s just not a small shift. It’s a paradigmatic shift in how we see the relationship– Educational relations between student, teacher, and subject matter. It’s not configured as a linear process of learning along a ladder and a hierarchy, but in this network or meshwork that’s captured or reflected by the leaf metaphor.

[00:18:02] Jasper: Yes. Moving away from hierarchy is is a project that requires actually a lot of imagination that we have to be doing across a lot of our society, but especially in education. I think when you tell a student, “You are behind. You’re reading at a fifth grade level, and you’re in eighth grade,” that’s not actually a useful information for anyone, and certainly is discouraging to hear even. I want to make it immediate though, so I was hoping that we could bring up an example that you give in this great paper of yours that I really enjoyed called Taking Mistakes: A Mathematical Tragicomedy which– I love how you combine your passion for theater and drama with love of math education.

In that paper, you talk about this student who you call Tyson– I assume you’ve changed the student’s name, but he gives like what is a wrong– I’m doing air quotes here, “a wrong answer” to a question, and you explore different responses that the teacher could have. Could you walk us through these different responses?

[00:19:07] Dr. Gopal: I’ll try that. It’s been a while since I wrote the article, so I was just looking it up this morning, but to the extent that I can from my memory, let me try and see if I can summarize it or describe the whole experience. There was Tyson, and the normal analysis of Tyson in terms of his ability would be that he was not even ninth grade level, and that his level was below the level of the other students. That would be a kind of normal way in which we sort students, both because of our own ways of thinking of teaching, but also because of the way school is structured. The fact that we have grades is taken often for granted, that you have 7th grade, 8th grade, 9th grade, 10th grade, 11th grade. It’s not at all obvious that learning has to be sorted in that way.

Anyway, so Tyson was in this class, in the math class, and then one of the things with Tyson is, he came to this point where he was thinking of 4 to the power of 3, which we call 4 cubed, as 3 multiplied by 3 multiplied by 3 multiplied by 3, so 3 multiplying itself 4 times. That it’s just a different convention. It turns out that the standard convention more widely accepted is, 4 to the power 3 is 4 multiplied by 4 multiplied by 4, so 4 multiplying itself 3 times.

[00:20:41] Jasper: So he was misunderstanding the mathematical notation, or he was giving a nonstandard interpretation of the mathematical notation.

[00:20:50] Dr. Gopal: That’s right. He was using a nonstandard convention and a nonstandard interpretation. Normally, the reflex of a teacher and our teacherly reflexes would be to correct that mistake. Also, because of Tyson’s demeanor, which I describe at the beginning of the article, he was a tall gangly lad, and so he was rocking about in a seat slouched back. At times, he would have his head down on the table with his hands covered, seemingly uninterested.

All my teacherly reflexes were to make sure that he was paying attention, on task, correcting his mistakes so that he would really learn, but I had in the back of my mind, a sense of, “Let me just pay attention and not let my teacherly reflexes just come into play at this moment. Let me see what his own thinking is.” In the class, what we did was, instead of correcting him, even the other students cooperated in this, tried to draw out his thinking.

The other students asked, “Well, if you say that 4 to the power 3 is 3 multiplying itself 4 times, then what would you say to 4 to the power 2?” Tyson speaks about it, and then he starts looking at the calculator himself, and he says, “4 to the power 2– Yes, it’s actually–” The square function is there on the calculator, and he says, “Yes, 4 to the power 2 is 4 multiplied by 4.” He gets an answer from the standard convention, so he says, “4 to the power 2 is 4 multiplying itself twice, so 4 multiplied by 4.”

In a way, it’s a kind of success story because we haven’t corrected his thinking. We’ve gone with his own thinking, and then he will see of course that 4 to the 3 is 4 multiplied by 4 three times, rather than 3 multiplying itself four times. It seems all done, we’re done with this. It’s a success story, and Tyson now knows that the standard convention is 4 to the 2 is 4 multiplied by 4, and not 2 multiplied by 2 multiplied by 2– That’s 2 multiplying itself 4 times. 2 multiplied by 2 multiplied by 2 multiplied by 2.

[00:23:14] Jasper: Yes. Then you have this twist where Tyson, the character actually realizes that in this one instance, 2 multiplied by 2 multiplied by 2 multiplied by 2, it’s the same as 4 multiplied by 4.

[00:23:30] Dr. Gopal: That twist comes up in quite an extraordinary way. The twist comes up when I am busy demonstrating the success of this story, because I’m saying, we’ve engaged with Tyson’s own thinking without correcting him, and Tyson has himself realized that the right answer is, 4 to the 2 is 4 multiplied by 4. In that success story, what I ignored was really that it is merely a matter of convention.

