The Schools Our Children Deserve: Moving Beyond Traditional Classrooms and "Tougher Standards"
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Here at last is a book that challenges the two dominant forces in American education: an aggressive nostalgia for traditional teaching (“If it was bad enough for me, it’s bad enough for my kids”) and a heavy-handed push for Tougher Standards.
education. More and more, public schools are under attack "not just because they are deemed ineffective but because they are public."66 Any announcement that our schools are inadequate finds a sympathetic audience since, for many of us, the way things are can never measure up to the way they used to be. The present, with its sharply etched flaws, can never compare to the lovely picture of the past preserved by our memories, with most of the problems having been airbrushed away. This bias is
teaching that is best for kids and the kind that prepares them for tests. Teachers may grit their teeth, do as much test preparation as they feel is necessary, and then get back to the real learning—making sure that this distinction is also clear to students and their parents.66 Fortunately, a relatively short period of introducing students to the content and format of the tests may be sufficient to produce scores equivalent to those obtained by students who have spent the entire year in a
the SAT—or its equally pernicious Midwest counterpart, the ACT. (See "ACT/SAT Optional," 1997.) The organization that released that information, FairTest, subsequently surveyed some of those colleges and found that most were pleased with the results; applicants, for example, were no less capable when test scores were not required. (See "'Test Score Optional' Admissions," 1998. For a list of colleges that no longer require SATs or ACTs, send a self-addressed stamped envelope to FairTest, 342
books about how children in first, second, and third grade, respectively, can "reinvent arithmetic." Ultimately, of course, it matters whether students come up with the right answer, but if they're led to think that's all that matters, they're unlikely to understand what's going on. Thus, says Kamii, "if a child says that 8 + 5 = 12, a better reaction would be to refrain from correcting him and ... ask the child, 'How did you get 12?' Children often correct themselves as they try to explain their
instructional technique. "Teachers' attitudes about students have to change,"13 too—with the help of parents. Furthermore, a classroom experience that is at once less orderly and more rigorous is hard to create in light of explicit pressures to teach in a less ambitious way (for example, as reflected in the imperative to increase standardized test scores)—and, more subtly, in light of the image of schooling that teachers, like all of us, have absorbed from all their years as students. Even