Tuesday, August 3, 2010


     I've followed a fascinating blog, synthesis, by Shafeen Charania, a Microsoft engineer-turned-advocate-for-educational-change. (Okay, he has some other interests, too.) Other education blogs -- including my own -- should be so insightful.
     Some of you who are reading this blog do not know of a former time when it was believed we could make huge changes in schools. I was an undergrad at the University of Wisconsin, and I learned of Kozol. Kohl. Holt. Herndon. Perhaps it is that I am in the Midwest, but what I've basically seen since then -- definitely in the elementary classroom -- is what we've had for so long. Basals (or whatever their name of the day is -- anthologies? They are still basals). Worksheets. Some excellent novels and poems. Other excellent projects. But our basals still structure and rule the day.
     And the NCLB testing looms over us most of the year.
     Charania writes in his February 21 post of an education system that actually serves the public, not just offers shallow promises, a place where children from all levels educate together. He refers to the founder of a unique educational setting in California, a school that teaches by doing, by experiencing, by "becoming." This is no new theory -- I heard of it when I studied at the University of Wisconsin -- but then it was just talk and promises. In most places, it still is. Except at this High Tech High band of schools, from what Charania says, and a few other places.
     "We've made education complex -- it isn't," says Charania. I wanted to shout in agreement. "We've created a system whose rules require a book that's several inches thick...[Here he speaks of how school staff only cares about passing No Child Left Behind testing, and boy, is he wrong, but I doubt he has a clue as to what NCLB demands really are, so I'll forgive him.] We've forgotten that it is about graduating children whose future is profoundly more brilliant than anything we might conceive." Who could say it better?
     I call this post "Motivation Wednesday." I think I just motivated myself to change my reading classroom, to try to recapture why I came into education in the first place.
     I'll start right after we finish -- and pass -- NCLB testing.