I have strong feelings about what kids should learn, which is why I’d put them in charge of their own educations. Experience assures me they’ll get where they need to go, and do so more efficiently than will otherwise be possible. Experience also tells me that won’t happen as long as they’re fenced in by a random mix of courses required because they’ve always been required, by courses based on elitist conceits, by courses shaped by unexamined assumptions. The core’s boundaries are far too narrow to accommodate the collective genius of adolescents.
Kids bring to the curriculum vast differences – differences in gender, maturity, personality, interests, hopes, dreams, abilities, life experiences, situation, family, peers, language, ethnicity, social class, culture, probable and possible futures, and certain indefinable qualities, all combined in dynamic, continuously evolving ways so complex they lie beyond ordinary understanding.
Today’s reformers seem unable or unwilling to grasp the instructional implications of those differences and that complexity. They treat kids as a given, undifferentiated except by grade level, with the core curriculum the lone operative variable. Just standardize and fine-tune the core, they insist, and all will be well.
That’s magical thinking, and it’s dumping genius on the street.
Don’t tell me I’m naïve, that high school kids can’t be trusted with that much responsibility, or that they’re too dumb to know what to do with it. Would it take them awhile to get used to unaccustomed autonomy? Sure. Would they suspect that the respect being shown them was faked and test it out? Of course. Would they at first opt for what they thought was Easy Street? You can count on it.
Eventually, however, their natural curiosity and the desire to make better sense of experience would get the better of them, and they’d discover that Easy Street connected directly to all other streets, and that following it was taking them places they had no intention of going, or even knew existed.
The laws that are in fashion demand tightly constrained curricula and reams of accountability data. All the better if it requires quiz-bits of information, regurgitated at regular intervals and stored in vast computers. Performance metrics, of course, are invoked like talismans. Distant authorities crack the whip, demanding quantitative measures and a stark, single number to encapsulate the precise achievement level of every child.
We seem to think that education is a thing – like a vaccine – that can be designed from afar and simply injected into our children. But as the Irish poet, William Butler Yeats said, “Education is not the filling of a pail but the lighting of a fire.”
This year, as you consider new education laws, I ask you to consider the principle of Subsidiarity. Subsidiarity is the idea that a central authority should only perform those tasks which cannot be performed at a more immediate or local level. In other words, higher or more remote levels of government, like the state, should render assistance to local school districts, but always respect their primary jurisdiction and the dignity and freedom of teachers and students.
Subsidiarity is offended when distant authorities prescribe in minute detail what is taught, how it is taught and how it is to be measured. I would prefer to trust our teachers who are in the classroom each day, doing the real work – lighting fires in young minds.
California Governor Jerry Brown via http://gov.ca.gov/news.php?id=17906
the same oligarchs who have brought this insane Common Core to fruition do not send their kids to schools that use Common Core.
They send them to Waldorf schools.
Or Quaker schools.
Or Montessiori schools.
Or the Lab School.
You know, the kinds of schools that aren’t run like army drill camps, where the teachers aren’t graded using test scores, where the kids don’t take high stakes standardized tests all throughout the year, where students get to explore meaningful subjects and lessons rather than endless test prep and drills.
I don’t know if the Common Core is ‘insane,’ but it’s worth questioning the belief of many that it’s okay to impose a certain kind of education on others’ children that they’d never agree to for their own…
My child should not be responsible for anyone’s pay based on one test on one day. . . . I keep checking the tony private schools to see when they are going to pay their teachers based on test scores and I have yet to find one that thinks this is credible nor do any believe in this data-driven model of high stakes testing for their students.
At its heart, connectivism is the thesis that knowledge is distributed across a network of connections, and therefore that learning consists of the ability to construct and traverse those networks. Knowledge, therefore, is not acquired, as though it were a thing. It is not transmitted, as though it were some type of communication.
What we learn, what we know — these are literally the connections we form between neurons as a result of experience. The brain is composed of 100 billion neurons, and these form some 100 trillion connections and it is these connections that constitute everything we know, everything we believe, everything we imagine. And while it is convenient to talk as though knowledge and beliefs are composed of sentences and concepts that we somehow acquire and store, it is more accurate — and pedagogically more useful — to treat learning as the formation of connections.
As a school leader, are you facilitating robust STUDENT connections to other resources, individuals, and networks?
As a school leader, are you facilitating robust EDUCATOR connections to other resources, individuals, and networks?
Each such circle pulls in students from different social, racial, and interest groups from around the school to identify and solve problems related to campus climate. Adults sit outside the circle, in a “listen only” mode
What could listening circles do for the climate in your school?
What could listening circles do for educational reform and policymaking?
I adopted Leonardo da Vinci’s 7 Principles as a guide and was especially attracted to Sfumato, usually translated as “Up in Smoke,” meaning to embrace ambiguity, paradox and uncertainty. Great things are produced and discovered when you open the door to possibilities and leave some things undefined. When I did that, there was difficulty adjusting as kids had been trained to give the right answers. My response was there may be none and that I was more interested in originality, creativity, and being able to explain and defend one’s thinking. En Garde!
However, once kids realized that they were full partners in their learning and that most anything was possible, they brought me to tears with their work.
Anonymous teacher via http://dianeravitch.net/2013/01/02/when-students-love-learning
What if we removed the passive course-to-course drudgery of the school day? What if there was no schedule? What if students were left with a list of coyly worded benchmarks targeted at creating quality humans, and we just waited to see what they could do? What if teachers were seen as mentors for projects designed to help students meet those benchmarks?
Shawn Cornally via http://www.good.is/posts/why-it-s-time-to-eliminate-class-schedules
I agree with Levi Bryant’s recent post on the matter of cynicism. We have every reason to be skeptical of social media. There is no doubt that ideolgical and capitalistic motives lie behind the arguments for social media. Hell, in most cases, such motives are front and center. Should we be skeptical of Instagram or Facebook or Coursera? I think so. But should we be skeptical about the premise of networked sociality in itself? Or should we be looking to adapt/invent practices for this environment? Levi writes that as a result of cynicism “We thus strangely find ourselves in the same camp as the climate change denialists, the creationists who use their skepticism as a tool to dismiss evolutionary theory, and those that would treat economic theories as mere theories in the pejorative sense and continue to hold to their neoliberal economics despite the existence of any evidence supporting its claims. We critique everything and yet leave everything intact.” It’s a bold argument perhaps, as it equates what we imagine as the height of intellectual behavior (critique) as functionally equivalent to some of the more blantant examples of what we would term anti-intellectualism. However, I think the same thing could be said for our treatment of social media.