Thursday, December 9, 2010

Magical Forests, Growth Rings and Public Schooling

I sit watching the educational debate unfold in front of my eyes and the current tenor of the debate has focused on prescribing a method that will achieve the end result of high test scores.  There are some that believe if we create a uniform set of procedures, scripts and decision making trees; giving them to a teacher, the teacher will produce the perfect kid.  Stamped from a uniform set of materials with a unform wrapper and product distribution end point.

But soul craft is not uniform. Each child is unique and as such requires a different set of circumstances in which to flourish.  Teaching is a subtle profession of careful nudges, listening, and having the patience to discover what the child needs to be successful.

It is not measured in one years of academic growth, which is a very linear male dominated model.  We only need to look to the natural cycles to really understand how kids grow.  If you have ever cut a cross section of a tree, you will notice the growth rings that are revealed.  Some years the rings are large, some years the rings are small.  We never would judge the health of a tree on one isolated tree ring in time.  Each ring represents the environmental conditions of that moment in time.  When judging the tree we look at the over all growth to determine its health. 

So when the educational professionals began looking at growth models I became nervous. They are moving in the right direction, but fall short.  Growth model proponents want to see a linear progression, yet just like trees, humans grow in spurts and frenzied learning followed by periods of slow or non-existent progress. And just like no two trees have the same growth rings, despite coming from the same forest; no two children will grow in a similar fashion. Learning is not a clean a predictable endeavor, and I am afraid that if we try to impose this model from above that we will, “not see the forest for the trees,” and as a result we will kill the magic of the forest and of learning for our children.  

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