More from Yesterday’s Principal

In yesterday’s blog post, a former principal and current teacher wrote about some of the problems with homework. As we continued our email exchange, he offered more insights which I’m sharing with you today:

Are we teaching or are we preparing for exams so that we can demonstrate accountability?

In a knowledge based model (the lowest level of the continuum of learning) we must ‘push’ through material and ensure that we ‘cover’ what needs to be covered. I am all for exit outcomes, but creating curriculums to be covered for the sake of covering allows a mindset to develop. It is one in which certain rituals are necessary to demonstrate accountability: (a) show that there is a ample amount of cleverly written curriculum, (b) develop a rigor and pace that will force this curriculum to be covered in a stringently set amount of time, (c) demonstrate the rigor and breadth of the curriculum by stressing teachers, stressing students, and stressing parents — stress, after all, is the hallmark of success; (d) give lots of homework to prove the validity of the curriculum and the rigor of the approach. Homework becomes an indicator of something that ought to be real. It’s not real, however. It’s a facade meant to placate the accountability police.

I was in China recently visiting a private school… whoa, they study from morning to night and create great students… er, regurgitators of knowledge. And with all their great results, they send their students in the thousands to Western schools (as do many Eastern countries) to understand play, freedom, fun, creativity, joy, diversity, individuality, self-determination…. I have dealt with educators from China, Mongolia, Korea, and Japan and all of them are awed by our system… why? They see the uniqueness of our education — the soul. Yet they can’t change because they are caught in the illusionary dance of sequences… so they send their kids here to get their hearts back, to learn about their souls……

3 Comments on “More from Yesterday’s Principal”

  1. Amanda Cockshutt says:

    I think you hit the nail on the head with the point: “Homework becomes an indicator of something that ought to be real. It’s not real, however. It’s a facade meant to placate the accountability police.”

    That’s exactly what it is, a facade. I have told many teachers and school administrators that they are looking for the illusion of academic rigor with homework, but the fact of the matter is that the proof of the academic quality is in another pudding, it’s how well the students can think, write, perform on external evaluations, analyze…

    It’s so reassuring to hear a school administrator say these things that I have long felt to be true, but have been attacked on so many times.

    Let’s continue the discussion.

    April 30th, 2009 at 11:57 am
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  2. PsychMom says:

    I’ve decided that I’m going to write a letter. I wouldn’t say that homework is a big issue in our school (it’s a small private school) but I was surprised to learn there was any when my Kindergartener came home with reading and writing tasks that first year. From the things I’ve learned in the last few months though, I’m really becoming galvanized in my thoughts that homework is not good for children and it shouldn’t be in our school. I guess I’m not OK anymore with sticking with the status quo when I see the pressures that are applied to today’s kids. Someone’s got to try to make a change. Even if it’s not an issue in my family, maybe it’ll make a difference in someone elses.

    April 30th, 2009 at 12:14 pm
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  3. Former Principal says:

    I’m glad you are going to write that letter and start that discussion Psychmom. Only action will lead to change.

    Amanda, the proof of the academic pudding IS another matter. How right you are. There’s a lot of good resources we can show people; its a matter of getting the discussion public and noticed. All the best

    April 30th, 2009 at 4:04 pm
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