“Let’s have an education that enables us to be fully alive human beings – and not simply a ‘utilitarian’ education” – Jeanette Winterson speaking on Radio 4’s Start The Week, this morning.
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Continuing with the theme of our last post – which we called “Teachers of the World Unite . . . ” – we suggest parents and teachers read a post on Diane Ravitch’s blog which also highlights the ways in which many schools and teachers are crushing the love of learning – in some cases before it’s even had a chance to establish itself. The following paragraphs are extracts from a letter written by Raymond Gerson of Austin Community College
“Reform” is Destroying Humane Values, Creating a Hatred for School
Frequent high stakes testing, hours of test prep drills, large classes and reduction or elimination of art, music and P.E. are taking their toll on both students and teachers. School counselors have reported an increase in ADHD, anxiety, depression and other psychological problems among students. Parents have reported that as early as elementary school their children are starting to hate school and are turning off. Many students are bored and stressed out from the constant pressure to perform on high stakes tests.
Children begin school with a natural curiosity and intrinsic motivation to learn. Learning should be an enjoyable process which stimulates student imagination, creativity, ability to think for oneself and the ability to solve problems that have more than one right answer. This type of learning experience will prepare students to become well-informed and productive members of society and to work in good careers in the future. Many current educational environments are breaking the spirits of students and teachers and are turning off intrinsic motivation to learn and teach.
Many wealthy and powerful individuals (and organizations) with little or no teaching experience are influencing educational policies which are destructive. They are in favor of frequent high stakes testing, large classes, closing public schools and reducing courses in the arts except when it comes to their own children. Their children usually attend private schools with small classes, health support services, plenty of courses in the arts and little or no frequent high stakes standardized tests with hours of test prep drills. This is hypocritical and inhumane.
Children need to be emotionally healthy to live successful and fulfilling lives as adults. Development of their emotional and social intelligence are important if they are to grow into fully functioning adults with humane values. Values such as kindness, caring for others, love, integrity and compassion make us good human beings. Students will learn these values from the example of adults and by the way adults treat them. The way many students are being treated is lowering their sense of self-worth, diminishing their creativity, blocking their potential and teaching them to be less compassionate and empathetic.
Teachers should be allowed to teach and create their own lesson plans based on the curriculum that they are teaching. They need time to teach students to think for themselves instead of spending hours doing test prep. They also need time to collaborate with other teachers.
There are schools which are excellent models of education such as the one in Finland. Instead of modeling our education system after successful ones, the U.S. is following in the footsteps of educational systems like the one in Chile which is a “free market” disaster.
The changes that are needed for a great education system will not come from the top down until there is enough action and pressure from the bottom up. Students, parents, teachers and school administrators will need to protest in large numbers . . .
Let’s reawaken a love of learning in our students, treat them with humane values and give our teachers opportunities to teach students to think for themselves.
– part of a letter from Professor Raymond Gerson of Austin Community College
As we’ve tried to stress in many of our previous 3D Eye posts, we have no great belief in politicians who claim to represent the interests of children, families and teachers suddenly starting to understand the need to change the direction in which our education has been heading for some decades, or changing the 19th Century paradigm we continue to adhere to in most parts of our education system.
As we indicated in our previous post, we support the views of Raymond Gerson – “The changes that are needed for a great education system will not come from the top down until there is enough action and pressure from the bottom up. Students, parents, teachers and school administrators will need to protest in large numbers . . .”
PS This is from the Department of Education’s website:
“The National Curriculum has three aims. It should enable all young people to become:
- successful learners who enjoy learning, make progress and achieve
- confident individuals who are able to live safe, healthy and fulfilling lives
- responsible citizens who make a positive contribution to society.
These aims should inform all aspects of teaching and learning and be the starting point for curriculum design.”