Whole lotta talkin’ going on…& we’ve heard it all before

Here’s a list of actual headlines from the NYTimes over the past few weeks, dealing with education or schools or teaching:

“Are suspensions an effective method of disciplining students?”

“Profits & Questions at Online Charter Schools”

“Pay Data Sought for For Profit Colleges”

“Longer Standardized Tests are Planned, Displeasing Some School Leaders”

“12 With Low State Test Scores are put on School Closing List”

“New York’s Math Scores Dip on U.S. Student Tests, Diverging from Trend in Other Big Cities”

“Florida Budget adds to School Spending”

Then there are the Times Education blogs.   One, written by Michael Winerip, purports to “…look beyond the discourse to the teachers, principals and students at the heart of learning.”   His recent blog titles include:

“Principals Protest Increased use of Test Scores to Evaluate Educators”

“Lets Get Ready Offers Help for College Admissions”

“No Child Left Behind Catches Up with New Hampshire School”

Another blog called “Motherlode” talks about stuff like what to give your kids’ teacher for Christmas, whether or not to allow teenagers to drink when they are in your home, the predictability of tantrums, how much sugar is in kids cereal, etc.

There are also headlines that seem more ‘progressive’, like:

“At Top Public Schools, the Arts Replace Recess”   or

“From Finland, an Intriguing School Reform Model”  (Intriguing until you get to the part where several ‘education experts’ roundly dismiss it as ‘unworkable’ in the U.S., at which point it just become another white noise article in the ‘education’ debate.)

I purposely did not put in links to all these articles.  If you really want to read them, they are available on the Times website, but if you’ve ever read an article in the past about education reform, testing, online schools, or even kids’ diet, then there’s really no need.   It’s all the same.   And it’s exhausting.

Such articles printed en masse every single day rarely have anything to do with learning.   They have to do with the institutions, the teachers, the methods, the tests and their results (put forth to prove or disprove the effectiveness of whatever is being discussed.)  It’s all about the ‘teaching’ of kids.  Even when it tries to be something else.  Teaching them how to eat healthy, or design a travel brochure, or skip recess in favor of computer lab.  So great and fun, right?  They’re choosing cool electives over play?  Awwww, isn’t that wonderful?

Learning remains a periphery subject, measured only by test results.

It’s depressing.

We were considering going to see a local screening of “Race to Nowhere” this evening.  I feel a little guilty about not going, especially since I’ve been promoting it on Twitter all week.  I’ve read a lot about it, am sure it’s great, and do want to see it.  On the other hand, I think it will also be a little depressing, and I’m not up for more depressing at the moment.  Add to that the fact that I’m quite sure the ‘after film discussion’ will revolve around how we need to change schools, lessen homework, find better ways to teach….blah, blah, blah.    Of course, I could stand up and tell people that maybe they should consider ditching school altogether; maybe they should become life-learners.   From past experience I know that for the most part the result of such a statement is being stared at like an animal in a zoo.   How did that get in here?    (Doesn’t mean I won’t do it.  Just not tonight.)

The Great Education Debate is a good excuse for a lot of people to talk.   But until the content of the debate shifts from the mechanisms of the education machine to actual learning (and the sad thing is that a lot of people don’t know the difference), nothing will change.   Also, I think that papers would need to find something else to write about if all kids were life-learners.   School is guaranteed copy, filled with scandal & debate.   Life learning headlines would sort of pale in comparison.   For instance:

“Children woke up to another day with their families and community”

I can’t even think of any good ones.   Kids worked alongside their parents today?  Taught parents how to use Internet?  Had fun….again?   Made dinner without being asked?  Were happy?

Here’s to many boring headlines in our future.

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