Saturday, January 31, 2009

a great article

The article (actually a speech) was given by an American but it's still really relevent in Australia. I have put a link at the bottom of this exerpt so you can read the rest of it. Enjoy!
Our children were being prepared in school to step boldly into the only fully human life that had ever existed on this planet. The skills they were acquiring in school would bring them not only success but deep personal fulfillment on every level. What did it matter if they never did more than work in some mind-numbing factory job? They could parse a sentence! They could explain to you the difference between a Petrarchan sonnet and a Shakespearean sonnet! They could extract a square root! They could show you why the square of the two sides of a right triangle were equal to the square of the hypotenuse! They could analyze a poem! They could explain to you how a bill passes congress! They could very possibly trace for you the economic causes of the Civil War. They had read Melville and Shakespeare, so why would they not now read Dostoevsky and Racine, Joyce and Beckett, Faulkner and O'Neill? But above all else, of course, the citizen's education--grades K to twelve--prepared children to be fully-functioning participants in this great civilization of ours. The day after their graduation exercises, they were ready to stride confidently toward any goal they might set themselves.

Of course, then, as now, everyone knew that the citizen's education was doing no such thing. It was perceived then--as now--that there was something strangely wrong with the schools. They were failing--and failing miserably--at delivering on these enticing promises. Ah well, teachers weren't being paid enough, so what could you expect? We raised teachers' salaries--again and again and again--and still the schools failed. Well, what could you expect? The schools were physically decrepit, lightless, and uninspiring. We built new ones--tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands of them--and still the schools failed. Well, what could you expect? The curriculum was antiquated and irrelevant. We modernized the curriculum, did our damnedest to make it relevant--and still the schools failed. Every week--then as now--you could read about some bright new idea that would surely "fix" whatever was wrong with our schools: the open classroom, team teaching, back to basics, more homework, less homework, no homework--I couldn't begin to enumerate them all. Hundreds of these bright ideas were implemented--thousands of them were implemented--and still the schools failed.

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