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FOR THE BIRDS, AND MOSTLY THE CHILDREN TOO

From a Home-Schooling Parent

Speaking broadly, American public education, especially in the early grades, has become dominated by a bizarre orthodoxy that is almost completely unsupported by rigorous research, or for that matter by teachers, education professionals and child psychologists. It’s the orthodoxy of political buzzwords like “standards” and “accountability,” the orthodoxy of business-school methods like standardized testing (and the hours of test preparation that accompanies it), drill-based and scripted instruction and repetitious busywork.

Germany ditched its “early-learning” kindergarten curriculum after a study suggested that kids who had attended play-school kindergartens outperformed those who had not. Finnish children often don’t even start school until age 7, and consistently score among the highest in the world on an international exam given to 15-year-olds.

From an opinion piece where most points seem to stem from one study. The view obviously comes from a specific sector of parents, mostly in a position of privilege, but I appreciate the allusions to ‘command and control’ models familiar to the military and the business world.

The district I currently work in is headed by two Broad Academy graduates in a state where the commissioner of education is also a graduate of Broad Academy. As such, our superintendent is a former military leader trained to lead schools through a program founded by a former business leader.

I often hear our students referred to as “consumers” or “customers.” There is a service-oriented aspect of the phrase I can sign onto, but public school students do not directly purchase or have much choice in whether or not they go to school. And forcing a child to go to school is not the same as forcing them to learn. Ultimately the aims and challenges of education are unique. To the extent that we allow for a cross-pollination of ideas, when do we know when we’ve taken it too far?

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Filed under: Design, EDUCATION

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