Thursday, August 28, 2014

Trying to Change the Education System is Like Trying to Reason with a Toddler

I posted the other day about how homeschoolers are getting the blame for not supporting the 'common good'.  Today, I ran across an article that is about trying to change the educational system for the greater good.  Now this isn't a parent group, or homeschoolers trying to change the educational system for them.  No...this is the SC Superintendent of Education trying to 'reason' with educrates that the system needs to change.

Dr. Mick Zais is not a typical educrate.  His experience in life is not from the public school classroom to public school administration to the public school distric office to public school superintendent to state superintendent.  He hasn't been brainwashed into the whole model of college is the only way to be successful. 

He has spoken out recently about the injustice that our educational system has on our young people.  He understands what the majority of homeschool parents have known.  College is not the answer for all kids.  He realizes that a student has a pretty good idea of what they want to do in life before they graduate and their educational experience needs to reflect this.

Now, to change the educational system to meet the true need of the student and society is a major undertaking.  It goes against everything the College of Education has preached and prepared every teacher to do.  It means that the teacher is not the center of the classroom and must be a true facilitator to help a student find resources to support their needs at any given time. (I know that the College of Education tells its teacher candidates that they are to be facilitators.  However, let us come to the reality that this cannot truly be done with the system that is in place now.  Self directed learning when high stakes testing is on the line.  Teachers' jobs dependent upon test scores cannot or will not allow a relinquish of control to the student.  The mighty test must be taught to at all costs.) 

However, if a true facilitator role is taken and the high stakes tests removed, schools can be changed.  Student needs can be met!  It means that higher mathematics and science classes may not filled with students.  It means that British Literature classes may have a handful of students and art classes are overflowing.  New classes may need to be added.  Business math will draw more students than Algebra II.  Entrepreneurship classes could replace sociology class.  The sky is the limit!  Courses change yearly based on student interests.  By courses, I really mean student needs.  Let's not pigeon hole into courses.  Oh, the disorder it would create in the institution of education!

Could you imagine a high school that is tailored purely to the student?  Where collaboration is truly celebrated and encouraged?  No high stake tests to prepare for at the end of the year.  Students teaching students is encouraged and the teacher is there to offer support not purely instruction.  Students that are artistic are allowed to create all day and attend workshops by local artisans to improve their craft.  Students that are focused in the sciences and want to pursue careers in these fields are prepped and given laboratory experience to expand their horizons.  They research what is required for the field they want and they seek out teachers to help them with their choices.  Oh, how high they could fly!  A school to be filled with living resources that can be accessed like Google.  True collaboration and mentorships with colleges and businesses would be real school to work!

The creation of such learning centers could lead to collaboration in all fields by students themselves.  Art students learning the science behind paint types and glazes; science and mathematic students learning the artistry within their field; literary students working with drama students to create new works of art; wood working students creating sets for drama students; welding students making structures dreamed of by art students; music students writing and performing their works for original plays and musicals; history students unraveling mysteries and reenacting events; computer students creating and sustaining networking for all the tech needs of the school; programming students creating new apps and programs to aid their fellow classmates in endeavors.  The list goes on and on and there are no limits. 

How could this type of school be managed?  How could we assure that all students learned?  Faith in our students is the number one thing that we must have.  Relinquishing control and authoritarian dictatorship of an institutionalized setting to an open and trusting mind bank atmosphere of trust.  I believe those 'weird' kids that get bullied would become embraced for their 'weirdness'.  Their 'weirdness' is only because they don't meld into the traditional school setting.  In the new educational model, these 'weird' students can showcase their talents in the arts or let their real inner geek out and collaborate with others that share the same interests.  A microcosm of the real world we live.  Wouldn't that be great? 

So what happens to those kids that aren't into the academics and arts?  You know the ditch diggers that so many like to refer to them.  Can these kids fit into this system?  Sure, if all the others know and understand the value of this type of work and that the worker is no less a person.  Aren't we all thrilled when the plumber shows up to fix a stopped toilet at our house?  Do we think less of him?  No.  We appreciate his skills, but when our child says, 'I think I want to be a plumber,' we dismiss it and point him in another direction.  Why?  Haven't you seen how much plumbers can make?  Sanitation workers, HVAC workers, construction workers, food prep workers, childcare workers, etc. all have a place in our society and should not be looked down upon. 

The children that are fashionistas and can put together great looking outfits.  Ones that can rival professional hairstylists or make-up artists are looked down upon if they are not academic for school.  These students can shine in the drama department and yes, they are really artist just working with a different medium.  What about the child that is quick witted and makes everyone laugh?  He doesn't enjoy math or science or really any academic pursuit.  He knows about the real world and looks upon it differently.  He can make fun of the seriousness, yet at the same time he is making everyone aware of what is happening in the world.  We as adults spend serious amounts of money going to comic venues. 

There is so much more than school in life.  Pure desire to learn is within every human.  Unfortunately for many, school is a prison that they are waiting to escape from and experience life.  By the time the finish line is in sight, many have lost any desire to learn and many dreams have been crushed.  Let us meet the needs of the children by providing resources to encourage their God given abilities.  Whether it be the baker, chef, teacher, scientist, doctor, lawyer, line cook, cosmetologist, nanny, writer, etc.  Let us let the child explore and find the right fit and nurture their desire. 

However, my reasons and ideas above would be dismissed by the educational system.  The educratic system could not measure the success of the students in the this model with the typical high stakes test created by Pearson or the like.  Because in education, if you can't measure academic success with a test, then learning must not be taking place.  So, let us just throw more money at the beast and never enact real change. (Thank goodness I home school my children!)