The personal learning network for educators
is for America to move away from the entire cohort approach to education. The idea of children moving through subjects at the same pace because they happen to be approximately the same age
might be good for the convenience of adults, but has little to do with how our children actually learn.
First, not all learn at the same pace, and the cohort approach slows down those more gifted and goes too fast for some whose learning is not quite as accelerated. Second, not everyone develops at the same pace across all the domains we expect them to master in school. I taught myself to read books and music before my 4th birthday. Despite that, I did not learn to write well until I was in my 40s. Go figure. I had friends for whom reading was painful in the lower elementary grades, but by around 4th or 5th grade they were having little trouble, except that several had been turned off to
reading because it had been such a painful struggle when they were younger.
We need to rethink education. What we have been doing for the better part of the past 3 decades has not worked. Why we persist in doubling down - more "rigor," moving reading and algebra to ever lower grades, imposing more and more tests - seems like sheer idiocy.
And there is more to consider -
Children come to school eager to learn. By middle school they are increasingly turned off to school, viewing it as a burden, being forced to learn things for which they have little use, which does not connect with the realities of the lives of many.
The opportunity for doing the kind of meaningful projects that invoke student interests and gives them motivation to learn things and develop and apply skills is being forced out of our schools by the ever increasing reliance upon tests and more tests and still more tests.
It is worth noting that many who insist on this approach have never experienced it themselves, either as students or now as parents. As students they went to private schools (Arne Duncan and Barack Obama both fall into this category) or attended public schools that were not so dull. Perhaps like me they were fortunate to attend outstanding public schools in wealthier suburbs - in my case in Mamaroneck NY. Or perhaps they gained admission to elite schools - Bronx Science, Thomas
Jefferson in Fairfax County, or even elite programs within general schools such as the Science and Technology program which has 1/3 of the students at the school in which I teach.
Anyone who wishes to impose what we are seeing as educational policy from our national and many state governments and far too many think tanks and the likes of TFA and NLNS and the Gates and Broad Foundations should be required to put their own children under the same regimen they
are imposing upon the rest of our children. If it is so good, why not?
And if not, perhaps you might do us all a favor, back off, and listen to what real educators have to tell you about the real needs of our