Falling into a ditch
My guest is Marion Brady, veteran teacher, administrator, curriculum designer and author.
By Marion Brady
A recent Washington Post headline said, "Lawmakers to launch bipartisan effort to rewrite No Child Left Behind."
Reading that headline, professional educators on familiar terms with the King James version of the Bible are likely to recall one of the Jesus’ parables as quoted by Luke: "Can the blind lead the blind? Shall they not both fall into the ditch?"
With very, very few exceptions, the education reform chatter of members of Congress exhibits a level of educational ignorance that would be laughing-out-loud funny if those engaged in it weren’t making policy, and the consequences of those policies for the young and for the future of America weren’t so devastating.
That most members of Congress know little about educating isn’t surprising.
All, of course, will have had firsthand exposure to schooling, but that doesn’t make them expert policymakers or even wise judges of education policy. Their firsthand experience will have been shaped by a curriculum adopted in 1893. Many years will have passed since they sat in classrooms.
Actual instruction will be only dimly remembered. And what little will be recalled will be filtered by selective perception and partisan ideology.
Superimposed on that hazily remembered experience will be the conventional wisdom, powerfully reinforced by simplistic education policies promoted by the Business Roundtable, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and other influential educational amateurs.
That educating -- attempting to more closely align with reality the images in others minds -- is inherently the most complex of all undertakings. That the aligning process must have as its overarching aim preparing the young to cope with an unpredictable, increasingly dangerous future is an idea even less likely to be understood and appreciated.
For proof that in education policy, the blind are leading the blind, look at what the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers are busily doing -- promoting "voluntary" adoption of national standards for school subjects.
To amateur educators -- business leaders, newspaper editorial boards, syndicated columnists, television talking heads, radio commentators and other opinion leaders -- "national standards for all school subjects" sounds not just reasonable but highly desirable.
But to professional educators - at least those who’ve given the matter thought - adopting national standards for school subjects is an appalling idea. Its practical effect will be to lock in place a curriculum adopted in the 19th century, a curriculum that doesn’t even come within a country mile of equipping the young to cope with an ever-accelerating rate of change that’s slamming us into an unknowable future.
"Lawmakers to launch bipartisan effort to rewrite No Child Left Behind."
Be afraid. Be very afraid.
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| February 26, 2010; 5:07 PM ET
Categories: Guest Bloggers, Marion Brady, No Child Left Behind | Tags: No Child Left Behind
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