are we in our own way?

November 6, 2010

I see the Eight Year Study as fascinating because it so clearly illuminates the challenges of reform, particularly the idea that sustainability is perhaps impeded because we are going about identifying ‘problems’ and finding ‘solutions’ that are peripheral, rather than central to actual change. What I am thinking about lately is that we are actually focused on mediating the wrong variables. This focus on ‘achievement’ and ‘closing the gap’ and ‘excellence’ seems on the surface to be a path to improvement but is turning out to not be so. My sense is that we have a serious mismatch between what kids need and what we provide right now in schools.

And with that, I am not sure if I agree that people ‘don’t want to change’ and ‘do not care’ about kids in inner-city schools. I think that our social narrative is one of authority and that undermines our ability to actually support change. I see the national narrative about schools and reform founded on the notion that ‘we’ (those privileged and with power) ‘know what is right’ (common core standards, content of curriculum, content of standardized tests, etc) and that this narrative dictates that to be a caring and just society, we operate from a deficit perspective and seek to ‘fix’ the kids who come to schools with different funds and have needs beyond this core. I see this narrative perpetuated through the broadcast venues of our society- television, films, popular magazines, church leaders, politicians to name a few. I see this both beyond and within the conversation about education.

We need to build education policy that examines and builds upon the real life experiences of our children, and as children’s experiences vary, is flexible enough to vary as well. If we examine their real lives- nutritionally, emotionally, physically, and intellectually- and recognize the funds of knowledge they bring, and in many cases the damage they embody, then we cannot and will not be able to design educational experiences that will support the achievement and academic success all children deserve. My sense is that until we take a good hard look at the real lives of our real children- we will continue to construct reforms that are predetermined to fail.

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