When I said 4 to the 2 is different from 2 to the 4, then Tyson himself said, “Hang on a minute, 4 to the 2 is the same as 2 to the 4,” so then we are on this project, all of us together. The student, Tyson, who was supposed to be poor at math, or his ability level was supposed to be lower, we’re all in this contested space and this project of figuring out, why is it that 4 to the 2 is the same as 2 to the 4, and is this the case for any other numbers? We had a kind of inkling, a feeling that this was something to do with the fact that 2 plus 2 is the same as 2 multiplied by 2. I won’t say how that resolves itself, but it turned out that it did have something to do with the fact that, 4 to the 2 is 2 to the 4 does have something to do with the fact that 2 plus 2 is equal to 2 times 2.

[00:25:03] Jasper: Yes. To turn from the mathematical question itself to the higher-level question of teaching, it seems like you as a teacher in that moment had to engage your intelligence and your sympathy, but also your own curiosity and openness to learning, or openness to finding something that you didn’t expect, that you didn’t put down in your lesson plan. That kind of seems harder in some ways, for teachers to act like this.

[00:25:32] Dr. Gopal: Yes. Just by what you said, paying attention rather than following a script, things emerged from that class, questions emerged, even mathematical thinking emerged that was really of extraordinary significance. It wasn’t that Tyson was poor at mathematics. It was that up to that point, I had been poor at recognizing the potential of Tyson’s mathematical thinking. That shift in frame in terms of, as you say, what the teacher is attending to, makes a huge difference in what’s possible for even a mathematical depth.

I’ve discovered that it’s not just this one instance. I’ve discovered that actually, if one as a teacher refused to be habitually in a teacherly way trying to impart one’s knowledge, and starting with a deficit notion of the student as lacking some kind of understanding and knowledge and so on. If the teacher begins to pay attention to the student’s own learning, observation, thinking and questions, then very often, very frequently, we can get into really interesting areas of subject matter that can be very challenging in terms of science and mathematics. We can go to the cutting edge of scientific and mathematical discovery as it were.

[00:26:58] Jasper: Yes. I think that that’s what I love about this story, is that you ended up actually doing math in that situation, in that you were using all of your intellectual faculties, and the class, all the students who were there with you, to actually try to understand something that you didn’t understand. That seems like a contrast.

I know so many people feel like they’re just bad at math, and when I press them on it, it often comes out that they never were able to actually do math, which is to try to use symbolic reasoning to understand the relationships between numbers and shapes and different things. Instead, they were just struggling to master some equation that was being handed to them, and to reproduce the correct answer on a test. Actually engaging students to do math in that way, it feels very different than the way math is often taught.

[00:27:56] Dr. Gopal: Yes, and I think that’s absolutely crucial, Jasper, the way you’ve put it. If it’s not a matter of guiding people in a linear trajectory– Again, going back to the ladder– towards the right answer, everybody is capable of mathematical thinking. When that shift has occurred from teaching to learning in the first place, that the teacher is really to support the students’ learning, then a whole universe of possibilities opened up.

[00:28:27] Jasper: Yes, and I want to draw out– I feel like that is a superior way of really understanding the educational process. I love that distinction you draw between fostering learning on the part of students, versus just teaching and trying to impart a kind of higher level of knowledge to students, but I feel like there’s also a social justice implication here. How does this style of teaching interact with concepts like disability or excellence?

[00:28:57] Dr. Gopal: One way of thinking about it is, if this ladder-like model and getting to the right answer as quickly as possible is the goal of teaching, then we are going to inevitably sort out students in terms of ability and in terms of achievement. Because if it’s going from point A to point B, then some are going to be the high achievers, some average, and some the low achievers. If we go back to the leaf metaphor where we are attending to all the interconnected trajectories of learning, then social justice isn’t a matter of providing equal opportunity for the same ends, but rather, equal opportunities for the diverse trajectories of learning. That’s a paradigmatic difference, I would say.

I’d like to anchor what I said before and also what I’m saying now with something from Eleanor Duckworth, who is a teacher, colleague, and friend who’s written The Having of Wonderful Ideas. She asks a very interesting question in this, which is– She says, “What on earth is teaching if telling someone what you know doesn’t help their learning?” That, I think is a very simple but profound statement, because it’s not that there is no teaching, it’s just the standard approach to teaching is being challenged there.

It’s not that– In what I described with regard to Tyson and so on, there was a lot of teaching going on, which was attending to Tyson’s own learning, asking questions, bringing other students into the subject matter. Tyson did some of that teaching for all of us too. This version of teaching of looking at students’ observations, questions, thoughts, and ideas, and moving from that in the subject matter, and drawing attention time and again to the subject matter itself, is a profoundly different version of teaching.

