Even though he had limited formal schooling, Lincoln figured out early on that he could learn so much from books and real life experiences. Ironically, those were the two things I found most lacking in our school system.
There's not much time for either of these things anymore, at least that's what many teachers seem to believe. Testing has taken over; and memorization still has a strong grip on our curriculum, even though information is freely available with the click of a mouse. How will we ever break free?
The test is the chicken and the curriculum is the egg. Perhaps we'll never resolve which comes first, even though the majority of us know which SHOULD come first.
From everything I've seen, heard, and read, though, more and more educators, students, and parents are getting really annoyed with that constant clucking sound. That chicken has gotten out of control, and it's causing the eggs to crack.
How's THIS for a step in the right education direction? The College Board is going to revise the A.P. exams in order to emphasize quality (critical thinking) over quantity (memorization). Although it will take years to revise the exams and the curriculum, it's a major step in the right direction. Don't you think?
Here's an excerpt of The New York Times' article:
"The new approach is important because critical thinking skills are considered essential for advanced college courses and jobs in today's information-based economy. College administrators and veteran A.P. teachers familiar with the new biology curriculum believe the changes could have significant reverberations for how science is taught in introductory college classes and even elementary school classrooms, and might bring some of the excitement back to science learning."
Even if your children are young, there's reason to celebrate. Such a major shift in thinking will most likely trickle down gradually to all schools and all grade levels. Sure, it will take years. But hey, it's more than a baby step. It's a leap, as far as I'm concerned.
There's so much of a focus on bad teachers these days. Most people have no idea how many demands are being placed on them, and how easy it has become to blame the very people who have taken on quite possibly the hardest job there is.
So, in honor of Thanksgiving next week, can we move the spotlight away from our children's teachers and shine them on our own for a little while? Most of us had a select few teachers who somehow left a lasting impression, or even changed our whole outlook on life.
When I first read "A Home and a Heaven for Children," so many images and observations came rushing into my mind. In order to respond, I had to give myself a few days to fully digest the information.
Even now, I couldn't possibly do so with a single blog post.
And so my story begins before I even set foot in a graduate school classroom. It starts with my own children, in the nursery and elementary schools they attended. I have a lot to say about nursery schools, but must put that subject on the back burner for now.
What could two seagulls and a crab possibly have to do with education? Well, they will help me share my big picture, which will then allow me to transition into the specific details I've held myself back from writing about for so long. I'm still hesitant, but this post is like a big deep breath of sea air for me. Here goes...
Once upon a recent time, a seagull stood at the foot of the shoreline, with a crab in its beak. Let's say it's a female seagull. As you can see, she looked quite content, having found a rather large meal for the day:
The Friday we arrived in Montauk, the weather was disappointing. It wasn't raining, but everything was foggy and gray. Since we had a couple of hours before our dinner reservation, we decided to go for a walk on the beach. I wasn't about to let the weather keep me from the ocean! And I'm so glad I didn't.
As we walked, the fog seemed to become thicker and thicker. There were waves crashing against the shore, but there was no ocean or horizon. The fog was circling us from about 20 feet away. It was the closest I ever came to walking on a cloud.
I found myself wondering if I had died and gone to heaven. It would be so fitting that my version of it would be on the beach. It's always been my favorite place.
I can't even put into words what it really felt like to walk along, without being able to see what was right in front of me. The crashing of the waves made the experience even more surreal. But it was what we stumbled upon next that really got me thinking.