As readers know, I often post comments that I find interesting. Sometimes I agree with them, sometimes I disagree, sometimes they raise questions that are sure to provoke discussion, which is healthy. I like this comment. One of the reasons I like it is that the writer recognizes that American education is not in crisis, that the overwhelming majority of public schools are successful, and that we must be temperate in grabbing at quick fixes or sweeping changes.
The reader writes:
Well, I must admit I did not read all the posts [about the Common Core]. I lost interest when I felt the conversation was becoming a list of advocates for their favorite methodology. To go back to Doctor Ravitch’s initial post, I see the issue as implementing an untested curriculum across many different environments with many different needs and various levels of teacher skills. Experience and research tell me that there is no single, best practice for education. Districts, schools, teachers, and most importantly children are each unique. What works in Ann Arbor, Michigan may not be successful 50 miles away in Detroit. Add to this the lack of fidelity when implementing initiatives and you must question anyone’s hope for a “program” or a “curriculum” that will “fix” public education.
I can not even agree that public education needs to be “fixed”. We have significant issues addressing the needs of large subgroups, but I still have faith that the majority of our children today are receiving a quality education. Millions of children are doing amazing things in our public schools. Thousands of educators are working effectively and in many cases heroically. However, we still have far too many children not being given the instruction and support they need. For these children the Common Core may not be the answer and in fact may be an additional barrier to their success. For these children Montessori classrooms may not be enough. For these children additional testing has definitely not led to improvement.
I do not know the answer for all the challenges facing education, but I believe it rests somewhere withing the affective domain. I think we need to focus less on finger-pointing and more support. Teachers and students must have HOPE. They must believe that what they do is important, valued work. We need to stop allowing public school educators to be convenient whipping boys for any politician looking for a platform or business looking to sell a commodity or service.
Education remains our best hope for the future not in the collection and recitation of facts. The future of our world depends on an education that instills hope, a sense of purpose, a willingness to take risks, the belief that one’s efforts and perseverance lead to success.