The Treasure Hunter

A blog by Joanne Yatvin

Who Should Be Designing School Curricula?

on April 30, 2016

Today’s post was written by Lynn Stoddard, a retired educator who speaks and writes about transforming our education system.  It was originally published in the Deseret News. I ‘d be interested in hearing what readers think about his idea of personalized curricula.

What would American culture be like if teachers had been respected and trusted enough to determine the learning needs of each student and help him or her develop unique talents and use them to benefit society?

— Albert Einstein

Ever since Einstein said these words many years ago, our country has had standardized education. Has our culture been harmed?

Roger Williams, in his book “You Are Extraordinary,” said this: “You are not built like anyone else. … If we are trying by education and training to make people uniform, we are failing dismally. Every person continues to carry with him a host of desires, tendencies and attitudes that are an outgrowth of his own inborn, highly distinctive makeup and unique development. Millions have been ruined psychologically because of a failure to recognize this fact.”

Perhaps the largest damage to our culture is the countless people who have died with their music still in them because they attended schools devoted to standardizing students. An eighth-grade boy in Farmington composed music for full orchestra, with 29 instruments — brass, woodwinds, percussion and strings — a piece that was so good it was chosen to be played at the State Music Educators Conference. Sadly, he did not go on to become another phenomenal composer like Mozart or Andrew Lloyd Webber, because he had to spend so much time with higher math and other required subjects.

What would American culture be like if teachers had been respected and trusted enough to determine the learning needs of each student and help him or her develop unique talents and use them to benefit society? What would have happened if, instead of trying to make students fit a standardized curriculum, teachers had helped students magnify their positive differences?

We can get some answers from the only teachers who are now allowed to personalize education: athletics coaches and arts teachers. These teachers see benefit in letting students try out for positions on the athletic team or for a part in the school musical. Coaches understand why sprinters should not be required to throw the shot put, or weightlifters to high jump. Choir teachers understand why high tenors cannot sing the bass part.

We can learn from good coaches and arts teachers what it means to personalize education:

  • Teachers perform at a higher, professional level when they are free to determine the needs of each student and design curricula for them.
  • When students choose what they want to learn, with guidance from parents and teachers, they achieve at a much higher level — not at a standardized, predetermined level, but at an individual level.
  • Coaches and arts teachers know that assessment for uniform knowledge and behavior is inappropriate because all students are different.
  • Personalized education results in meaningful participation from parents, engaged students and high teacher morale.
  • Truancy, bullying, dropouts and school-induced suicides are virtually eliminated when each student is helped to excel in his or her unique talents.

The best thing that can now happen to our culture is to let all teachers perform as professionals, not as servants to an obsolete curriculum. Let teachers magnify student differences rather than uselessly trying to make students alike in knowledge and skills.

Now that the State Board of Education is looking for a new superintendent, we propose it find an extraordinary educator who can lead Utah to develop a personalized school system. Our great state should lead the nation in this imperative endeavor before more people are cheated from developing their full, individual potentials.



One response to “Who Should Be Designing School Curricula?

  1. Shaari says:

    Thanks for the positive read this morning. I am currently suffering from being a disagreeable teacher to all the standardization expected in educating my young students.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: