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The progressive educator’s curse December 12, 2008

Filed under: Education — Ms.M @ 12:05 pm

I’ve realized, only very lately, that I have an overly optimistic view of public education, meaning I think it’s changeable and worth changing.  But I’ve also realized fairly recently that this isn’t a universal feeling, or that the idea for changing schools varies greatly and everyone who cares about schools cares intensely about their own viewpoint, sometimes to the exclusion of all other viewpoints. Everyone is pretty set on the idea that schools are amazingly long-overdue for an overhaul, but the direction and scope of change is still scattered.

There are those who push for more accountability, which translates into more standardized testing. There are those who push for more data-driven and a more standardized curriculum. Their are tech evangelists, supporters of student-centered or progressive education, unschooling, and radical teachers. There are supporters for merit based incentives for teachers, cash payments for high scoring students, privatized school systems, magnet schools and charter schools. There is everything and anything but a clear idea of what the point or purpose of education should be and what any student should hope or want to get out of it (besides a chance at more schooling and a very unclear future).

I’ve also realized that I fall on the progressive side of the education scale. I don’t know why that is or what made me fall that way, but that’s the direction I tend to wander towards. I don’t believe in memorizing and regurgitating information and knowledge, nor do I see the benefits in that model. I don’t believe wholeheartedly in standardized testing, or see it being used in any way that would be of benefit to students (or holding teachers accountable for that matter).

I think the worst thing we can do to any person is take away their desire to learn or make them feel they are incapable of successfully learning, because that tends to last a lifetime.

I do believe in the power of learning and want students to learn and value learning, knowing full well that doing so is more in their hands than in mine.

At the same time, every interview I’ve been to thus far in my short, and possibly stuck in neutral education career, tends to ask me questions based on where education is, not about where education hopes to be. I’ve heard administrators talk about filling the education gaps, moving forward, and differentiating learning for each particular student. But nowhere in their questioning is there any indication that this is what they aim for in their educators: individuals willing to take risks, try new things, put their students first as apposed to test-scores first.

Lastly, I’ve realized that my thoughts on education are more curse than blessing, at least at this point in time, and based on where education stands today.


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