Saturday, December 19, 2009

Is learning a race?

Arne Duncan, President Obama's Secretary of Education proclaimed a program back in July called "Race for the Top" through which they would create teacher and school incentive s for classroom achievement. But can education be likened to a race? It might seem an exciting metaphor. We can stand on the side lines and cheer our children on. But how do we give them strength and endurance for the long haul? We are faced with national challenges with profound implications. How do we best prepare our children for what they will face in a world of increasing competition for scarce economic resources?

The hare and tortoise! If we are looking at education as a race, is it speed that should concern us? Or depth and lasting effect? If Finland starts reading at age 8 and far surpasses us at age 14, while we apply increasing pressure toward reading in kindergarten, are we seeing enough of the full picture? Is there something we might learn from a larger view?

In the woodshop, I frequently tell my students, Slow down. Be patient. Don't rush. Give it your best. But is that what we are doing when we "race to the top?"


  1. He deepened the mess of Chicago schools. Now he can bungle the Nation's. It's always a summit at the Four Seasons with a good lunch for Duncan's crew.

  2. It seems apparent that the Obama administrations attempt to create teacher and school incentive's for classroom achievement is certainly no more a solution to our educational challenges than was President Bush's and Senator Kennedy's legislation on "No Child Left Behind". Your statistics on Finland are striking and also make it seem apparent that the above mentioned so-called "solutions" are perhaps not the correct direction that is in the best interest of a child's education.

    Sometimes I also feel that the teachers unions don't help much either as their dominant mission appears to sometimes not be in the best interest of children. What we need are excellent and above average teachers AND an easier way to rid the system of bad, ineffective, or misguided teachers.

  3. We know that education is on the verge of necessary change. First it fails about 30% who don't graduate, and it fails an increasing number of boys who are left uninspired about proceeding toward advanced education, the epidemic of underachieving boys.

    The issues discussed in Dispruptive Education tell us that common education may just become an unnecessary dinosaur, displaced by other more effective learning models in the same way that mainframe computers were displaced by the PC in the business world. We should be looking at what computers teach well, and what people teach best, and then looking at models to take advantage of learning (computers) and making (artful expression of learning)as an an integrated sustem driven by student and community identified goals. Education will be slow to change. The Met School is one model that is making inroads.