Gotta Start Somewhere: Goal setting

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

     As I sat down to write this blog enumerating the goals of education, I quickly dashed out a list of 15 goals and then reconsidered—that’s the problem, isn’t it?  Somehow the education system has become the catchall, everything students don’t learn at home, at church, in sports, wherever, they are supposed to learn at school, and not only that but somehow education is supposed to be the great equalizer, even though we all know it isn’t.   The thing is that a school can’t be everything to everyone.  The next generation will be raised by families, friends, religious groups, coaches, neighbors, and teachers.   Hillary Clinton said it, “It takes a village.”
    Okay, so having said that I’m still left with fifteen goals, and I feel it’s necessary to weed them out, group them, do something to streamline a rather wieldy agenda.  So here goes:
1.    Basic skills:  reading, writing, arithmetic, collaboration, and technology
2.    Citizenship:  to include, but not limited to, responsibilities of a citizen in a democracy, leadership, and work ethic
3.    Practical skills:  to include, but not limited to, vocational education, personal economics, and health
4.    Critical thinking
5.    Creativity
      Most assessments center around basic skills, and thus though many schools recognize the value of goals #2-5, the current climate of “accountability” and budget cuts forces them to focus on goal #1. Unfortunately, this is even truer in school systems that support children from families who are the least likely to be able to afford supplements in, for example, the arts.
       Though I’m an advocate for some system wide changes, I live in the same world that you do, so until those changes occur what can we do to make sure that we’re preparing our students for the future reality given the current reality?  How can I teach basic skills, without losing sight of goals #2-5, which in my mind are equally important?
       So there you have it…the focus of my page In the Classroom—intertwining goals #2-5 into #1 in a conscious fashion, such that every unit of study, if not every lesson, touches on each goal.  Let’s prepare a generation of students who can, not only read, write, and add, but also graduate active, thinking, working, and creating citizens.  Imagine a future with young adults who graduate with both roots and wings.


Alan Sheriff said...

I think the problem in education as far as #4 and 5 are concerned is that at an early age kids learn that adults don't like to be asked how and why. At home or early in grade school, frustrated adults eventually resort to something akin to "because I said so" (why) or "it just does" (how). This teaches kids that critical thinking should not be done and they stop asking the questions. If we answer the questions and even follow up with our own questions to them like "how would you do it," "does this work well," or "could it be better," we can create teachable moments while still encouraging creativity.
If this is pulled into a classroom, it will take longer to learn things but they will be learned better. So then educators are left with the question of is it better to learn a wider range of things or to learn things more thoroughly. I feel education would be better off if we learned things better and sacrificed some of the higher maths (who still uses trig or calculus), sciences(less earth sciences, chemistry, biology, and physcis... still some but most people don't need to learn things like how a plant cell is structured). The same idea of covering less ground can of course be applied to the humanities, although they do lend themselves to learning creativity and critical thinking more readily.
As far as citizenship, I would broaden that to include character building and say that all of it can only be effectively taught from the home. In loco parentus can (and should) only go so far.
I think practical skills need to be taught far more beginning in High School, but should be courses unto themselves... lets replace a math course with personal finance, a science course with a real health course (not the PE/Health people take now... PE was fun but useless educationally) that teaches realistic nutrition, how to treat basic injuries and how to plan a workout.
Finally, I think college/the work place are where we should learn the practical skills because they are specific to one's vocation. There let people learn how to research, how to use a power saw, how to understand chemical equations, or about the best business models.
In short I think our education system has tried to hard to make everyone a renaissance man, adept in the intricacies of every subject, leading to too much info to learn to allow the effective teaching of critical thinking in particular but the other items on your list as well.

Mary Sheriff said...

Thank you so much for all the thought that you've put into your comment. I agree with you on so many levels. Most importantly, I believe, as you do, that students should be asked to go deeper rather that have a surface level of knowledge about everything. Early childhood should be a time of exploration into a variety of subjects, but by middle school we should be narrowing our focus.
Also, I love your insights into how parents deal with "whys" and "hows."
You are probably right about citizenship. School can't replace parental guidance, however it can reinforce it and with older students can introduce alternative ethics.
As much as I hated PE in school, I don't think we can let it go, not with the level of obesity our nation has on its hands and its health care implications. Maybe PE should be handled differently--I love the idea of adding a nutrition class and separating health from PE. I don't know enough about teaching PE to have a firm grasp on how it might be taught to have a longer impact on the fitness level of Americans except to say that the focus of PE classes seems to be on sports and games that you can't carry far into adulthood. Once you are too old to play football, then what???
I also would be interested in incorporating internships into curriculums prior to college--perhaps as a summer school option. Anyway, thanks for sharing your ideas. In the near future, I'll be posting about Howard Gardner's book Multiple Intelligences, and I think you'll find that the two of you share many thoughts on education.

Post a Comment