I’ll just say one thing that I want to share, it’s not so much mine but it really speaks to this different understanding of teaching but also to your social justice question. And I think it speaks more directly to it perhaps. So this is from a student teacher, Matt Pyster is his name in the Science Teacher Licensure program. 

Matt writes, “When we were visiting schools and guest teaching lessons as part of the Science License program at Antioch, I designed a lesson using the principles I had leared with my cohort. I brought in my bug collection to middle schoolers and had them spend the whole class exploring different bugs, following their own questions, engaging in discussion and generally messing about. Students were sharing what they noticed about their bugs, the similarities they saw and making educated guesses about the questions they had. They became more comfortable with being around insects and touched on topics like metamorphosis, without me ever saying the words or ‘teaching them anything.’ At the end of the day the teacher for those classes came up to me. She shared that she was overjoyed because several students who didn’t normally participate had been actively engaged in their own learning the whole time. She was especially excited about two students who normally very rarely participate in her class. One of whom was a young black student who had ‘diverse learning needs’ and the other a young girl. On this day they had both ‘fit’ into a scientific space, breaking down learning barriers, societal barriers, social barriers, and personal barriers to become in that moment scientists. I believe my learning at Antioch played a large role in what happened by making the focus of education the student’s own ideas, and noticings, and interests, and questions, rather than the teacher’s ideas. It gives power to the students regardless of gender, race or IEP status, in a society and school system where power is often being taken away.” 

So I just wanted to share that with you because I think it speaks to this aspect of social justice but also the relationship between student, teacher, subject matter that’s profoundly different. It’s not just a small shift it’s a profound difference in the teacher’s attending to the student’s noticings, questions, ideas, ect. 

[00:33:32] Jasper: Yes, thank you. Well, we are almost out of time, but I want to close by pulling out even a little bit further from the specifics of how this type of learning can be fostered, and to talk about the whole project of public education in the US, which of course, the father of American public education Horace Mann, was the first president of Antioch. This is a subject that’s near and dear to our heart here on the podcast as well.

I ran into this quote from you that I loved, which you write, “While our education policies, schools, and habits of teaching continue to be driven by political agendas and ideologies. Today, despite the best efforts of our teachers, learning is critically endangered, its spirit tamed and tethered, its habitat shrunk, its resources depleted, and its movement circumscribed.” There’s a lot there. We were actually talking about some of the ways that education and learning are under attack in legislation that’s being passed around the country. I wanted to ask you the question, what signs of hope do you see, and what can we as not just teachers, but also as parents, or community members, and as students ourselves, what can we do to protect learning and to restore its deep power?

[00:34:51] Dr. Gopal: I think for the moment, I’m seeing it– It’s a huge question, and I don’t pretend to have any answers for it, but for the moment, I see the challenge, I see us addressing it, a possibility of addressing it from two perspectives or two angles of regard. One is the social-political institutional perspective and angle, to actually really become informed, to push back against legislation, to vote for different people, to create awareness and knowledge about some of these challenges that are occurring, to be informed about your school district, who are the people involved, the superintendent– All that has to happen.

The other is, I think to really push back from the ground level, as it were, is to really make sure that these diverse trajectories of learning can be supported. To have and create and sustain a paradigmatically different approach to teaching and learning and curriculum design that will push back against this version of the teacher being the one who’s the authority, or the state-mandated syllabus and curriculum being the authority to which the student conforms.

It becomes a protracted exercise in conformity, really, but I think what I want to really communicate is, the time to make small changes is over. We have to have paradigmatic changes in education, the aims of education, in curriculum building, in teaching and learning, where we get off our pedestals and really begin to learn with children. Children as educators, there’s hope in children as educators, if there is hope in anything.

[00:36:44] Jasper: That’s so beautifully put, and a wonderful note to leave it on. Thank you so much, Gopal, for coming in. It’s been a pleasure talking to you.

[00:36:50] Dr. Gopal: Thank you very much, Jasper. Thanks so much. Likewise, it’s been a pleasure talking with you. Thanks so much.


[00:37:04] Jasper: Gopal teaches in the education programs at Antioch New England and Antioch Santa Barbara, and he’s the director of the Master of Science in Science Teacher Licensure. We will link to more information about these programs in our show notes. We’ll also link there to Gopal’s article, Taking Mistakes: A Mathematical Tragicomedy. We post these show notes on our website,, where you’ll also find full episode transcripts, prior episodes, and more.

The Seed Field Podcast is produced by Antioch University. I’m your host, Jasper Nighthawk, our editor is Lauren Instenes. A special thanks to Karen Hamilton and Melinda Garland. 

Thank you for spending your time with us today. That’s it for this episode. We hope to see you next time, and don’t forget to plant a seed, sow a cause, and win a victory for humanity. From Antioch University, this has been the Seed Field Podcast.


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