For our students, how often are academics and enjoyment the same thing?

Daniel Ching said:

Somewhere along the way, someone convinced American society that breadth is far more important than depth. That same person also convinced everyone that academics and enjoyment are two different things. In their minds, students should have their nose in the books, cramming for a big test, and praying that nothing weird happens to throw them off on the test day. This has come to be known as rigor. . . .

There is nothing wrong with research, reading a crazy amount of books (one of my favorite past times), and studying all night for a test. But when this kind of activity arbitrarily takes the place of hands on, practical, experience based learning, there is something wrong. It is no wonder our drop out rates are high in both high school and college. Kids have at least 13 years of the same thing over and over. We are still functioning on an industrial education model and an agrarian calendar that says, all students learn the same, curriculum should be separated into subjects that don’t intersect, and everyday should be broken up into periods that end and being with a bell. This model makes it extremely difficult to foster creativity, cross curricular work, hands on learning, and spontaneity.


One Response to “For our students, how often are academics and enjoyment the same thing?”

  1. In the 1970’s and early 1980’s, New Jersey had students take something called the MBS during their 3rd, 6th and 9th grade years. MBS stood for “Minimum Basic Skills” test and it was supposed to assess just that: if you couldn’t pass that baseline than you needed extra efforts so that you didn’t fall behind. Teachers taught as they normally did, without worrying about the test, because if you were a decent teacher then your students would generally pass.

    Then in the late 1980’s they changed the 9th grade assessment to a performance based test, and suddenly school principals were forcing English teachers to teach to the test so that their high schools were in the upper half in test scores. The year before they started, I remember my favorite 9th and 12th grade English teacher cringing at the fact that she would have to cut two full novels from the curriculum in order to make room for all the test prep.

    I used to think that portfolio assessments were bogus, because there was so much wiggle room compared to a standardized test and because a paper mache volcano is not an indicator that someone understands science. But if you trained the evaluators and had an independent group audit the schools annually, you could assess how much meaningful learning was gained from these hands on/connections to the real world activities that cannot be easily measured via cheaper computer graded fill in the answer sheet tests.

    I started reviewing educational apps because although I believe that an unfettered teacher can make any subject come alive without the need to throw students in front of a computer, it is becoming increasingly rarer for a student today to be taught by an educator who doesn’t have to cut out the meaningful to make room for more of what can be easily (and cheaply) measured.

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