Drinking The Kool-Aid

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Oct 12 2012

Room to Think

My corps experience pretty much goes like this: work around the clock while eating, sleeping, and breathing teaching, then have a break and recollect my thoughts. Right now I’m on fall break so my thoughts seem clear and I finally have a chance to think. In doing so I have been thinking about my opinions on what a child’s education should look like. I am constantly reminded of all of the things wrong with the current education system, but I don’t often think about what I would consider a successful education.

With such a broad question, it helps me to think about the ultimate goal. (TFA lingo would call this “backward-planning.”) There are so many things that make me mad about the current state of the world, so I ask myself, what type of people does the world need in order to be a place that I’m proud of in the future? Our future needs people that are open-minded, people that think outside the box and come up with ideas to keep up with the ever-changing world that will advance human society.

If this is the type of people that we need in the future, then why does my school and so many others revolve around straight lines, test-taking skills, and procedures. I have begun to really see the effect of such an education this year. As 6th graders, I had hoped that my students could simply have a conversation about their opinions and think for themselves. But as I tried to do that, I quickly realized that my students didn’t know how to think on their own. They are so used to being told where to go and what to wear and how to stand in line and what symbol to use if you need to sharpen your pencil, that they are trained to simply do what they are told.

In my mind, that is not an education. With the growing emphasis on test scores, strict classroom management and questions with only one “right” answer have defined my school and many others that I’ve seen. How can we expect kids to think for themselves and develop their own ideas if we are constantly telling them what to do? And how can we expect a more fruitful future if we don’t have any future leaders who can think for themselves?

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