Monday, May 31, 2010

It's the End of the School Year . . . Hum Loudly

"Summertime and the living is easy." 

I've been humming this frequently lately.  Not because I'm out of school session yet, but because I'm still in session.  Humming this phase is a coping strategy.  It keeps my cool as times get crazy.  I remember my college supervisor warning me that "In education, insanity reins supreme."  Agreed, and at this time of the year the sublime and the ridiculous are one.

I find that at this time of year, I am reminding myself more and more:  "it's only 10, 9, 8, 7 . . . more days. I can do anything for that long." Grin and bear it. I hum louder.

This Memorial Day Weekend, after grading 75 essays, I picked up Diane Ravitch's new book, The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice are Undermining Education.  I'm just a few chapters in to it.  So far I'm in agreement with implication of  the title, and Ravitch as education historian has concisely and clearly reviewed U.S. edcuational policy from A Nation at Risk (1983) until today.  Having graduated with my education degree two year's later, just as Risk was being digested, and having lived through the fog of policies Ravitch now reviews, I feel something that might be summed up with "okay, so I wasn't crazy--this really was happening."  Ravitch tells why.

This is a must read for any American educator, whether you've lived this or are just starting out, and have been reared in a culture of standards and testing. Ravitch helps one find center out of the thirty-year malaise of failing policies. Not only does she bring us up-to-date on what many of us have lived, but also she takes us back to what really matters--not choice and testing, not even standards and accountability--but curriculum. What students should know and know how to do, or again, in a word curriculum, is where true reform is to come.  A Nation at Risk recommended this in 1983 and now after going around the mulberry bush with outcomes, standards, vouchers, and test, we had best get back to it.

As I say, I'm only two or three chapters deep into this book.Thus, I am earger to read not only her postmortem on the Great American School System, but also her ideas for new life for education in the 21st century, which is still ravaged by the market-driven business models.  Just having Ravitch diagnose the problems has made me feel a bit better already. 

Insanity, as misery, loves company, I guess.

Image credit:  "One Room Schoolhouse on the Prairie." By Kansasexplorer 3124. 26 Apr. 2006. Flickr.  

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