It’s hard to pin down just what ails public education today. Perhaps it is the fact that there are very few major entities actually interested in real education reform, most just want an inexpensive tweak. Like so many horror movies, elements of our education system have become trouble, and like the unsuspecting bit characters in the movies, the populace is largely unaware of them. For now.
As districts and states chase NCLB, Common Core, and other standardization measures, the life of education is getting sucked out of schools. Total elementary recess time is a fraction of what it once was, and art education, physical education, music, electives, are all falling victim to this monster.
As a result, instead of smooth scopes and sequences in schools, we are hammering together disconnected methods and strategies in desperate hope that if there is a little of everything included, it will produce something amazing. Instead, many schools are trying a little bit of everything, in no particular manner, to see if it makes the whole better. Schools are desperate to appease the political calls for reform that they will resort to just about anything to raise test scores, even if the spark of life of the learner is compromised in the process.
In the race to reinvent education, some leaders are simply resurrecting bygone practices in the hope that they can be dusted off and reapplied to the current situation. While some great ideas come back and over because they are great ideas, some simply need to be buried and left alone.
One of the greatest threats to education today is helicopter parents. Our educational system has trained parents to be involved in school, not learning. Many parents are much more interested in ensuring positive grades than ensuring authentic learning is happening. We’ve made them this way. For decades we have urged parents to be involved without offering much more advanced than “buy books” and “check on the grades” Now they slowly pick away at attempts at authentic learning by squawking “will it be graded?” We need to get these parents back on the team.
The greatest of all beasts in education is the political machine. It beats its chest and demands results from schools, yet cannot find any real way to do so unless it can create artificial tests of educational quality. NCLB, RTTT, and other flashy initiatives create destruction in most schools by insisting on tearing apart functional aspects of education for quantifiable results, most of which are window dressing and mean little in terms of student learning. Studies overwhelmingly suggest that these beasts do more damage than authentic reform, yet we can’t wait until they climb to the top of the political landscape and make themselves known. It’s time to bring down the beast and allow districts to better access the best practices and allow educational experts to drive change, not politicians.
Night of the Living Dead
Whichever of these awful strategies, or any that is politically convenient, schools choose to deal with, the end result is often the same: student zombies who may be able to recite state-approved facts, may be able to write exactly like everyone else, but remain devoid of a creative curiosity about the world. In many schools, students move from classroom to classroom with a mindless gaze and without any real interest in learning at all. Sure, they may chase grades, but rarely authentic learning.
Give me more braaaaaaiiiiins!!! I can have them do more worksheeeeeeets!