Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Busy Little Bees

It is not enough to be busy...the question is 'what are we busy about'?
Henry David Thoreau

What are our children actually learning in school?

I've been doing a lot of thinking on this lately, and these are my thoughts.

For starters, even very young kids (I'm talking Kindergarten here) are required to conduct themselves in a manner most adults would find challenging. The institution of the school is institutionalized alright! Try prison-like. Each subsequent year seems to find shorter recesses (if recess is permitted at all - some Dallas elementary schools I know of have done away with it completely), no-talking restrictions in the cafeteria during a shrinking lunch hour - oh, I mean 20 minutes, restroom privileges suspended, and on it goes.

Many reasons exist for the changes in education over the past decade and almost all of them are well-intentioned. However, no matter the end, our schools and our kids are suffering.

Q: So, what's changed since we were kids?
A: A heck of a lot.

In 1999, the Columbine High School massacre, motivated frightened parents to demand No Tolerance rules towards violent acts, cliques, and bullying within our schools. Who could blame them? Millions of parents watched in horror as students fled the high school to escape the carnage occurring within its doors. We saw the interviews, saw the fear on the faces of students, teachers, and parents affected, and weren't we all affected? We mourned the tragic and unimaginable death of 12 Columbine students and one teacher. We hugged our kids tight and worried as we sent them off to school in the morning. Subsequent acts of violence within or around our schools have dominated news media and remain a growing concern in many cities around the Nation. Increased security and No Tolerance rules have changed the atmosphere of enrichment, creativity, and fun in schools to one more akin of a penitentiary.

Add to this, the increasing desire of parents and educators to close the disparity between the privileged and under-privileged combined with the need for inclusively where children are concerned pushed legislators towards so-called Reform. Good intentions to be sure, but the results are less than brilliant. The No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 calls for increased accountability from States to education all children to a specified standard. And how is this measured and reinforced? You guessed it - standardized testing tied to State and Federal funding. This not only puts the focus on these test results but also limits where funds are spent within schools (for instance, many gifted and/or remedial programs as well as the arts have been cut out in favor of a more standard level and course of study).

The Act reduces eduction to a primary goal of preparing students for mandatory state testing. I went to parent orientation at the beginning of this school year, and the 5th grade teachers spent at least half of their allotted time discussing the importance of attendance during testing, their expectations of the students and parents during the week of testing (get rest, eat a healthy breakfast, take vitamins - these things aren't important every day?), and how they would handle make-up testing for students who dare to get sick during the original test week.

Criticism of standardized testing aside (and believe me - there are criticisms), the Act motivated the State of Missouri to improve its testing scores...and how did they do this? By lowering testing standards.

"Teaching to the test" is the basis for curriculum in the US and begs the question what is the definition of education today?

Mine certainly does not fit into the current box we call public education in the United States. I could go on and on about the reasons why I feel our education system is failing on so many levels. Where is the excitement and fun in learning? Is learning even occurring?

Finally, after years of discussion and research, we hit our limit of %*&! this year and have taken Cole out of school. We are in Week Two of the new and exciting endeavor of home school, and things are going GREAT.

Stay tuned...

1. the act or process of imparting or acquiring general knowledge, developing the powers of reasoning and judgment, and generally of preparing oneself or others intellectually for mature life. Unabridged (v 1.1)

No comments:

Post a Comment

Please feel free to leave a comment!

Comments will be reviewed and have the opportunity for posting.

Thank you for your thoughts!!