For much of our modern era, our culture thought of the human heart as a machine that would wear out after a given number of heart beats. People with heart disease were put in bed to prolong their lives.
Their hearts were wearing out and needed to rest. Now we know how wrong that "common sense" approach was. People with heart disease are now advised to exercise.
Common sense in education says that every child needs a minimal amount of specified knowledge to succeed in our complex world; so a common core curriculum has been created to insure that every child gets the needed knowledge and skills. This common sense approach in education may also be wrong.
Human beings are not machines to be standardized like stoves or refrigerators, yet that is what our system is set up to do.
Standardization may have the opposite of the desired effect. Children come to us unique and one of a kind. They thrive when treated as individuals, but they rebel, drop out, bully, become apathetic or even commit suicide when we ignore their personhood and try to standardize them like machines.
No matter how hard teachers try to standardize students, children do not all learn how to read, write and do math at the same age.
Why have we lately pushed the first-grade curriculum down into kindergarten? Those who are not ready for formally structured learning are not only getting an early taste of failure, their curiosity and eagerness to learn are being squelched!
Does it make any sense to measure success by how early, or even, how well students can read, write and do math? Do not character and other human qualities count? Einstein said, "Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted." If we want real progress in public education, we must place more value on the things that are harder to measure, like curiosity, creativity and character.
Here is an uncommon sense proposal: Start now to design a system of public education that meets the needs of individual students. Stop trying to standardize them and make sure every child can excel in something. Help students grow in their unique talents and gifts and feel they have an important contribution to make. In other words, stop educating for uniformity and start educating for variety. Do the opposite of what common sense tells you to do.
Here are some advantages of the educating for variety approach:
* Parents will be more involved.
* Teachers will perform as professionals.
* Students will be enthusiastically engaged.
* Each student will soar in what s/he knows and is good at doing.
* Students will learn basic skills better and at the right time and pace for each one.
* Drop outs of students and good teachers will be drastically reduced.
* Expensive testing will be eliminated, leaving more money for other things. Teachers will design their own tests.
* Students, parents and teachers will grow in the powers of human greatness: Identity, Inquiry, Interaction, Initiative, Imagination, Intuition and Integrity.
* Hundreds of subjects will be used as tools or a means of helping students, teachers and parents grow in a huge variety of talents, gifts, powers, interests and abilities.
* Classes will not have students who do not want to be there.
* Students will grow to reach their highest God-given potentials.
Unlike medicine, transportation, farming, architecture and other fields that are rapidly developing, public education has been stuck on a flat plateau.
We can move to a much higher level of teaching and learning if we start educating for human variety.
Lynn Stoddard, a retired educator, is a co-founder of the Educating for Human Greatness Alliance. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.