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ERIC Number: EJ1072175
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2006
Pages: 12
Abstractor: ERIC
ISSN: ISSN-1550-1175
A Single Spark Can Start a Prairie Fire: Teaching toward Transformation
Ayers, William
Schools: Studies in Education, v3 n2 p17-27 Fall 2006
The old saying, that a single spark can start a prairie fire, appears in many forms and in different cultures carrying a range of shifting implications and meanings. In this article, William Ayers writes that in some instances, prairie fires are not always catastrophic. They are naturally occurring events necessary and renewing; removing the thick thatch that suffocates life, releasing the seeds while transforming and nudging the birds, fauna, insects, and other animals into a new life. Ayers considers that this saying provides an excellent metaphor to describe teaching because teachers strike sparks within students every day. In the classroom one single spark could be the catalyst that releases the flames of change. Ayers advocates the idea that it is at the crossroads of the intellectual and the ethical that teachers begin to find their bearings to enable them to navigate through both thinking and feeling in order to connect to students. He argues against teachers being increasingly deskilled and hammered into interchangeable cogs in a bureaucracy pressured to reduce teaching to a set of manageable controllable tasks and strip it of any moral purpose, intellectual engagement or creative action. Readers are encouraged to find ways to resist, and to rescue teaching from the gathering forces of mindlessness and carelessness. The article warns that teachers in democratic schools cannot be mechanical cogs in a bureaucratically driven machine or placeholders in an impersonal system, but rather must be highly trained and well-rewarded professionals afforded a large degree of flexibility and autonomy in order to attend to and support the growth of children.
University of Chicago Press. Journals Division, P.O. Box 37005, Chicago, IL 60637. Tel: 877-705-1878; Tel: 773-753-3347; Fax: 877-705-1879; Fax: 773-753-0811; e-mail:; Web site:
Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Descriptive
Education Level: N/A
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Grant or Contract Numbers: N/A