There are definitely different and often conflicting schools of thought about what it means to learn, the purpose of getting an education, and how we define (and measure) success. There are plenty of polarities– instrumental vs relational understandings, concepts vs skills, performance vs learning, student-centered vs teacher-centered. Do we want our children to understand in a way that they can think and work and solve and create in a novel situation or do we want them to be able to flawlessly perform a well-rehearsed, standardized process on demand. Or something in between, some sort of blend or balance. Growth Mindsets, Learning Targets, Multiple intelligences, NPVS, IXL, DOK, SBG, WTF. The list goes on.
I am sure you can hear my bias. All preferences, beliefs, experiences, information and misinformation, and yes, even biases play into what ultimately informs and shapes every single teacher’s practice and become the experiences students receive at any school, in any classroom, anywhere and everywhere. These experiences are as greatly varied as the teachers and students themselves, and certainly are not equal nor equitable. Intentionally or not, they create gaps, provide or limit opportunity and potential, and ultimately perpetuate privilege and oppression. There are so many factors and factions, a unwieldy number of entangled variables. Where to begin?
Those who persist in their instance for accountability/standardization/testing are either grossly ignorant to the complexities of teaching and learning, or are aware but chose to ignore it for a cause that is self-serving, a desire to have power and control over others. They do not/will not recognize that education involves honest-to-goodness real-life people, not clones or puppets or empty minds and blank slates. Every child and every teacher arrive at school every day with life experiences, with intuitions and self-perceptions, with personal strengths and obstacles to overcome. I cannot think of a single teacher who does not care nor of a child who does not deserve to be cared about. Those who continue to make noise about back-to-basics and kids-these-days do not/will not consider the vast differences of human condition in our country, created and perpetuated by a society that is so eager to blame, so easily divides humanity into “We” and “Them”, a society that ignores compassion and commonalities and instead feeds voraciously on fear and falsehoods in order to justify their hatred-fueled actions.
This post is not going the direction I thought it was. I was going to write about a need to examine certain outmoded yet deeply ingrained practices in education, practices that contribute to and perpetuate unequal opportunities for our children. Practices that impede learning, practices that sort, practices that raise up some while holding others back. I was wondering if by arming ALL children with the ability to think critically and creatively, to question the reasoning of others, to nourish in each of them empathy, compassion, and kindness, and a healthy sense of self-worth, they would be better prepared to handle and even repair the damage they are going to inherit.
I know there are many who rise above the popular call to fear and hate, who are not part of the appalling racism, sexism, and xenophobia that apparently is thriving in the US. I know there are those who are already speaking up and speaking out, already taking action in the face of horror and shame. I know that pinning a safety pin to my lapel is a simplistic and virtually empty act, that I am going to have to push myself outside of my comfort zone. I have to hope and believe that my actions and my voice will matter. I have to.
After all, rebellions are built on hope.