Bird Droppings April 17, 2014
Education should be turning mirrors into windows
I was unable to attend many sporting events this year for numerous reasons and my last year about this time my excuse for not taking pictures was my good camera had been stolen. A year ago or so today I went to check on a student photographer at our regional track meet and when I got home my new camera was there. I had ordered it several weeks previous only to receive just the software in the first shipment. I recall about four years ago when I was not able to get to the region meet till after school and since it started before school was out, one of the team managers took my camera to get a few photos of some of the events I would miss. As I looked at old photos of pole vaulting a thought crossed my mind in conjunction with an article I read and have used now in my research by Ronald A. Wolk founder and former editor of Education Week.
“Standardization and uniformity may work with cars and computers, but it doesn’t work with humans. Today’s student body is the most diverse in history. An education system that treats all students alike denies that reality.” Ronald A Wolk
I reviewed my photos and talked with one of the coaches about a particular student who has really done well that year in pole vaulting. She missed going to the state meet in a tie and she had one too many misses as she vaulted.
“Standards don’t prepare students for anything; they are framework of expectations and educational objectives. Without the organization and processes to achieve them, they are worthless.” Ronald A. Wolk
I have pondered this idea of an event like pole vaulting and comparing to our current trend in education of raising the bar. The practice of making it harder to achieve a high school diploma for example is common place across the United States. We set the bar up and do not have the processes within some students to make it to the bar. I could see in a pole vaulting contest where the high school state record may be fourteen feet and we set the bar at sixteen feet and believe all potential pole vault contestants will now attain that level of skill. Most quit pole vaulting and Wolk uses statistics from various states showing dropout rates as an issue and most recently with national changes in calculating dropout rates even more so. .
I have been pondering this concept of raising the bar for some time and teachers have been fired for not attaining goals set by states and federal legislation. I am doing bus duty this spring as I always do and we have several elementary students that catch the bus in the morning here at the high school. They are children of teachers and go to their schools from the high school. Perhaps to none other than educators and parents the stress level in an elementary school during CRCT time in teachers and students should be looked at. If we deliberately stress children over testing are we going the right direction? If we deliberately cause anxiety among our children over test scores that have little validity other than what the publisher has stated and in reference to state and federal mandates are we even being sane? No wonder teachers lead professions in the receiving prescriptions for psych drugs.
Thinking back again I was working on several questions for my graduate school comprehensive exams. In that process I would head to the University of Georgia Library on weekends to review material. I recall as I was driving to the University in Athens and as I turned on the highway bypass towards the University a red tailed hawk flew over the road gliding by into a patch of pines. About three hundred yards further a dead hawk alongside the road it appeared the hawk was trying to feed on a dead armadillo which had been hit by a car. The hawk had become road-kill as well. As I drove on I wondered if maybe this was a pair considering how close they were and if they had a nest and young and this might have been the reason to venture that close to highway. I have seen other times similar situations with dead hawks at road kill sites.
“What is man without the beasts? If all the beasts were gone, man would die from a great loneliness of spirit. For whatever happens to the beasts, soon happens to man. All things are connected. You must teach the children that the ground beneath their feet is the ashes of your grandfathers. So that they will respect the land, tell your children that the earth is rich with the lives of our kin. Teach your children what we have taught our children that the earth is our mother. Whatever befalls the earth befalls the sons of the earth. If men spit upon the ground, they spit upon themselves. This we know, the earth does not belong to man, and man belongs to the earth. “Chief Seattle
It has been many years since Chief Seattle spoke but his words ring true today. It may be that in our time that we so often take for granted all around us, the trees, animals and even other people. We live a life so self-centered and focused on us we tend to miss so much. It was many years till man realized he was not the center of the universe and was really just a somewhat an insignificant speck. I am sitting at my writing typing on my laptop wondering about an interesting question. So many people see problems with public education and yet few offer solutions that seem to go in the right direction as I was mentioning in Wolk’s statements.
I have been reading numerous books on curriculum theory but I am waiting for a book on curriculum action to be published. Fifteen books are scattered about my table with each a different author and different idea how to solve issues in schools. A graduate school professor made a comment several months ago about how many curriculum theorists have moved to Canada to practice and to learn and do research. It is interesting in this world of we want to be the best that it seems Canadian schools want to get better. In Canada however they are looking for ways to improve beyond politics.
We have numerous laws and ideas but never seem to get better in a recent headline in the local newspaper title was and students’ scores highlight disparity. In several systems mentioned nearly a third of eighth graders will be retained because of a test at the end of eighth grade. I wonder how they were at the end of seventh grade and beginning of eighth maybe we should do a sort of a pre-test and post-test thing. A simple practice that would actually give a better indication of learning and it seems we do not do that. We simply test at the end of eighth grade so we know this child is at this stage and knows this at this point but what did that child learn in eighth grade we still do not know.
“The whole purpose of education is to turn mirrors into windows.” Sydney J. Harris
It has been nearly eleven years since a fellow teacher first showed me a Sydney J. Harris column. So often as I watch people in school or out about in the community I can relate to Harris’ thoughts and writings. These people are a reflection of everything around them. Harris says we should be more like windows letting in not just reflecting back.
“Nations have recently been led to borrow billions for war; no nation has ever borrowed largely for education. Probably, no nation is rich enough to pay for both war and civilization. We must make our choice; we cannot have both.” Abraham Flexner
I wonder thinking back to my hawk flying by I hope if there are chicks they were along far enough to survive and as I think maybe it takes action on the part of parents who truly want a good education for their children. In Georgia a big push is for vouchers and Charter schools and sadly in many cases both are profit driven not in the interest of children and neither offer much more in terms of new ideas and have from research actually not done as well as public schools. The really sad part is that many kids in today’s diversified world often do not have parents at home anymore and that puts stress on everything including tests and school. As I end today maybe we can all take a moment and try and please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your heart and to always give thanks namaste.
My family and friends I do not say this lightly,
(We are all related)