How did this happen? Having lived a fairly long time I can look back over accumulated history and ask some very probing questions.
At this moment, every person I meet has something to say about education: principals, teachers, parents, students – well, that is to be expected – but we have to add legislators and governors, taxi drivers and the average man or woman on the street. Raise the topic of school and they weigh in, with passion.
Just last week I met a dear elderly neighbor who was incensed about having just learned that handwriting was no longer being taught. Her ire was picked up by a male neighbor who was lamenting that no one knew any history. My teacher friend is in tears over “no child left behind” and standardized testing. A phys ed teacher was furious over the cancellation of recess with its dire physical results, and I will not add the comments of the art and music teachers who have seen both funds and classrooms disappear along with their subjects. No print could capture their rage.
Students are taking practice test after practice test, and they are tired. No educator is happy with another new curriculum being thrust on students in mid-stream. “You don’t begin something like this without starting at the bottom and easing it in, year by year," they sputter. And this crazily weather-disrupted school year is not yet at an end. There is truth in every facet of this discussion.
No answer will soothe all of them, but I do want to ask my own questions. What harm have we done in a society where everyone wants to be Number One and where students are told by eager parents that the world is their oyster and they have only to grab that diploma and rush out there to prove it, but they must be at the head of the line.
I would like to meekly ask the same question that David Brooks posed in the TIMES of April 12: should I wonder what do I want from life or should I ponder what is life asking of me? Is there any moral dimension to education and whose is the responsibility for this part of educating the whole person?
I know that I have wandered into the land of the politically incorrect, but at some point this crazy quilt discussion has to distinguish testing from teaching, and go back to basics. What is education and who is ultimately responsible for deciding?
That’s material for a frantic new melee!!