Saturday, May 3, 2008

"The Kids Are Alright"

Great post on What I Want to Talk About - Practical Theory.

The blogger is Chris Lehman, Principal of the Science Leadership Academy in Philadelphia. These are his thoughts prior to giving a keynote speech at a technology conference in Oregon.
I want to scream at these folks... I want to shake them up. I want to tell them that we have to stop thinking that business has any idea what schools need to be. I want to tell them that our reliance on test scores will kill innovation and creativity. I want to tell them that every time I go to the exhibit floor at a conference and see more tools for monitoring, accountability and security than I see tools for creativity, creation and collaboration, I see us move one more step away from the dream of what I believe our schools can be.

I want to tell them that the Who had it right. The Kids Are Alright. It's the adults that keep screwing up.

I want to tell them that we have to forget so much of what we think schools are now -- we have to unlearn so much of current educational thinking. And then I want to tell them everything they have to relearn... I want to tell them that we can't look to the future unless we are willing to learn from the past.

I want to tell them that pedagogy matters. That we have to empower, even if that means giving up the soft comforts of security... of filtering... of mandatory curriculum... of lecture.

I want to tell them how much this matters.

I want to tell them that yes, Bill Gates and all the folks yelling and screaming about the broken American system are a little bit right and a whole lot wrong. I want to tell them that yes, our schools have issues and problems, and they aren't perfect. Sadly, they are a reflection of all of us who work in them, and sadly, we often build our flaws right into them.

But I also want to say that those folks have no idea how to fix our schools. And how dare they think they do.

But I want to ask them this... how is it that so many bright people... caring people... dedicated, idealistic people work in our schools, and yet we still have the problems we have.

I want to ask them how a test score matters when kids come to school hungry?

I want to ask them how a lecture matters when kids cannot see a connection between the work of the classroom and the life they see outside the school.

I want to ask them how, given a seven hour work day, we can possibly hope to do everything currently asked of us in the classroom.

I want to remind them that the average School District of Philadelphia high school teacher sees 165 kids in a day. And I want to ask them how they are supposed to do anything caring, meaningful and real in that time.

I want to tell them that technology solves none of this by itself.

None of it.

Not even a little bit. In fact, the way it's being used now, it's making it worse, as online tests and digital "delivery of instruction" command a larger and larger part of the educational-technology landscape.

And then I want to tell them what we have to do.

I want to tell them that schools can't be all things. We have to give up our notion that we can do everything. We can't teach coverage and creativity. We can't assess depth and breadth as our primary focus and have any kind of sanity. We can't tell kids we want them to think for themselves, take ownership, solve the problems of the 21st century, oh and by the way, first you have to take this test that was made by someone you never met and if you don't pass, forget all that stuff.

I want to tell them that we have to question every single system we have in our schools. I want to tell them that everything should be on the table. All of it.

And then, after I say all that, I can talk about SLA. That's less scary, I think.

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