Overarching. For now.

I think it’s very important to be in conversation with people with whom we disagree.  That’s one reason why I like the Bridging Differences blog so much.  In Deborah Meier’s latest post, she suggests some “overarching agreements.” I can live with these:

Meanwhile, let’s you and I play with the range of “overarching” agreements that might allow for the degree of incompatibility that is actually out there to coexist. Some examples are perhaps intended to seem absurd and I may—over time—decide I don’t agree with them all:

(1) That regardless of what other purposes schools serve they must justify their curriculum choices and assessment systems (at a minimum) as serving to prepare young people for the day they become eligible voters, jurors, and full-scale members of the larger political society.

(2) That for this and other purposes (e.g. employment and enjoyment of life) every one should have a basic level of competence (maybe something like Seymour Papert’s definition of fluency that I’ll describe at another time) in reading, writing, speaking, arithmetic, basic algebra, and statistics/probability. Can we agree on a single measure for defining and assessing this? No, but maybe we can agree on a set of ways?

(3) That all schools demonstrate that students have had a variety of opportunities to explore deeply at least one field of science, with a focus on understanding the nature of science. But that we not try to mandate any course specifics or define levels of competence. That should be left close to the action.

(4) That all schools engage in a study of the foundations and underlying assumptions of a democratic polity, the U.S. Constitution, its origins, the trade-offs, balances/tensions, and how they are reflected in contemporary politics; plus, familiarity with alternate systems of democratic and undemocratic governance. Again, with the details and assessment left to those closest to the students.

(5) That provisions exist in every locality for students to have access at public expense to public schools or programs that provide for a deeper and heavier focus on one or more specialization, where doing so does not impact on racial or class segregation.

(6) Importantly: That the public system provide after-school, summer and, above all, post-graduate educational experiences for all citizens so that the ideal of “life-long learning” is available at any and all ages at a modest fee or none! Let’s stop trying to ram everything into kids by age 18.

(7) And finally, that the details of such arrangements be overseen by publicly selected laymen—oops, off topic.**

You?  What’s missing?

7 thoughts on “Overarching. For now.

  1. Harold Shaw says:

    How about the opinions of our consumers…the students, what do they want from schools? This is a very good “top down” list that ably addresses those students that currently care about school, but what about those who are currently disenfranchised, ignored and spit out of the system. What do they want from us (educators and leaders) to re-engage them into the “system”?

    We are loosing this group and they are more dangerous and expensive to our society than the college-bound ones. – Harold – I made a blog entry about this if your are interested take a look.

  2. Eric Hoefler says:

    The first thing I thought of when I read this was a recent post on the Where’s the Teacher blog called “Democratic Education vs Standardized Curricula.” The concerns “Penelope” (not sure if that’s a pseudonym) raises seem to fit with what Harold is saying in the comment above. I agree with both of them, but still think Meier’s list makes for a great start.

  3. I made some stickies via Diigo. hehe

  4. I love the notion of post-graduate opportunities. Lord knows I didn’t begin appreciate learning until I was out of high school. I’d also like to see something about collaborative environments, where students and teachers work together to improve curriculum and instruction based on some sort of evidence that they are gathering. Isn’t this what the standards aim to do (unsuccessfully, thus far)? If we could localize these efforts, I think it would serve everyone much better.

  5. Brad Jolly says:

    Bud, this list reflects the typical establishmentarian mindset of the modern educracy.

    Items #1 and #2 are OK, but only as very minimal objectives.

    Item #3 is just plain silly, unless you also allow individual taxpayers to decide whether they want to pay for this stuff, since they are “close to the action” of writing checks.

    Item #4 sounds like a decent part of a basic social studies education, but it suffers from the same “close to the action” mindset.

    Item #5 is unclear at best and bizarre at worst. It would seem to require that all ethnic groups and classes participate in all “specializations” in roughly equal quantities. Given that the schools would be funded “at public expense,” does the use of the term “public schools” imply government-run schools? I believe that is the author’s intent, and given the massive failure of public schools, I see no reason to agree to this.

    Item #6 is patently absurd, given the availability of free education on the Internet. It also probably suffers from the same restrictive definition of “public system.”

  6. One thing I am struck by on this list is the emphasis on depth and process (e.g. the scientific process) over breadth on many different subjects. This notion is akin to the graduate school idea – learning a disciplined approach in one subject helps a person be more disciplined in all subjects.

  7. Hello, I really liked your post, Overarching. For now. | Bud the Teacher. I read on another blog that what is stated above in the blog is not compleltely right. You know anything further about this subject matter?

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