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.
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
studies have found that when children are simply taught, they don’t explore and test multiple hypotheses
[In one study of preschoolers,] an experimenter held a toy that had four tubes. Each tube did something different — for instance, one lit up and one made a squeaking sound.
In one case, the experimenter accidentally made the toy squeak by bumping into it and then left the room. The children experimented with the toy and figured out the three other features.
But when the experimenter made the toy squeak on purpose and then handed it to a child, he or she simply repeated what the experimenter did and never explored the toy’s other features.
We want to uncover what propels sustained energy in all students regardless of peers, parents, poverty, or tenure. What occurs systemically that, done differently, could quickly galvanize students? The resource available tomorrow morning is six hours of student effort. What will you ask of it?
First, get an outcome picture clear. It’s not of students passing a test (only to discard it on exiting their “final.”) It’s not students getting A’s on assignments they never look at again. It’s not teachers “preparing them for the exam” with review questions that formerly would have been teacher-complicit cheating. The outcome picture instead captures a competence and an attitude about it. In your mind’s eye, assemble a roomful of students each of whom is enthusiastic about science; who willingly do more than required, who are more interested in the work they do than in the grade they receive.
Running that movie as what we want instruction to produce, we inquire what goes on in students’ minds. What can we reasonably presume occurs there? What conditions underlie that scene to generate interest and commitment?
I submit that only one cause is strong enough. An idea seizes their imagination, and they identify personally with its pursuit. Their idea fuses the tools of science with a mental purpose, and the two mesh smoothly.
Image credit: Science, from Bigstock