Blame Teachers, Blame Students?

Scarcely a day goes by without a new charge from conservatives or liberals concerning the state of education in America. There are new demands for holding either teachers or students “accountable” for what is being taught. Our Secretary of Education, Arnie Duncan, who never taught a student in his life, proclaims the need to blame teachers if students are not learning or to bemoan the lack of drive among students. Why can’t everyone be like Mr. Duncan who made money and is a friend of the president? Lost in this nonsense are some basic issues regarding what passes for a dialogue about how to educate young people or how to decide who is an effective teacher. Let’s look at the record:

1. If a time traveler from 1895 entered a modern American high school, he would find an adult standing in front of the class talking-just like in 1895.
2. He would find students studying the same subjects as he did in 1895-Social Studies, Math, Science, English and some art or music thrown in.

In the age of technology we teach the same curriculum as we taught to young Americans when half the nation was engaged in farming! We are teaching an outdated curriculum that bores students and has no relevance to their technological driven lives. It is time to create a 21st century curriculum that engages students and uses technology to stimulate interest in learning. With the sum total of information doubling every three years it is senseless to impose tests upon youth in which they regurgitate what the teacher tells them. Replace memorization with active learning in which students apply knowledge in real situations.

For example, have a group of students in poverty areas work with local merchants to modernize their stores and in the process learn how to use technology to create new enterprises. Get young people DOING rather than copying!