Saturday, December 6


Dean Shareski, Ideas & Thoughts - [Jay Matthews] article features Washington's chancellor of education, Michelle Rhee and her relentless efforts to improve schools. I admire her passion. I'm not all that impressed with her perspectives.

"'The thing that kills me about education is that it's so touchy-feely,' she tells me one afternoon in her office. . . People say, 'Well, you know, test scores don't take into account creativity and the love of learning,' she says with a drippy, grating voice, lowering her eyelids halfway. Then she snaps back to herself. 'I'm like, 'You know what? I don't give a crap.' Don't get me wrong. Creativity is good and whatever. But if the children don't know how to read, I don't care how creative you are. You're not doing your job.'". . .

I've been in a number of schools of late and seen students whose reading scores are the least of their problems. If you've been in schools lately you know what I mean. 15 year olds, living on their own, coming to school high, 1st graders so full of anger they threaten classmates lives and the list goes on. These students do not need to see their reading scores meet or exceed grade level by the end of the year, they need "touch-feely" teachers. By "touchy-feely", I mean teachers that have time, expertise and passion to help them function as human beings, never mind reading. Reading is priority number 236 in their list of needs. I spent a few hours watching these at risk students building a canoe from scratch. Students who, for a change, were attending school, interacting politely with adults, finding a purpose. No standardized test in the world could measure this. But the gains made by these students because of "touch-feely" teachers is unquestionable. These teachers deserve a raise.

I've also been in schools with students who are so far above reading level and ability that the curriculum and classroom activities are laughable. They sit in their desks and hate it when teachers ask them to consider how they learn or what they want to learn; they just want to be told what to do because they're good at it and have had years of success playing that game and are upset when a teacher wants to change the rules. They need opportunity to show their creative side. They need to be teaching others. They might ace a standardized test and the teacher might be seen as successful. I'm not sure the teachers or students have done anything worthwhile.

These two diverse groups of students are the reason standardized tests and Rhee-like one-size-fits-all education isn't valuable. . .

Every education system on earth has the same hierarchy of subjects. Every one, doesn't matter where you go, you'd think it would be otherwise but it isn't. At the top are mathematics and languages, then the humanities, and the bottom are the arts. Everywhere on earth.


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