No Child Left Behind. Race to the Top. Race Your Child to the Top Before They're Left Behind? School's just starting and the debate over education policy already sounds more intimidating than AP chemistry.
Is our culture of learning and definition of success driven mostly by these policies? How large of a role do teachers, parents or other forces play?
"Race to Nowhere," a documentary film by Vicki Abeles, looks at the pressure to perform in schools today. Here's the trailer:
What is/was your school experience like? Are students today under too much stress?
I would like to see more focus on the accountability of parents and others in the community. There has been a lot of one sided blame of teachers for many years for the failures of some students to learn. Holding teachers and schools solely accountable for the achievement or lack thereof of every single student under No Child Left Behind or any other program is misguided.
I offer this story as an example. We lived on the far north side of Minneapolis until 3 years ago. Our daughter and a boy next door, one of their 4 children, were born about a week apart. By the time our children started kindergarden our daughter had been read to for hours each day. She had visited museums and libraries, taken trips, and attended concerts and cultural activities. She could talk clearly with a large vocabulary and had started reading.
The boy next door was kept awake many nights, including school nights, by loud parties that his parents threw. Drugs, alcohol, guns, and ghetto thugs were a regular sight at his house. The living conditions were deplorable. He and his brother occassionally snuck over to our picnic table when we barbequed because they were always hungry. I called 911 frequently to report loud parties, drug dealing, domestic violence, dangerous pets, and blight. I usually made sure to report that four children lived there. Were child protective services ever involved? Not that I saw. When the boy next door started kindergarden he could barely speak a coherent phrase.
Under our current education accountability scheme, my daughter's teachers are heaped with praise. Her test scores on the top of the chart. The neighor's teachers are deemed failures. When do we hold the parents accountable? What does it take to remove children from a situation like this? At what point do we hold the police and child protective services accountable? When do we hold elected officials responsible for their failure to adequately fund the services in addition to school and pass child protection laws that these children need? When the parents fail their children, someone must help them. While teachers can play a role, they can't do it alone.