Thursday, December 26, 2013

The agenda of children, or how to piss off everyone all at once

Our current system of education is broken.  This shattered system of education was designed in the late eighteenth century by Thomas Jefferson who referred to its purpose as “raking a few geniuses from the rubbish!”  Does that sound like a system designed to serve all children?  Of course not because it was never designed to serve all children. And to this day it is not designed to serve all children. 

But how do we fix this problem?  Those supporting the public sector spew out all the problems with the current testing fiasco, and are correct on many of the issues.  However, their concern for the idiocy of the test fades when the scores show in their favor.  Recent publications exclude some scores and use others to show how public schools are doing better than charter.  The hypocrisy of that is outrageous.  The “test” is bad, no discussion!

“The system isn’t broken, the country is broken” they say in there loudest, campaign style voice.  Poverty is the problem and only if that were fixed, everything would go well.  This is not completely accurate. This is not to say that the effects of poverty don’t hurt many kids.  The insanity of it is the “either or” mentality that drives the rhetoric.  Yes, fix the inequities in this country, but understand the system, designed during slavery, is also broken.  Don’t mold the rhetoric to fit your agenda.  When you support the agenda of children, the whole truth will come out. 
As they march and protest the closing of public schools, they are simply preaching to the choir while leaving the perception that they are self serving in their endeavor. Awareness is, of course, necessary and the speeches do document what’s wrong with the current testing, but where is their plan for a better system? The system of education is broken but it has been broken for a long time.  Long before the testing fiasco, kids were ranked and sorted in the classroom, and drop outs were acceptable. Then there were jobs for those who didn’t finish school.  Now there aren’t!
And then we have those who call themselves reformers but seem to lack knowledge in, among other things, the human growth and development of the child.  As they appear to be stuck in this race to nowhere, they define proficiency as scoring within a range on an artificial test, at the exact same time the test is given.  It doesn’t take much for educators to recognize this is simply wrong. With more than 60 million kids in the school system with a range of skills and abilities from the severest of the cognitive disabled children across the board to those “book learned” students who are good test takers, what nut case would ever think everyone would ever be in the same place on a standardized test on the same day the test is given?  It is not human nature for all to be the same unless we want to develop robots or throw out all that are slower.
And then we have kids who have roadblocks put in the way of learning. They are most often the victims.  Clearly when we look at all students, it is easy to understand the reality that they blossom beautifully at different rates.  Adding to the normal range of skills we add real obstacles that slow learning.  According to Paul Tough, childhood stress literally slows the brain.  Together with malnutrition, chronic illness and a wide range of obstacles, some kids (we don’t know which ones) no matter how intelligent will be slow to achieve.  Of course we want to eliminate the issues caused by poverty, but that won’t happen soon.  Nor will kids all be the same soon. 
Has anyone ever told the “reformers” that whenever a child is first, it is mathematically impossible not to have someone last.  And the first go to the universities, and the last go into the streets where they become invisible.  We celebrate the winners and bleed the soul out of the losers.  And we have been doing that for years, except, of course in Lake Wobegon where all the children are above average.
More important is the misconception that kids learn and demonstrate learning solely with paper and pencil in hand.  Learning is personal and begins with the student’s background knowledge and expands from there.  To discover knowledge, is not to regurgitate knowledge.  The limited scope of the artificial test uses a completely different mindset than does the real quest for knowledge.  And often there isn’t one simple clear cut answer to one simple question.
With two sides of the education argument entrenched in their artificial and irrational beliefs, it’s time for a third side, the agenda of children,

To quote historian James Anderson, “We are still trying to develop both the philosophy as well as a system of education which really does respect the intelligence and abilities of ordinary people.”  Stay tuned

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