I was reading a review by Diane Ravitch about the film “Waiting For Superman“. (see http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2010/nov/11/myth-charter-schools/?page=1 ) In the article she puts forward a very convincing rebuttal to the idea that certain schools would provide the “magic wand” that would transform education for the children of the United States.
Living as I do in Britain I have been through much of the same discussion about transforming schools which would bring about a magical change to the lives of children.
Now I would like to take a mental journey through this argument. Suppose that the magic wand was to work.The new schools were created and the children were all getting huge scores on tests so that some kind of straight line was seen on the national statistics and all British children were achieving a Level 4+ at Key Stage 2 and all U.S. children were achieving the highest scores physically possible in their tests.
Then what? Would these children be ready for the next stage of their journey? Would we have a world of Einsteins ready to transform the landscape? Would our already overburdened knowledge base be weighed down by the sheer output of these highly educated children?
Would everyone be so able at reading, writing and mathematics that we could say that we had achieved the golden mean? Hold on.. what about next year.. would a one percent drop in results be seen as a disaster needing major surgery?
There would be casualties though.. the whiners and moaners about the present system and its iniquities would be unemployed. Oprah Winfrey could not have a special about boring old successful schools.. she’d need to concentrate on something else to keep the ratings up.
Mr Guggenheim could not make a new documentary about education called “the school in South Dakota where one child was left behind!” But then again maybe he should. Was it not the intention that no child should be left behind?
So there you have it…. in my mental journey we have fixed the patient and then discovered what? That maybe he has social and emotional hangups, that his schooling has starved him of the ability to be creative, to think for himself and to work effectively with others. That he has no joy in his learning because he has spent all day and every day preparing for the tests which he has now mastered. Ahead of him though are other tests and exams which are the hurdles he must reach and jump over and in the end?
In the magical wonderland the end is happiness and contentment forever and ever. But I wonder if that will be the case for the scholars who are not allowed to be left behind and have got to achieve the levels set by the government or they will? What? Die. disappear in a puff of smoke?
We need to understand that we are living in a time where there is a revolution. It is a revolution that allows children to become the people they can become. It is about children finding their own answers and following their own interests. It is not about tests for the sake of testing but about mathematics and literacy as essential skills that enable children to make the best use of the opportunities that our technological developments have presented us with.
In this alternative scenario there are no graphs of child versus child and school versus school but a personalised education that is about individual fulfilment. In this scenario then continuation of the learning journey does not stop with the end of schooling or college but the end of our natural life in which school is an important part but only one of many.
- The Year in Sanity: Diane Ravitch (salon.com)
- Rethinking School Reform (nytimes.com)
- The Myth of Charter Schools (nybooks.com)