Thursday, February 18, 2010

the best thing to do for education

For a long time, scientists argued whether nature or nurture was responsible for the level of intelligence expressed in the species and it seems that both sides have won. Good genes can be very important to success. But good genes are most fully expressed only when the subject receives adequate nurture. In other words, we could greatly raise general intelligence if we could overcome the problems of parenting and poverty. But, despite our having figured a few things out, little is being done to bring the opportunity to each child to rise to his or her full capacities.

No child Left Behind legislation was supposed to put pressures on schools and teachers to give each and every child their best. But even NCLB's conservative proponents, Chester Finn and Diane Ravitch acknowledge its failure.
"We should have seen this [obsession with test scores] coming. We and others who have pressed for higher academic standards in recent years... should have anticipated the "zero sum" problem that it would give rise to; more emphasis on some things would inevitably mean less attention to others. Insofar as we recognized this, however, we naively assumed that school days and years would expand to accommodate more of everything; that teachers would somehow become more knowledgeable; and that state and federal policy makers would insist on a balanced curriculum.

We were wrong. We didn't see how completely standards based reform would turn into a basic-skills testing frenzy or the negative impact that it would have on educational quality." --Finn and Ravitch Beyond the Basics: Achieving a Liberal Education for All Children, 2007
So what can you say, Oops?

There are a number of programs achieving significant results even in the midst of extreme poverty. Geoffrey Canada's Harlem Children's Zone is best among those. It is proving that a significant investment in nurture of children from the cradle up can raise them to the top, even in Harlem. When young mothers get support and encouragement to expect more of themselves and their children, the effects can last a lifetime.

You know this is a no-brainer. You don't have to be an expert in education to understand how it works. And so, we have to wonder why we, as a nation, don't do more about it? Poor schools tend to blame parents and all parents tend to blame schools. So where are we on this as a nation? May I suggest, out of touch?

I am convinced that work with the hands has the capacity to engage children's interests in learning. Of equal importance, where all are educated in hand skills and thus all have a sense of the dignity and value of labor, that society would be one in which poverty would be most easily eliminated.


  1. Anonymous9:34 AM

    I love how they blame teachers for not becoming "more knowledgeable"... Charming, just charming.

  2. Looking at schools as a parent and former student, I would be more inclined to find some teachers lacking, not in knowledge but in other human characteristics that we value... I've seen lack of compassion, lack of understanding, lack of interest in the feelings of the individual... but I know teachers don't start out with those things being within their intentions to inflict.

    At the Carnegie Public Library foreign film festival last night we watched a film called the Chorus, about a French reform school. Schools can become places in which dark things are imposed, and in this film, one man refusing to abandon his compassion awakened the school through music. I think the impact of that film is so powerful because we all have had enough experience in life to know that the fictional characters are too often true to life.