Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Olympic Aspirations

I have thoroughly enjoyed watching the Winter Olympics the past several days.  Of course, time spent watching the Olympics is time not spent blogging.  Sunday's US v. Canada hockey game was a dazzling display of everything that is great about hockey--speed, stick handling, incredible goal tending.  I found myself wishing I was watching amateurs rather than NHL players taking some time "off," but even so this was the sport at its pinnacle.

Last night's ice dancing program was no less mesmerizing as couple after couple skated beyond personal bests, leaving it all out there on the ice.  Years of preparation, hours upon hours of work.  Countless bruises and set backs--learning experiences all.  Event after event has revealed the artistry, skill, creativity, and unquestionable perseverance of each and every athlete.

Since this is not a sports blog you are wondering "Where's the beef?"

Seemingly out of nowhere my beef is with the term "Adequate Yearly Progress." I couldn't help sitting there, in awe at the human capacity for greatness, in amazement at the very idea of being an Olympian, and in equal astonishment fume, "How did we come up with so mediocre a goal as 'Adequate Yearly Progress'?" Does anyone believe Apolo Ohno (pictured above) even has the word "adequate" in his vocabulary? Clearly, I am not saying every one can have Olympic aspirations.  I am saying that every one's aspirations should be olympic [To any former teachers reading this: I know it's supposed to be capitalized, but I am taking poetic license to make a point.]

Why have we set our students' sights to "adequate"? Why not instead find out what each one is most passionate about, willing to put the maximum available effort into, and committed to the point of being heedless of bruising about, and then support them as they relentlessly go after it?  Why not have gold medal aspirations in nursing, marketing, graphic design, culinary, teaching, school administration?  Why not have students name their dream and then inspire them to go for it?

Maybe the malaise in American education right now is not budgetary or philosophical.  Maybe students are struggling because we tell them we will settle for "adequate," when inside each one knows he or she has olympian potential.

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