One Size Fits All? Some?

I just read @CrudBasher’s post: The Learning Equation and began to think about a particular statement he made,

I think the goal of education should be to develop every child’s gifts and aptitudes to their furthest potential. As all children have different gifts they will all turn out differently.”

I agree wholeheartedly with what Andrew says and think that most teachers would as well. What I’m wondering is what the stakeholders in the school districts have to say is their goal for students. Because, when you look around at the classrooms that are still set up the same way they were 25 and 50 years ago, and you look at the standardized tests and the information that is deemed “necessary”* for people who want to be educated, it would seem to be that there is a disconnect between what is written, what is expected, and what is actually happening.

Here is what I mean: now, I have not actually asked superintendents of schools what their goals are for the students in their district, but I’m guessing that they have a mission to educate all children. But educate according to the standards set forth by the state. What I am confused about is the one size fits all curriculum that is then enforced (for lack of a better word). What Andrew and then Salman Khan in his video (embedded in Barras’ post) say is that even though the students are all in school for the same amount of time (give or take), some achieve better than others. Everyone is taught the same things, but not everyone comes out on top. So it is obvious that the one size fits all approach is not working.

In his comparison of education of the past (even present) and his vision of education 20 years from now, Khan said that students go to school for a fixed time from K-12, then some add 4 years for college. At that point, “you are 22, now you will not go to school anymore.” The learning is done. Andrew said something similar in his post titled Education Reform is About Time:

“Even if you factor in high school and college, you still had to be done by the time you were 22 or so.”

Schooling as it has been historically, has been about going to school from a certain age, being in classrooms with children of the same age, learning what is supposed to be taught (if one wants to be educated), and then moving out to the working world. It is no wonder that I have heard kids say they can’t wait to be finished with school. I even said it myself at one time (we’re talking many years ago while still in high school–now there isn’t a day that goes by that I am not looking to learn more).

When students are not taught material they are interested in, or are allowed to pursue their own passions, why shouldn’t they want to just be finished with school? The school is being done to them. For some, the achievers, it’s ok, they still achieve. But what about the children who learn differently, who are not motivated? What happens to them? They are in school the same amount of time (give or take) as the achievers, but they do not achieve.

And so this is where technology comes in. And differentiation. And sharing learning with others. Because it is technology which will allow for “customization” as Barras says, and “credentials” as Khan says in his video. Technology will allow us to change the question from, “what did you earn in school” (GPA), to “what did you contribute to society?”

photo credit: Derek K. Miller via photo pin cc

* Seth Godin defined “necessary” so clearly in his book, Stop Stealing Dreams when he said

For a long time, there was an overlap between the education that the professions rewarded and the education that we might imagine an educated person would benefit from. 

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