Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Keeping Schools Weird

Here is something I am not sure we have faced squarely in education: Teachers are weird.  Only about 2% of the population decides that having been through a K-18 schooling experience the best thing they could do with the rest of their lives is go back and work at a school. Think about it, a 47 year-old veteran teacher with 25 years of teaching experience has not not been in a school since she was 5 years old.  That's weird.

Here is another thing that's weird: We have said that one of the main goals of a K-12 education is to prepare students for college.  We've balanced that a little with saying the goal is to get students college-ready and career-ready. But I still hear a lot that getting ready for college is of paramount importance.  But isn't that like saying that the goal of school is more school?  And that's kind of weird, too.  Isn't the goal of all schooling, no matter how long its term: Life?  Shouldn't the purpose of school simply be to get students ready...period?

Actually it might be weird but it's logically consistent. Haven't the weird 2% of people who loved school so much that they made a career out of it, simply set up the whole system to to be self perpetuating?  Should it be surprising that those who have made a meaningful career out of school have made the goal of school more school?

Could that be why schools are so resistant to change?  Because they may not work for almost half the students, but they work for almost all the educators who decide what school should be like and what it should be mainly for: Tests and essays and reading and writing and math, but not creativity and art and socializing and dance and music and physical education.  If that latter set of educable skills is exactly what business leaders and the future seem to say we need, why can't we foster those skills and not simply entrench the status quo?  Weird.

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