Principals and teachers are reduced to coaches planning out strategies so their teams can "win". . . . Perusing these infamous tests, I have yet to find a multiple-choice question that teaches the values of honesty, the joys of creating a work of art, or the beauty of a flight of pelicans.
by Sylvia Falconer
I didn't ask to be born, you know," I once shouted as a smart-aleck 14-year old. My father's shocked and hurt face stayed with me a long time. Yet, when years later my own daughter echoed the same sentiments, I had to agree with her. No child asks to be born.
She comes into being because of the coupling of two humans. A child can only hope that his/her parents are fairly mature, want him, and know what they are doing, because that child is at their mercy. That's why I become wary when I see the focus of concern about our children's education changing in dangerous directions.
My first treaching position was at Rose Hill Elementary School in Mukilteo, Washington. A small fishing village and ferry landing, Mukilteo competed to attract qualified teachers from Seattle. Teachers applied for positions at Rose Hill becuase of the principal. Mr. Hanson, at our first teacher's meeting said, "You don't work for me. I work for you. It is my job to see that you get what you need in order to do the best job for our children because you work for them." And he meant it.
Things seem to have gotten topsy-turvy lately. Principals now work for superintendents and school boards, not teachers. Teachers are ruled by a bureaucratic, political scheme called "No Child Left Behind" that, with little understanding of how people learn, insists on volumes of mark-the-right-answer tests. The children who fail are punished and disgraced by the "powers" by withholding help from their schools. Principals and teachers are reduced to coaches planning out strategies so their teams can "win."
If my youngest son, Curtis, attended school today, he would drop out. Curtis learned to read via the Slingerland method: tracing sandpaper letters with his fingers. He is highly tactile.
Without creative teachers who had time to explore his abilities, he would not be a successful business owner today. Certainly, the results of his written test scores did not raise his level of self-esteem.
Do we in this United States of America believe each child has a God-given right to find his/her own unique gifts to give to the world?
Or will we be seduced by publishers who reap huge financial benefits by subjugating our children to tedious testing; or demagogical politicians putting a spin on the so-called failure of public education? Perhaps living in the insecurity of recent disasters, we fear the necessary chaos and unpredictability of creativity preferring instead rigid rules and conformity.
Perusing these infamous tests, I have yet to find a multiple-choice question that teaches the values of honesty, the joys of creating a work of art, or the beauty of a flight of pelicans.
Facts have their place, but a real education also encompasses the width of emotions, the excitement of discovery, and the deepening of compassion for all sentient beings.
We gave our children life. While they are children, we are responsible for the growing of their souls.
Sylvia Falconer is minister emerita of Greeley Unitarian Church. She attends Family of Christ Presbyterian Church in Greeley. Her e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
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