Sunday, April 22, 2012

Education Where One Size Fits All

In ancient Greek mythology, Procrustes was a brute who ran an inn along a traveled road. He had a single bed for weary travelers, and Procrustes boasted how his special bed would perfectly fit every guest. After the sojourner bedded down for the evening, Procrustes would bind the guest to the bed. If the guest was shorter than the bed, he was stretched to fit. And if he was too long, his limbs were amputated and trimmed down to size.

Eventually, Procrustes met his superior in Theseus who fitted Procrustes to his own bed. But being a mythological character, Procrustes did not die. Instead he lingered in hiding for his chance to use his talents again. And after many centuries, he found work drafting educational policy for the government.  Verberans a mortuis equum.

There is little point in me further exposing and condemning those myopic policies that have been publicly ridiculed for over a decade except that nothing seems to change. Moreover, I support testing and accountability. I simply find arbitrary labels of failing to be pointless, especially when they are irrespective of the demographics and socio-economic condition of the school district and its inhabitants. Additionally, I grow weary of the expectation that schools must focus on ensuring all students achieve at a single unrealistic level which ignores high achievers and steals time away from the arts. Finally, I deny as inaccurate and unjust the criticism that schools are not working to stop bullying in the hallways and are instead making all our kids fat solely because of the school lunches we serve in our cafeteria.

I have no call to action with this blog post. I simply needed to vent. I will have something more positive and purposeful next time. 

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Student Trips and the Inherent Lessons

As I mentioned in a previous post, I recently led a group of eighth and ninth graders on a trip to Washington, D.C. I have done this several times over many years. I think it is an extremely valuable experience for students to learn about our nation's history and government so that they will one day be better prepared to assume an active role in our republic.

Tragically, the behavior of students touring our nation's capital appears to be deteriorating. Long-time veteran guides and tour coordinators report increasing incidents of poor student behavior on these trips. Once, a rare occurrence, guards at the Tomb of the Unknowns must stop their solemn ceremony for the changing of the guards and sometimes must expel young people from the area as the students refuse to pay proper respect and conduct themselves with appropriate decorum.

Although these student tours frequently take place independent from the schools, I urge teacher leaders, administrators, and school boards to get involved. Decide how you want such tours to be conducted. Select the instructors whom you know will teach and accept only appropriate behavior. Trips of this nature should not be vacations. If so, take them to an amusement park. Make trips to our capital and other important venues a time to build citizenship for our government and reverence for our history.