We buy shoes that fit the individual, why not offer a curriculum the same way
A recent comment by one of my readers made me think and reflect on a ‘O so common’ criticism that seems to repeat itself in each generation, namely decrying the terrible state of our public education system and, as a logical consequence, enumerating the dire predictions for our nation’s future. All in all, as the comment goes, we ain’t doing so bad as the most powerful country on the face of this earth.
I totally agree with that person that we tend to pessimism when we compare our own time in school with today’s students and schools. The past usually seems better simply because we are attached to the values and life models our parents and grandparents taught us. There was no computer, no smart phone, no Twitter, no Facebook, not even a television set in my home 60 years ago. My kids did have a television but no smart phones, iPads and similar gadgets. Comparing these school days with today’s is therefore an exercise in futility and totally unfair to the new generations.
However, gentle folks, aside from the evident fact that basic values such as hard work and honesty should never change, there is always room for improvement. In my recent article “Wasted Lives?” (April 9), I lamented the sad fact that we do not adapt our curriculum to individual needs and thus may place these lives’ future in jeopardy. Yes, there is a valiant effort to help the special education students by providing them with accommodations and modifications, such additional time to turn in assignments, shorter tests, copy of class notes, peer support, and so on. None of that will be available in life once they start working. What we really need is to offer a variety of academic paths to the final prize, the high school diploma.
Let the student choose more than what type of elective he wants among the music or artistic choices we currently offer. He or she should be able to decide which core class he really needs to advance his future career. If he can’t do it on his own, let the counselors counsel instead of occupying 90% of their time with clerical duties. As one of them said to me ‘I don’t know how much longer I can take this bureaucratic crap.’
The usual naysayers will demolish my proposal with the usual complaint about tight budgets. I will reply with my well-honed acerbic comments focused on the enormous waste in government, both state and federal. Give me and a few of my teaching colleagues a free rein at the budget and I guarantee we will come up with a way to pay for a complete overhaul of public schools curricula without raising taxes.
My main concern, dear reader, is wasted opportunities for kids whose future may be in jeopardy for a lack of proper opportunities. Let me use a hyperbolic comparison to make my point: Einstein was a poor student, it is reported, because the curriculum was too elementary for his genius. Yet he was able to overcome these obstacles after working as a lowly clerk in Switzerland because of his determination and will power, qualities that I cannot find in most of my students. Is it due to their academic frustration gained in elementary and middle school? Or is our society to blame for making life too easy with abundant entitlements?
Let us zero in on each individual and design an educational plan that is tailored to his/her needs. Let us initiate the plan as they enter elementary and modify it as needed as they progress through the system. The results will surely save us billions in welfare, in lower crime rates, and in unemployment benefits.