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Education Reformers are leading us down the wrong path

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Imagine having 15% to 25% of your future determined by one battery of testing. Imagine that unless you can pass a particular test you will never receive a high school diploma – no matter what your other grades are. Imagine that the big tests are all multiple choice. There is no room to write ‘yes, but this doesn’t make sense’, or ‘this is the answer you want, but it’s not the truth’. You can’t qualify your answer in any way or bring up other issues you think are important to the subject.

This is the situation the education reformers have created for our children. These folks have decided there must be so much concrete learning per year, and it must be done in thus-and-such a way. Often, it is arbitrary and capricious. Several years ago, I read my granddaughter’s study papers for social studies. Obviously, this is not a subject the reformers like, because it is not concrete enough. Among other things, they required her to identify five rivers, none of which were in Tennessee. One of them I myself only knew from reading murder mysteries.

Further, there are numerous, well-regarded education studies showing these reformers are almost setting kids up for failure. Columbia College in Columbia, South Carolina, offers a post-graduate master’s degree in Divergent Learning. What’s that, and why are they offering it? From their website:

However, significant numbers of at-risk students who are highly intelligent and capable of becoming productive, influential young adults are not reaping the benefits of these resources. These underachieving students are divergent learners and are at-risk in the present educational system because of specific personality traits and learning styles, which are not being adequately addressed in the classroom.

Divergent learners? Way back in 1967 (the year I graduated from college) a gentleman named Hudson noticed that conventional intelligence testing did not do justice to his students (English boys). He decided there were two different types of intelligence – convergent (useful in science and technology) and divergent (useful in arts and humanities). Original content updated and hosted at www.learningandteaching.info/learning/ To quote this source:

Hudson's argument has important implications. Not only does it suggest that conventional approaches to assessment may be seriously under-estimating the talent of part of the school population; but also that the very assumptions behind current curriculum and pedagogic strategies are restrictive. With divergent thinkers, for example, it is not always realistic to specify the intended outcomes of a lesson in advance. This of course leads into the traditional minefield of assessing and accrediting creativity. Fortunately, convergence and divergence are ideal types, and not mutually exclusive.

Hudson’s work was later expanded by David A. Kolb and Roger Fry, who identified two other different learning styles.

All this work was available before the ‘reformers’ started insisting on quantifying everything. I only learned about it when my son encountered it in college. For us, it was a real eye-opener. It explained why he always underperformed in high school, despite learning and explaining things that left his fellow students dazzled.

I really resent the current political and educational trends that are leading my granddaughter to hate school.

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