08 September 2005

You Mean They're More Than Just Numbers?

If you've been haunting Jenny D.'s blog (and you should if you haven't), then you know that there has been quite the discussion over there concerning her questions about what makes a good school and whether or not we should be educating everybody. I haven't jumped in because this is not the week for being clear headed about much of anything...but I have enjoyed pondering them when I've had a quiet moment.

And now I'd like to throw this into the mix: the most recent issue of Educational Leadership which is all about educating the whole child.

"Some critics have declared NCLB an unfunded mandate because it makes costly demands without providing the resources to meet them. Others point to its bureaucratic complexity; its unattainable main goal (100 percent of students proficient in reading and math by 2014); its motivationally undesirable methods (threats, punishments, and pernicious comparisons); its overdependence on standardized tests; its demoralizing effects; and its corrupting influences on
administrators, teachers, and students.

"All these criticisms are important, but NCLB has a more fundamental problem: its failure to address, or even ask, the basic questions raised in this issue of Educational Leadership: What are the proper aims of education? How do public schools serve a democratic society? What does it mean to educate the whole child?"

Wow---you mean kids aren't just numbers? There's more to them than that?

Lest you think I'm making fun of ASCD, I'm not. I'm just (happily) incredulous that in the current state of eduational melee that anyone has bothered to step back and ask these questions. I am very much in favour of thinking about the "whole child" when it comes to educational decisions. This is why it's heartbreaking to see extra- and co-curricular activities cut. This is why I take time to counsel kids each spring about their upcoming courseload...how it's one thing to challenge yourself and quite another to have no life outside of school. (There will be plenty of opportunity for that if they become teachers. :) ) This is why I consistently supported enrichment opportunities for students---taking them to the art museum or concerts or plays. And it's why I try to share as many resources as I can with my students. Learning should be a joy.

I'm not a teacher who thinks that NCLB is just going to "go away." Like it or not, the standards movement is here to stay. I disagree with several aspects of NCLB, but applaud its challenge to schools to ensure that all children have access to a quality education. I can imagine that the law will be modified over time. I'm hoping that it will be in the name of the "whole child," rather than for the selfish reasons of adults.

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