Saturday, June 18, 2011

What I Should Have Said

Ms. Cornelius at A Shrewdness of Apes has given us a fine read. Read this. Read it from start to finish. I beautifully captures what I've tried to say here many times.

Here are a few of the best passages:

If one listens to all of the cant coming out of the talking heads who purport to be educational experts, especially those who claim to be experts, you will notice that the dominant assumption regarding students is that they are acquiescent, empty vessels waiting to be filled. A whole passel of those alleged "reformers" like to use the "consumer" paradigm when describing how to fix American public schools. Students and their families are depicted as "consumers" of educational services. The problem with this stereotype is the absolute passivity of consumers in our consumption culture. The deluge of advertising and its claims that consumption can be transformative is probably THE seductive lie of the 20th century in terms of the lives of the common people.

I can assure you that many students in public high schools also are disinclined to value their educations since it always emphasized that this education is free. Unfortunately, they also interpret that word to mean "requires no real effort." Schools often abet this notion by lowering standards and removing consequences for failure to master concepts. However, even in the face of this trend, I do want to say there are more than a few of us in the classroom who are swimming against that tide, who seek to maintain and enforce high standards and rigor. We ARE out there, banging our heads against the wall daily for the sake of our students. We do it because we KNOW that our students CAN do the work, CAN learn the concepts and skills needed. They just have to be pushed into it.

That's just right. The primary problem in our schools today is student passivity. So very many don't really care about their education at all. At most, they grade-grub a bit and hope to get by with the minimum possible work. (Of course, many won't do even this. Such laziness there is!)

This problem is deeply ingrained, and no mere change in curriculum or teacher technique will fix it. The culture must be transformed. We must begin to value academic achievement. Indeed it must become our primary value.

Imagine the transformation that would occur in the classroom if academic achievement became as important as athletic achievement. Imagine what would happen if academic achievement became the primary goal of students and their parents.

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