An Ideal Future for Education: swing, pendulum, swing!

What would an ideal education look like, according to moi? Everyone always says, “Well, the pendulum is always swinging in education,” and right now it has swung heavily and ponderously, to nuts and bolts, or in other words, to testing.

Just skim through my blogs this year to see why testing is untenable as a measurement of student learning, of teacher excellence, or of school quality, at least high-stakes testing as we’re doing it now. The tests themselves are in question, and of course the idea of a one-time measurement to give any useful information at all about a student’s school year is ridiculous, especially with recent research that points out that we remember only a fraction of what we learn, and that this is put at risk by stress and other factors.

So swing, you pendulum! Swing to the concept of childhood,of growing up healthy, sane and safe!

And what does a healthy, happy childhood look like?

For certain, it would have balance. Look to the arts-based curricula as in Waldorf schools to see what I mean. Students learn academic things, yes, but they also learn to use a saw, gouge and hammer. They learn their math facts of course, but they also learn to grow an excellent garden and to prepare the food they grow. Students learn literature, writing, and science; they learn social studies, yes, but they also learn how to draw and paint and sculpt. They learn how to play instruments. They learn how to dance.

Why bother with all this? The answer is vitally important.

The answer is this:

We are educating students. These are children who grow up in our care. In many cases, they don’t enjoy a variety of experiences at home, because tired parents often park them in front of the television at the end of the day with a bag of Mickie D’s in their laps. These are children who will grow up to be teenagers and then into adults, who need a spectrum of skills and experiences to be whole, useful, and most of all, to be happy.

Just because you can’t test a dance class, not in any meaningful way, doesn’t take away from its immense value in a child’s childhood. If we honestly think back to our own educations, we will see that we remember the marching band, the successful drawing or painting we did, the school play. There’s a reason for that: these are the things that design a more delightful growing up.

My school of the future, my ideal education? It would have to be a place that embraces and nurtures the whole child, a place where kids can grow up to be competent and happy.


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