Charged with rolling out one of the largest, nationwide educational initiatives (Common Core Standards) a few years ago, I heard this comment more than once. “Why are we doing this? “Honestly, my initial gut reaction was annoyance, because we spent a multitude of hours planning it. Regaining my composure, I paused for a moment to state my obviously rehearsed response. “We are doing this in an effort to bring all students a more rigorous curriculum that will prepare them for college and careers.” That was the talking point given to those of us who needed to make it happen. Then came the next question, “what’s wrong with the ones we already have?” My rehearsed and rapidly fired response for that question came with even more quizzical looks than the first response had.
Nonetheless, we forged ahead and swallowed the time consuming, expensive mandate. A few years later I retired. This roll-out was not the tipping point for me, but added to my already long list that started with the same dreaded question, “why are we doing this?” I learned that while those questions are important, the status quo of schooling is more important. We can only entertain questions that will keep the institution of schooling intact. Any effort to dismantle, change, or do away with the format, procedures, policies, and practices is met with consternation. We simply don’t want to DO SCHOOL any other way than how it’s been done.
Sure, we grab buzz words/ideas on a regular basis and add them to our collection of greatest school hits. We embrace strategies to control students, to manage behavior, and to push the narrative that all of it is good for kids. We publicly shame with charts, verbal reprimands, low grades and disability/failure labels. We learn that herding the masses requires strict adherence to rules and we reward those who abide by them. I know this because I did it and many others did/do as well. It’s impossible to do it any other way because the system is built on the economies of scale model, not real learning.
See explanation here. (Prateek Agarwal, Economies of Scale in Intelligent Economist, May 5, 2018.)
In other words, the more students you cram into classrooms, the more money a school system will have to operate.
Here a just a few of my questions.
- At what point is there a diminished return?
- Does it really matter?
- Do we really care?
- Are schools designed for learning or leaving?
Picture of Scales Courtesy of Pixabay.com