The Flat World and Education

(I’ll be back after Winter Break, on February 22.)

I highly recommend Linda Darling-Hammond’s new book, The Flat World and Education: How America’s Commitment to Equity Will Determine Our Future. As Howard Gardner states in his blurb, “Anyone who desires a quantum leap in the educational achievements of American students – as opposed to the ‘quick fix’ – must address the issues raised in this carefully argued and well-documented work.”

The book is incredibly detailed and researched and shows precisely why education needs to be overhauled if it is to meet the needs of students and society. I particularly loved the chapter where Darling-Hammond looks at the ways in which Finland, Korea, and Singapore overhauled their schools and how their students have “catapulted from the bottom to the top of international rankings in student achievement and attainment, graduating more than 90 percent of their young people from high school and sending large majorities through college as well, far more than in the much wealthier United States.” (Page 192.)

All three systems have:

    *funded schools adequately and equitably

    *eliminated examination systems that had previous tracked students for middle schools and restricted access to high schools

    * revised national standards and curriculum to focus learning goals on higher-order thinking, inquiry, and innovation, as well as the integration of technology throughout the curriculum

    *developed national teaching policies that built and subsidized strong teacher education programs

    *supported ongoing teacher earning by ensuring mentoring for beginning teachers and providing 15-25 hours a week where teachers plan collaboratively and engage in analyses of student learning

    *pursued consistent, long-term reforms (Pages 192-193.)

Is Arne Duncan reading?

3 Comments on “The Flat World and Education”

  1. Deb says:

    I am the Upper School Principal at a Quaker School in New York. I think Lisa Darling-Hammond speaks the “truth” with regards to what a good education really means. I spent nearly 10 years in public education and felt strapped by the NY State Regents program. I found a Friends School where the emphasis is truly on developing the love of learning and development of creative and analytical thinking in grades PG- 8. Then there is the high school where we are driven by the AP standards. Our school is nestled amongst highly ranked Long Island public schools, all that subscribe to the AP program. Being an independent school we could consider going down our own pathway but we need to be sure we are filling our classrooms. The parents in this region are highly focussed on college admissions and APs on the transcript are critical for admission to the most selective colleges. My faculty see our kids becoming increasingly stressed because of the expectations placed on them alongside their need to be involved in multiple activities. We do not want our kids to burn out before they even get to college. We as a school are committed to trying to stop this “tsunami” and help kids find the right balance in their lives.

    February 26th, 2010 at 5:46 pm
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  2. FedUpMom says:

    Deb, the Quaker school my daughter will attend starting next year is very highly regarded, and they no longer have AP classes. We are in an affluent, competitive district and there is no shortage of parents willing to send their kids to this school. You might be pleasantly surprised if you got rid of your AP classes.

    February 26th, 2010 at 7:40 pm
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  3. Sara Bennett says:

    Hi Deb,

    It’s so nice to hear from you.

    It makes me sad to hear about the conflict you face between doing what you think is right and what parents want. I can’t help but ask you the same question I’ve asked every other educator: what is your ethical duty to your students?

    Many doctors, to appease parents, give antibiotics to children with viral infections, even though antibiotics only work on bacterial infections. Similarly, many schools follow a “rigorous” course of study that they think parents want and students need to get into the best colleges. In both cases, children and society are harmed.

    But what if a forward-thinking educator such as yourself scrapped what she knew didn’t work, educated the parents as well as the students, and started to develop a track record of graduating smart, innovative, creative, analytical students? Soon, your model of education would be followed by others and students everywhere would be thriving in an authentic learning environment.

    I know, I’m an idealist (but someone has to be).

    Anyway, I’d love to hear more about what you’re trying to do, so please drop me a line. And, as FedUp Mom said, there are schools that are dropping APs, precisely because they lead to stressed out students who aren’t learning much of anything. Maybe you’ll soon be a school we can point to as an example.

    May I suggest that you consider hosting a screening of the film Race to Nowhere? The film speaks to many of the issues you are grappling with.

    Thanks again for writing.

    –Sara

    February 28th, 2010 at 1:13 pm
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