Monday, May 20, 2013

Getting off the Bus

In 2004 I wrote a book "America's School Bus, It's time to get off."  It was published as an e-book.  The situation with our education has only gotten more intense.  This blog is a response to that situation.  (The book is offered free on this blog - see blog description in heading.)

Here is an excerpt from the Introduction:

"Test scores and class ranks have become defining characteristics of our children.  We began learning in either Pre-School or Kindergarten to depend on the teacher to define success for us, rather than trusting ourselves.  We now look to test scores to tell us whether or not our offspring are above, below or at average intelligence. What has this focus done for them?

The term ‘average’ is a relative term.  Just a little research and observation of children will confirm that there are multiple definitions of intelligence.  Consider Howard Gardner’s*6 seven forms, which include ‘Linguistic, Logical-Mathematical, Spatial, Bodily-Kinesthetic, Musical, Interpersonal and Intrapersonal’ intelligence. It would seem that the ‘average’ or ‘below average’ score earned on one specific test is indicative of only a single, narrowly defined skill.  Yet it is these scores that are used to drive policy and programs while offering ‘evidence’ for either an abundance or lack of ability.  This often results in feelings of low self-worth and/or anxiety, not only for students and parents, but for their teachers as well.

In this country, schooling has done an incredible job.  “I’ve since come to understand the reason school lasts thirteen years.  It takes that long to sufficiently break a child’s will.”*2  Adults, having been through at least thirteen years of schooling, don’t often question the necessity of government control. It has become the fabric of our life and is not something to which we typically give much thought.  It is with this habitual attitude that we enroll our children in school, not envisioning it to offer them anything more than it gave us.  This numbing of our expectations is the result of our years spent conforming to the ‘educational state’.  It is not, in fact, ‘normal’, to feel this way, but the result of a systematic plan we willingly if unknowingly participated in. The intent, which is clearly stated in more than one historical document, was to create one uniform, cooperative citizenry. We have become numb to its effect on our lives, on our thinking, our internal senses, and our own self-assessment process.  We have learned well.

Today’s children are not learning well.  This has become a ‘problem’ for the gatekeepers.  Books have been written and experts have been consulted. System upon system has been designed, changed and designed again.  Home schooling, school reform, medications and private schools have each in their own way attempted to fix the conditions seen as flawed.  Some of these fixes address the various learning ‘disabilities’ of the children; some of these fixes address the many learning styles of the students and some address teaching styles.  Numerous and often brilliantly devised, these plans work some of the time with some of the children and some of the teachers in some of the schools. 

Perhaps it is time to think differently.  Not just about the children or the system or style of education, but about the control of these methods and who is at the wheel.

This book proposes we examine just that.  We trust that when we get into a bus marked ‘Fifth Street’, the bus driver has the skill and knowledge to get us to that destination safely.  We are united in purpose: we pay him or her some money, and are subsequently taken to where it is we intend to go.                                             

Who is driving this ‘Education of America’s Children’ bus?  It is a journey that takes twelve years or more.  Does the driver know where I want to go, or where my children want to go, or where your children are hoping to go?  Is it reasonable to expect all of us to want to go to the same place, at the same time and follow the same route?  There are 299,398,484*7 people living in this country.  We have given over control to a system of education set up over a century ago. 


It is time for us to offer our children the chance to move beyond providing the ‘right’ answers, and to discern for themselves some of the questions.

My son, (nine years old at the time), and I were working on something together one day, when we both came up with the same idea at the same time.  I made the comment “Great minds think alike.”  Without skipping a beat, he replied, “No mom, great minds think for themselves!” 

Self-definition is an ability we are born with.  Let us give our children the opportunity to trust and retain that trait into a gratifying and self-determined adulthood."

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