A review of Diane Ravitch, ‘The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How testing and choice are undermining education’.
An explanation of why, in the light of recent research on the nature of human learning, the present Western, essentially Anglo, system of schooling is both upside down in terms of its distribution of resources, and inside out in terms of its excessive dependence on school-as-place; on formal as opposed to informal learning, and on the teacher as instructor rather than as facilitator.
Of all the animals in the woodland surely it is the deer that most excites human imagination? A peaceful herbivore, the deer’s survival over aeons of time has depended on its ability to sniff out danger, and then to run off to safety faster than any other creature. Over millions of years it has developed the sleekest and most powerful combination of bone structure, muscle and tendon so making it a veritable icon of animal fitness.
Like many others in recent weeks I have become something of a ‘party policy watcher’, comparable to those who watch the fascinating antics of dolphins so as to try and understand how their brains work. As the General Election gets ever nearer, the behaviour of these policy wonks seems to have become ever more erratic, eccentric and represents apparently hopeless organisation behind the scenes.
The solution to England’s education problem will be very simple once the country comes to appreciate the damage still being done by two Victorian myths that haunt everyday thinking.
John Abbott’s “Overschooled but Undereducated, Society’s failure to understand adolescence”, demands that we “return adolescence to its rightful place of enabling young people to go beyond their self imposed limitations and exceed their parents aspirations. That is what adolescents do naturally – given the right opportunity.” We were all adolescents once and owe our successes to the privilege of walking “with older men and women who have stiffened our sinews and stretched our minds”. John writes of “the natural exuberance of youth” predicting “the arrival of fresh potential”. He continues “In the saga of the ages, if a generation fails, the fault lies squarely with the previous generation for not equipping them well enough for the changes ahead.”
Some good news about the English education system at last? It would be, if it heralded an understanding of why those tests had to go. Not because of teachers reluctance to be assessed. Not because “some teacher’s didn’t fancy having the attainment of their pupil’s measured”, to quote Jack Straw, answering a question on Jonathan Dimbleby’s “Any Questions” on Oct 17th and 18th. Even he thought his teacher sisters’ would say to their pupils “Hey, kids! The government has at last done what teachers have been asking for.
For the dishwasher or the microwave to breakdown just before the family descends for a long Bank Holiday weekend can be a disaster. An older generation is made painfully aware that their children know little of those time-consuming household chores that were such a feature of their own childhood – washing up dishes, peeling potatoes, […]
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