Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Who Are We Serving?

To what end does our educational model exist? What are we trying to prepare students for? There are plenty of intelligent people who have written things the factory model of education, the crushing weight of state standards, the exorbitant amount of time (and money) that is spent on preparation for high-stakes testing. So who are we serving?

The statistics about high school dropout rates are staggering. This is a sizable population that is clearly not being served with our current educational model. (Yes, I acknowledge there are a myriad of other factors behind student dropout rates.)

But what about the other end of the spectrum? The high fliers, the students taking 5 AP classes so they can go to a good college to get a good job to have a good life? A former student, currently a junior, stopped by today and we chatted about how junior year was going. My former student said the following things:

  • “I don’t have time to read anymore. I love to read and I can’t anymore.”
  • “I had to quit playing tennis because I was too tired to go from school to school to play and then do homework.”
  • “Well, then I have four hours of SAT classes every weekend.”
  • “I wanted to run track, but my mom said do you have time to do that with all your AP tests?”
  • “I’m going to bed at 11:30 or 12. Most of my friends are up until 1, so I’m doing okay.”
  • “Might as well take the SAT this semester – I’ve got AP tests and SAT IIs second semester. Don’t want to be overloaded, right?”

I’d argue, vehemently, that we aren’t serving these students either. Not sleeping? Dropping extracurriculars? When do kids get to be kids? When they are 30?

So as educators who among our students are we serving? Who are we preparing adequately for life outside of a classroom? What are we preparing our students for? What choices can individual teachers make in their classrooms that will help prepare students for life? Because this system isn’t going to just up and disappear over night.