Saturday, April 27, 2013

Why Education Standards Suck

I was trying to think, why am I so against NCLB and CCSS (Common Core Standards)? Okay, sure, we all know I loathe the testing and data tracking and who doesn't? But I mean...we need standards. We don't want a high school senior who was never taught how to multiply, and shouldn't every child know about the Founding Fathers and Constitution?

 I agree with these thoughts, but when everyone gets their hands into "a child should know...." we either get 10,000 standards a year- breadth not depth and learning suffers, or someone wins the "should know" battle, whoever has the biggest mouth and most money, and again, the children lose.

So I don't quite have the answer except that yeah, I don't like standards. Besides, who says a 5th grader must know A,B, and C? I even encounter this with my toddler son who was recently assessed for a speech delay. He could stack blocks 12 high, something I'd never taught, but couldn't categorize by color so suddenly his cognitive score dropped. Even though certain things he can do are at a 3-4 year level, since they weren't assessed....  you get the point.

Also, any good teacher- public, private, home school, has some idea of what to teach because we were all schooled  at one point, and we have a passion for education or else we wouldn't be teaching. Besides, even with all these "should knows", we graduate students who can't divide or find the USA on a map.

When I look at education today, I am appaled. I look at my previous classrooms with scripted curriculum, or my current class with "paragraph frames" and "step up to writing" and an all over lack of novels to be read and I think...whoa. In high school, I was so bored and done with the system I nearly dropped out, and if I were in school today...I don't even want to imagine. I'd be educationally suicidal.

I don't remember the dull textbook stories or comprehension questions, the dry whitewashed "social studies" passages or timed math tests. I forget my standardized tests. What do I remember? Non-standardized education.

I remember in first grade, since I was years ahead of my peers and GATE (gifted ed) didn't exist for first grade, I kind of got my own mini-Montessori. When possible, my teacher gave me third grade math packets and let me go to the grades 3-6 library and read and write to my hearts content while the rest of the class learned their ABCs.

My third grade teacher taught us "nature study", surely a "liberal environmental" idea, but I loved nature and fondly remember our weekly nature hikes and how we adopted a tree. I remember drawing the intricate knots on my little oak tree and watching her leaves turn golden brown in fall.

I remember 4th grade when I was home schooled, and read the entire Audobon Encyclopedia FOR FUN, and made my own edible plants books.

I recall in 6th grade we did a unit on ancient civilizations. I'm sure we read some droll passage in the textbook about Mesopotamia or something...I dunno...but we spent an entire MONTH creating our own civilization. WE made clay rolling things with symbols carved in, to make stamped images mimicking the rosetta stone. We created the government, language, foods, art, maps of an imaginary civilization. We then made a few artifacts and then smashed and buried them, and went to excavate another student's cultural ruins.

I recall we were to read a 200 page novel of our choice and I chose  Clan of the Cave Bear. This was my first introduction to the restrictive education system and mold, as I had to get board approval (after much persuading by my mom, a teacher in their district) to read a book on my own that mentioned s-e-x. No commandment for reading the entire zillion-paged series of adult level reading books.

In 8th grade we had a feast in class of colonial foods, and even got to dress up. We were reading some novel (gasp we read novels!) of colonial times where a boy's fingers were melded together in a blacksmith accident, so we got to try buttoning shirts and eating food with our fingers taped together. We then read some other novel and had a choice of end projects; one was to create and cook an entire southern meal. I did such, and typed up a menu and donned a faux twangy accent and served my parents a 5 course meal.

I recall hating high school as I'd said, but art and drama saved me. I could forge my own path and do as I pleased, as art lacks much structure. I sometimes even ditched class to go to art or drama, and spent many lunches and after school hours in the theater or art class. The smell of paint or the flash of theater lights still feels like home to me.

I look at curriculum, standards, the way education is going, and I die inside. I really do. Children will no longer bury their own civilizations or read hundreds-of-pages novels, because this kind of self-centered, innovative curiosity is being extinguished for good.

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