Think. Then think again.
It’s no secret that our education system is going through some very difficult times, and we all hear the familiar “let’s get back to the basics” cry. We need more science, more math, more … more … more! The question is, what exactly are those basics? In the 21st century, they are certainly not what many of us have always thought they were.
There’s a relatively new book out that every parent, teacher and administrator should read. Titled The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education, it’s written by Diane Ravitch, an education historian who the Wall Street Journal calls “the country’s soberest, most history-minded education expert.”
Ravitch’s thread is how the very things she once supported enthusiastically, she now questions: “Why do I now doubt ideas I had once advocated?” Why … because they aren’t working. As Ravitch says, “When the facts change, I change my mind!” We all need to remember … that “doubt and skepticism are signs of rationality … it’s doubt that shows we’re still thinking.” We can change our minds, or at least recognize that what we thought was positive may not be yielding a positive result.
Ravitch caught my attention on page 2 with her statement: “One constant has been my skepticism about pedagogical fads, enthusiasms and movements. The other has been a deep belief in the value of a rich, coherent school curriculum, especially in history and literature, both of which are too frequently ignored, trivialized or politicized.”
In the recent search for school superintendent, there was one applicant who made a point of saying, several times, that we are in “the learning business.” I disagree. Those of us who have chosen to be teachers are in “the teaching business.” Our students are in “the learning business.” We each have jobs and shared responsibilities.
Then there’s accountability, which too often means that if the student learns, it’s because he or she is innately gifted, and if he or she doesn’t learn, it’s because he or she had an inferior teacher. That’s bullshit. No teacher living can teach a student who neither wants nor cares to learn. And there are so many more problems with which a teacher must deal than when many of us were in public school.
Our local school board has always done the very best it could. Previous members have all contributed a great deal. I know this present school board will continue that tradition in a number of different way, utilizing a number of different strategies, but always with the same goal: to give our kids the best possible education, not just in academics, but for life.