Friday, August 06, 2010

The One Where Falling Behind is Disguised as Keeping Up
Every parent is convinced that their child is special. And it's true, every child is special in their own way. 
An interesting discussion happened around these parts not too long ago.
Some of you may know that Himself teaches at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. In addition to a regular job, he takes great joy in teaching. It's something I'm convinced he'll be doing for the rest of his life. What he's discovering, however, is that students are rarely arriving fully prepared for undergraduate or graduate studies. Darn near every student is lacking in some basic skill (math comes first followed closely by writing skills) and many students ask for adjustments to either tests or assignments. And don't even get him started on critical thinking... It will be the end of all of us.

That being said, it got me thinking about what's happening to our kids. How do we think we can educate our children well if we're so busy accommodating every child's "special" circumstances? How do our children fare in classrooms where there is one teacher for every 30 or so students? Especially if any number of those students have a "need" that is above and beyond the ordinary? Since the law requires that all students be given an "appropriate" education how do we administer that fairly across the board? And are we short-changing our children with the "feel-good" style of parenting and teaching.
I see my own child, as young as she is, being given the answers to  questions if she so much as hesitates before answering. Is that because her hesitation holds up the rest of the class, or is it part of the feel good thing? I see backwards letters being accepted as correct, slurred or incorrect pronunciation being accepted as correct. (I was actually chided by a young speech teacher when I corrected my child for saying "mines" instead of "mine". Apparently I should have known that "mines" is the Black English form of "mine" and therefore perfectly acceptable).

I can't help but wonder if we lower the standard for the 5 kids in a classroom who we must "accommodate" are we not then lowering the standards for the other 25 kids? In our zeal to make sure that some keep up with the rest are we not holding the rest back?
The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development ranks the U.S. 18th out of 36 nations examined. That means that 50% of the world educates their children better than we educate ours. How in the world can that be? Have we accommodated ourselves right out of the competition?

Right here, right now, it looks as though we have...

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