Friday, March 9, 2012

The Death of Education part II

The Death of Education by Eric Olsen......

As long as their student is being promoted along with others of their age and continues to stay out of the principal's office, most parents feel they have done their duty if the child gets a long as their students' grades are what they should be, parents don't care

Which is why teachers kowtow to parents and admin- not by choice but for survival. If Billy passes and isn't in too much trouble, all is well with the world... even if that means dumbing things down to where Billy gets an A for just coming to class. It is survival for the teacher and admin too. If too many kids fail, it looks bad for the teacher and admin- they are not doing their job, they're ineffective.  So why not design a curriculum where no one fails unless well, they don't even try? Olsen gets to that. Just know I myself have been in "trouble" for too many failing grades, But if a child honestly does not even TRY...what can you do?

To begin with, students resist genuine learning because they've never been epected to do it before. Secondly, learning a new skill takes time, patience, and most importantly, plenty of mistakes. Unfortunately, in today's public school culture, "failure is not an option". The near universal expectation in our schools, that students will be successful right from the beginning of any class if the teacher is doing his job correctly, is actually antithetical to the way learning works in the real world.

Which is why when I taught high school, it was as if irreviersible damage had already been done. I knew a student who left our school because of my grading practices. He never turned in a SINGLE assignment all year, except tests....usually with "IDK (I don't know) or really "off" answers showing no thought process, ie the same vocab. word for each vocab test answer. He said- and mom fully agreed- "I should get a C, at least, I mean, I came to class every day. All my other teachers did that." Can you believe it?!?! 

With what.....over 100 standards in English grade 9 alone, is a teacher given time, patience, to teach a skill to mastery? With scripted curriculum and every teacher on the same page at the same moment, is there time for knowledge to sink it, and be utilized? No. So education becomes surface knowledge, facts to remember then forget, to spit out when needed, 2+2 is 4, the answer is C because it is C. And of course as a concept is introduced, most will "fail" to understand it but, whoops, sorry kids, gotta move on; the failure for instant mastery is reflected on the teacher if these failures are "caught". The teacher is a bad teacher if kids don't "get it" right away. So if you just shove out worksheets and scantrons, you avoid this.

The devil you know is better than the devil you don't.

This is why real change- not minute tinkering called reform, but real change, won't happen in schools. Complete change is an uncertain, chaotic, scary devil. Sure things "suck" as they are now, but we are familiar with the devil that is our current "sucky" education system so we stay with it. Better safe than sorry.

more to come!!!

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