Saturday, February 1, 2014

An F Is Not Motivating, or Why Public Ed Needs A Reboot


Motivation must be intrinsic… we can't force it, drug it or "teach" it.        

          D's and F's are useless at motivating students. They are good at motivating parents and teachers to punish rather than instruct, resulting in a veiled resentment and thin obedience. We should instead have just A, B & C. If the work is not satisfactory, it is not finished. 

        We should also eventually just move to interviews with parents & students at the end of each semester in a comfortable, celebratory fashion where we focus on ways to improve and strengths rather than weaknesses & concerns. This dovetails with the idea that we shouldn't graduate kids through by year but by completion. Mixed aged groupings have been shown to cut down on misbehavior on the whole, but then again this dovetails with the idea that school should be non-compulsory… If students chose to learn then they would come to school ready to learn, & discipline issues would evaporate, & engagement would skyrocket. Teachers & students would be empowered by it. This also means that ADA money et al would have to be scrapped. Funding should be localized with federal offerings tied to programs in a locally adaptable application but no mandates. We shouldn't have any standardized tests. The data is no good anyhow, and we, students, teachers, & parents, all know it. We say it to the kids, but we then turn around & accept the practice as inevitable: What are we teaching our students & children then?? 

      Right now our Secretary of Education & President Obama want to COPY CHINA by focusing on testing more, lengthening the school day & lengthening the school year. Experts in China have even dubbed their system a failure… so why are we copying it? One can only guess. They send their people over here to figure out what makes us creative, adaptable & innovative. Evidence shows that PLAY without adult intervention is the birthplace of creativity & so much more: http://aeon.co/magazine/being-human/children-today-are-suffering-a-severe-deficit-of-play/ If we want creativity, adaptability, innovativeness, "American" qualities, we have to back off and let control shift away from top-down education. 

     Schools should not indoctrinate kids: they should be an offering of courses in different skills and perspectives. The reality is most of what we are told to teach could be self taught if the students were motivated enough (i.e. if it was related to what they cared about). Much of what we "teach", they already know, and we are only labeling and organizing their knowledge. It's like a cultural matching game; that's why cultural minorities can't play it as well: their culture doesn't match their teacher's or the textbooks' editors.  

     The idea of "organization" we cling to is unnatural. We think in uniformity is strength, but we clearly see it is not in architecture, monocropping, & thinking. It is in small unique successful grouping closely links to natural cycles that last and create overall systemic stability. Israel Zangwill's Melting Pot is the American Strength, the assimilation and recognition of the best in all cultures and systems. Our education system as it aligns further and further with a national test will weaken the scores, our economy & collective future to devastating effect. 

     We can see this in nature where the straight lines and severely organized patterns of our agricultural and cityscapes create deserts, endless landfills and toxic wastelands. It is only in the allowance of chaos that we see real control as we let things go & achieve balance in design. Teachers need to control their classrooms via design not behavior modification or force. Candy bribes turn children into nothing more than trained dogs. The highest degree of motivation is intrinsic. If we didn't have to force kids with law & consequence to attend schools, they'd only show up when they really wanted an education. Teachers would adapt and change. 

    Would this be entirely new? Yes. What we are doing now that is "great" and "new" is still housed in an ill-fitting basket and doesn't change enough. We need to start over. 

   Public non compulsory school is the only way to create a fair and equitable environment for all children. Depth instead of breadth. No grades. Real engagement & learning. Goodbye discipline issues (for the most part). Short courses organized around skills and interests. 3 week courses? Courses in the summer (farming, gardening, etc)? Courses on the trail camping? Trips abroad/History Courses? Internships/Apprenticeships as courses? Real skills? Real jobs/work?

Anything can happen. 

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