My title for this blog may sound a bit dramatic. But I don't really think it is. Many years ago, a science teacher I had in 5th grade gave us a great analogy. He said if you heated up a frying pan until it was very hot and then placed a toad in the frying pan, the toad would immediately jump out of the pan. But, he shared that if you placed the toad in a cool frying pan, and slowly heated the pan...the toad would remain there and be roasted to death. The slow heating of the pan would be almost un-noticable.
Over my years that analogy has become quite useful and has come back to mind in many instances. Guess he was a valuable science teacher because he taught me something I could carry through life and apply to many different areas of life. That's what a great teacher does. A great teacher leaves an indelible mark on your life through lessons that you carry with you. They are life changers and dream makers.
So back to my title? Let's think about this for a moment.... Education is the one thing that every one of us is required to do. We all go to school in our early years. Public education is by far the most widely used path for k-12 education. I am seeing public education as the frying pan. It can be a strong pumping health vein which fuels imagination and innovation, builds character and confidence, and creates generations of successful and responsible adults. Or.... it can be a vein that is pumped full of poisons, full of deceptions, and full of controls...having hidden agendas to change the way our society functions and thinks...or doesn't think.
Does that sound kind of scary? It does to me. I was always taught to question. It's okay to question. "Why do I need to learn this? How do I know this is truth and not some twisted ideology someone is trying to get me to swallow? How can I apply this to life?" These are good questions and ALL students ought to ask them.
Instead...since the inception of NCLB (a four letter word in my opinion) our children have been taken down the road of rote memorization; just memorize the answer to the question. Oh... content? Don't worry about that. It's not important. Just pass the test (barely) and help us meet expectations!
NCLB had teachers having to teach to a test in order to be sure kids were all meeting the benchmarks. It completely changed the way teachers could teach. Reading, one of the most crucial parts of learning, became something to do merely to answer online tests questions which were "supposed" to evaluate whether the student understood the book. But...wait....ten people could read the same book and take away a different point from it. That's the great thing about a book. Of course there will be some generalities, but what about the kid in the class who brings up a really good point about something in the book that no one else thought about? THAT happens in discussion circles... something that has become an endangered species in the classroom.
With the new intrusion of Common Core (which was not created by educators as much as they would like you to think it was) we now have more lies piled on top of the initial ones. More testing has been added and teachers are feeling even more pressure to teach to the test(s) than ever. No Child Left Behind was really FAR TOO Many Children Left Behind. And Common Core is Let's Program Our Children to All Respond Like Robots. They try to tell you it is supposed to "build critical thinking". But it can't. There is no time in the crammed curriculum and standards for discussion or any kind of activity that would create an opportunity for critical thinking. It's supposed to get our kids "college and career ready". It's not accomplishing this at all. The standards are strictly for kids who want to go on to higher education and even there they don't come close to lining up with the way kids will learn at the college level. Tell me this... why does every high school graduate need to be proficient in trigonometry? They don't! A very small fraction of students will go on to study higher level math, and for them this instruction in valuable. for those going into the workforce, it is not...and we have totally forgotten that different people have different learning strengths. not everyone one is going to be good at Math, or Science, just as not all people are strong athletes or musicians. we need to find the strengths in our students and build confidence in them to do what they are blessed to do.
What percentage of high school graduates go on to college? 3 to 4 % it is said. I would research it if I were you. Even more important, what percentage of our high schoolers are actually graduating? It's not a nice number. We are so far down the wrong road on education and even those who are administrating over it are blinded to the lies. Testing ought to be used to collect information and THAT IS ALL. When we allow an E.O.C.T. to be given to our children, which was not written by their teacher, or even by anyone in their district, how can it possibly line up with the way a teacher (who has never seen the test or has any idea what is on it, or how it is presented)has taught it in the classroom? And it is TWENTY PERCENT of the students grade? This is absolutely appalling.
Now let's look at the S.A.T. and the A.C.T. - tests that are given and used by higher learning institutions to accept applications. Students are allowed to prep for those tests, study for them, purchase practice materials, study books with practice tests....all so they can do well on these important tests. But the standardized tests they are given throughout their K-12 years are a total mystery to all.
Recently I found a stack of books which belonged to my mother. She was a teacher of excellence and she was there when NCLB was being put in place. She objected from the beginning. One of the books caught my attention and I began reading it. The book is titled Will Standards Save Public Education? It was written by Deborah Meier in the year 2000. As in any piece written in this context there are things within the pages that I don't necessarily agree with. However, there is so much that is right on point. It is almost as if Ms. Meier could see into the future and predicted much of what we are now experiencing.
I didn't get far into the book before reading this in the forward of the book: "If we force them (teachers) to be little more than the obedient floor managers for industry, they won't remain in public schools. The price will be too high. The poetry will have been turned to prose: the worst kind too, the prose of experts who know every single thing there is to know except their own destructiveness. In this way, we'll lose the teachers who come to the world of childhood with ministries of love and, in their place, we'll get technicians of proficiency. Test scores might improve a trifle for a time; if all you do is drill a kid, you do get something for your money, temporarily. Not a lot, though, and not over the long haul."
This paragraph startled me into the realization that people saw this coming. Doesn't it sound like where we are today? I can see the toad in the frying pan slowly roasting as changes over the years are slowly implemented, completely changing the face of education. All of this change began in 1983 when a book was released which was full of baseless blabber and people bought into it. Now we are sitting at a place of decision. What do we do now? It is time for teachers, parents, and community members to stand together and speak loudly about our concerns about education. If we choose to join together and make a difference, we can help create successful future generations of students who will be responsible contributing members of society; the innovators of tomorrow. Or we can quietly sit by...and roast in the frying pan.
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