A Fork in the Road – The Value of Mass Schooling has Become Remarkably Clear
“What’s gotten in the way of education is a theory of social engineering that says there is ONE RIGHT WAY to proceed with growing up.” – John Taylor Gatto
Steven Lecce, Minister of Education for Ontario, announced yesterday that students in this province would not be returning to school until at least May 31st, thus, presumably, ending the school year. The most remarkable comment was Lecce’s statement that students have already spent 3/4 of their year in class… and thus we see no need to extend the school year. Even if this 3/4 number was true (I question this math, given the strikes, PD days, etc. that students have had in this province) the mere fact that our Minister of Education is saying that students are prepared for the following school year, in 3/4 of the time as usual, is an indication, from the top, that at least 25% of our children’s time must be wasted under normal circumstances.
Add to this statement research that suggests children taught at home learn more, and parents’ recent first row seat to their child’s learning, and I wonder if we might have finally reached that fork in the road – the one where we realize that mass schooling is well past its expiry date.
The underlying problem in the system is not the teachers (who have good intentions, for the most part) nor an administration that has bloated from an average of 1 per 40 students to 1 per 26 students (that’s just another example of waste in the system). It is the inherent design of the system that completely neglects the individualism of the learner. This is not a call for more ‘Special Education’ or Individual Education Plans (IEPs) – though my respected colleague Dr. Jim Christopher at KGMS in Vancouver is leading a highly successful school serving students who don’t fit the system, all with IEPs. Instead, I am stating that IEPs need not be documents; rather, they should be the expectation of how we teach, every day. Putting mass numbers of students through a curriculum that by its very nature is rigid and non-flexible is a sure sign for failure.
- The children who need more time will not receive it – we need to move on – and as that curriculum ‘spirals’ year to year on previous learning they get more and more lost.
- The children who do ‘get it’ are stuck in place. There is no inspiration, let alone an allowance, to learn in an accelerated or individualized manner. Just ask one of our 9 year olds who is currently mastering Grade 9 math but will receive only acknowledgment, not credit, for this work. According to the authorities he is “too young to receive credit.”
Or, back in my previous school of Somersfield Academy, take the case of 10 year old Reeve Johnston.
Currently raising funds for Chimpanzees, Reeve (with the support of his informed father) had the courage to move forward with his project and learning on his own, despite being told by his teacher that he was ‘too far ahead’ and that his project did not fit the rubric. Had Reeve listened what would our world have missed?
Reeve’s father writes that “people see Reeve as a great sports kid and top 5-10% of his class. But I am not convinced either of those things are where his passion lives or what drives him. I think most schools and teachers do a great job of diluting children until they become a lesser version of their true self.“
Come September there will be three groups of children.
The largest group, sadly, will return to our public schools. Economic realities are what they are – parents need to work and public school still provides childcare and education for some nefarious middle designed to fit everyone yet suiting no one.
A second group, growing larger by the minute, will actually not return to school. They are the ‘rise in homeschooling’ and they will use platforms such as Outschool, their local libraries, and, perhaps, even organizations such as Headwaters Academy to help guide and inspire their learning.
The third group will return to schools like Headwaters Academy (OK – admittedly, there is only one school like Headwaters Academy!). Their children will be seen as individuals and placed in classes of six to eight students. They will not be boxed in – and they will return home at the end of each day energized, resilient, excited to learn, and ready to meet the challenges of tomorrow.