Thompson: Its the Culture Stupid
In one of his last posts, Gerald Bracey wrote: "I do think that US schools which, far more than schools in other nations, encourage students to ask questions (one of the best ways of learning), give us an edge up. In most nations, as neither a student nor a professor do you ask questions.... I know that some countries, like Japan, who beat the bejesus out of us on tests do not garner Nobels because their culture discourages professors from undertaking the high-risk research that usually leads nowhere but occasionally leads to breakthroughs and Nobels (no US educational researcher is currently in danger of winning a Nobel, for the same reason; maybe Geoffrey Canada down the road). I think that culture gives the US an edge, not the schools."
Bracey was not alone in worrying that test mania is destroying the best of public education. The ideas of the late Ted Sizer “were not compatable with the current vernacular of standardization and testing, ...
He believed you really have to know your students and your teaching, and your school has to be responsible to kids as they are and not as data points or widgets on an assembly line.” And Deborah Meier just wrote,"Passing the idea of democracy on to the next generation is also no easy matter. It's not intuitive, we're not born democrats. Children need to see, feel, hear, and touch what "society" itself means; best of all in a setting in which there are diverse subcultures, viewpoints, and, thus, disagreements to be contended with."
So, history teacher Christopher L. Doyle is in great company when he writes "I propose a brief experiment in citizenship: Find a teenager and ask her if she thinks she will grow up to lead a free life. The results might give you pause. When I asked this of my upper-middle-class high school students recently, nearly every one of these 11th and 12th graders said 'no.'
... Compared to other generations, children now seem overprescribed. They have less time to play on their own outside the authority of adult coaches, teachers, and minders. They take more standardized tests. They get more homework. They are far more likely to be diagnosed with a psychological malady of the stress, depression, or attention-deficit variety and to be medicated.
I like to believe we could change direction. For starters, we could repeal the No Child Left Behind Act, offer free public education through college, eliminate most standardized tests, reconfigure town planning to make neighborhoods accessible to bicycles and pedestrians, and slash homework requirements. ...
We see, already, that the current state of prescription has produced a backlash: binge drinking is up, rates of mental illness among teenagers have risen, academic cheating is on the rise. Jonathan Kozol’s The Shame of the Nation shows how poor, inner-city schoolchildren suffer intellectually and spiritually in overregimented schools.... I question how the ends justify the means.
Since 1776, Americans have touted freedom as the essence of our exceptionalism. We remove it from childhood at our peril." - John Thompson