The Children Left Behind
The way we see the problem is the problem.
Teachers and students in the classroom is not the whole picture.
Reading the October 22 article about Pricilla Chan and Mark Zuckerberg launching a preschool and K-8 school for disadvantaged students, it reignited a longtime passion of mine about the distortions of public school reform. I have been writing and complaining about it for over 20 years. I am reluctant to write again because I remain pessimistic that the government and public will ever understand or even appreciate the complexity and interconnectedness of public education in America.
Chan and Zuckerberg want to take a holistic approach (seeing the whole picture), to help children overcome poverty, chronic stress, emotional and physical abuse and neglect that represent the problems of education that are overlooked or ignored. A holistic approach is the key concept, which has been neglected by reformers. Failing to see the problem as holistic highlights my long time complaint about reform: the blank slate myth.
Children don’t enter the classroom a blank slate. An inconvenient, neglected truth is that children accumulate vastly different readiness for learning experiences before entering school. Important learning experiences and important lack of learning experiences have already occurred. How much do these out-of-school experiences affect test scores? Students living in poverty and for whom English is a second language frequently have low test scores. Students with affluent, well-educated parents who speak English frequently have high student test scores
It is true that learning takes place in school. But the inconvenient, ignored truth is that learning takes place everyplace and everyplace is where to look for the reforming of education. School is not even the primary place of learning.
U S presidents, Secretaries of Education, politicians, government agencies, and education reformers for years apparently haven’t recognized the blank slate myth and have been unable or unwilling to see the problem as holistic. Successful education is the result of one’s total environment. When will educational reform see it that way? To educate a whole child is a complex, interconnected, holistic process; it takes a whole village. A classroom with teachers and students is not a whole village.
When will we ever see the whole village, the whole picture, the interconnectedness of learning? Oh when will we ever learn? Can you see any signs for optimism?