#OklaEd 'King for a Day' Submission
I must confess I like the responses so far, most of them more than whatever I’m about to say. Scott Haselwood’s is one I could particularly get behind – I was tempted to simply cut’n’paste it here and claim it was ‘group work’.
But in the interest of adding to the conversation rather than simply standing on the shoulders of giants, here are the approximately two things I’d sweepingly reform were I sovereign #oklaed ‘King for a Day’, in, um... six hunmumblemurmer or so words (hey, Common Core math). I eagerly await the letter from Congressional Republicans reminding the rest of #edreform that my efforts will probably be reversed as soon as the next ‘King for a Day’ takes office.
#1 – Eliminate the Cult of College Readiness.
Not everyone needs to go to college. Not everyone needs 4 math credits, 3 science credits, 3 history credits, etc. Sure, in an ideal universe I’d endorse every United States citizen having a comfortable familiarity with every core subject. In that ideal universe, every child can learn everything about everything in their own unique way while held to universally high standards.
But you’ve all had those conversations, sometimes in conspiratorial whispers - “look, we’re just trying to get this kid through – we’re not doing him any favors by trying to go by the book…” We constantly circumvent the system even while demanding it be reinforced, because of all of the ‘exceptions’.
Which are MOST of our kids, if we’re honest.
We juggle our convictions regarding what SHOULD happen in theory with our concerns about what’s actually GOOD for the real kids in front of us. Let’s stop.
Our terror of tracking is valid, but it’s led us to overstandardize curriculum and students in a way which is not only harmful, but doesn’t actually work. We’re hurting the top kids in various academic and ‘extra-curricular’ realms in order to pretend that if we just grunt harder, the kids who can’t or won’t engage will rise towards excellence and discover how truly fulfilling it is to argue themes in a self-selected novel.
#2 – Get rid of semesters and required cores.
Four week units, one week off between each, teacher and student-selected. Students are offered a wide range of teacher and subject options created by teachers according to their own interests and abilities, and we do our best to work in some reading, writing, and other essentials through these.
But oh! The gaps in knowledge! The missing essentials!
Have you seriously talked to a single high school student or adult ever? They’re not all emerging as Renaissance Peeps, dear – there’s little danger of things getting worse and much potential that given the choice to teach something you care about or learn something you’ve chosen from actual options... well, real education might happen.
How do we maintain ‘high standards’ while we do this? I have no idea. But if you reject it on that basis, you’ll need to first demonstrate there’s something currently successful that we’ll be losing in the effort.
#3 – Allow kids to fail.
Yeah, I don’t like it either, but the problem with eliminating failure is that success becomes impossible as well. As I type this, March Madness is killing productivity in offices across the country. For every game played, the failure rate is 50%. Given those numbers, how are all of the teams involved SO good? Excellence matters, and that requires falling short be a real possibility.
School isn’t a competitive sport, but the mechanisms necessary for dragging everyone across the finish line willingly or not prevent anyone else actually running, or falling, or getting up, or getting faster or better at anything. You cannot be both a baby and an adult effectively.
We’re stuck in our efforts to maintain the illusion we’re promoting struggle and growth while focusing most of our energy and other resources towards dragging along the least engaged portion of our populations. Not only is it disingenuous, it doesn’t work – the bottom isn’t becoming the top and the top isn’t fooled as they sink towards mediocrity, frustrated by trying to beat a game whose rules most of them recognize as well-intentioned lies.
Other Responses from #OklaEd Bloggers (Please let me know who I've missed):