In Will Richardson’s article, “9 Elephants in the (Class)Room That Should “Unsettle” Us“, he gives a list of 9 things that he found in today’s classrooms that must be addressed and changed in order for our society to advance along with the rest of the world. However, he says that these 9 things are not addressed, so we continue to do “the wrong thing right” rather than doing, simply put, “the right thing”. Yes, after reading through the list, I found the information given by Richardson to be very unsettling for me. Here are two that really stuck out to me as I read along.
First off, number 6 on the list, “We know that curriculum is just a guess.” Most of what we use for our curriculum in today’s classrooms was written in by “The Committee of Ten” in 1894. Yes, 1894. That is over 100 years ago. The way we still learn, for the most part, was written by 10 middle-aged white men. Does this not sound unsettling? We are attempting to advance our students in the world today by following a script, so to speak, that was created in 1894. Is it any wonder why the US is ranked so low in many categories in education? If you do not know the answer to that question it is ‘No’. Are you unsettled yet? Hopefully, because I definitely am. Before I move to my next number on the list I think I should give those men some credit. They were from very prestigious universities and colleges during this time. However, we should not be learning the same way we did in 1894. Did it not occur to anyone that maybe these 10 people thought the script to learning would possible change in the next 100 plus years? There is one other thing on the list that really stuck out to me.
Number 7 on Richardson’s list is “We know that separating learning into discrete subjects and time blocks is not the best way to prepare kids for the real world.” Going to school is very repetitive- go to math class, go to science class, to go literature class, etc. In the end this is all to do well on some test that somebody along the way said that all students need to learn in order to be successful in the “real world”. Who is this helping though? This is helping the system that says that tests are the way to success. Well, for me, I would learn something for a test and then the second I turned that thing in to the teacher for a grade it was gone for good. I only learned about Shakespeare because someone told my teacher that I would need that to be successful in the future. Not once did I ever learn how to do my taxes, fill out important documents, or learn how to spend and save my money, which is what literally everyone must do someday. But hey, I can just tell the IRS that I know all about Shakespeare and the words he made up to make a book more interesting. Students shouldn’t learn things that they “might need to know” in the future. They should be learning things that they “will need to know”.
To me, addressing these things should not be too difficult. We should change the basis of our curriculum to serve the needs of today’s society, not the society from 1894, which will take some time and leave many people broken-hearted because they will have to use a different curriculum, but it must be done. We also must teach students things they will need to know in the future, which is an easy change, but cannot happen without the basis of the curriculum in today’s classroom to change first.
To me, it is all about what the child actually learns, not what they “appear” to learn on a test. Something about our education system needs to change.