Asked to create a policy brief regarding any reauthorization of the US "No Child Left Behind Act." I thought about all the ridiculousness of that law, but what I wanted to focus on was the essential fallacy, of NCLB in particular, but of our educational structure in general.
In the mid-19th Century many nations, including the US and Britain, adopted the Prussian notion of "age-based grades." Age-based grades are "efficient," as an educational solution, and they echo the form of industrial processing, but age-based grades, as well as the kinds of exams mandated by NCLB, assume that every child learns at exactly the same rate, in every subject. And we know that's a ridiculous idea.
Of course those age-based grades do more: They require special education because many children fall behind. They require "gifted and talented" and "AP" classes because so many students are bored. In fact, age-based grades were truly designed as a filtering system, geared to getting rid of students who "couldn't keep up" and would thus be consigned to "capitalism's dustbin" - the low skill, low wage jobs, and the poverty which market-based economies need as a cautionary tale for the potentially lazy.
The ideas of breaking students up by age, or of breaking lessons up by subject, are not "natural." These strategies replaced the tutor and "one room schoolhouse" which preceeded it. Whether or not it was a successful strategy for 20th Century industrial societies can be answered elsewhere. But what's important now is knowing that we no longer live in the world our educational systems were designed for. And it is time to change.
- Ira Socol
- About Ira David Socol
- Freedom Stick and Firefox Accessibility
- The Change.Org Posts
- IdeaChat 11 February 2012
- Counting the Origins of Failure
- Technology: The Wrong Questions and the Right Questions
- Today's "School Reformers" vs Real Change for Education - I
- Today’s “School Reformers” vs Real Change for Education - II
- The Toolbelt and Universal Design - Education For Everyone
- "Evaluate that!" - Schools for Children