The Treasure Hunter

A blog by Joanne Yatvin

A Rant from Joanne

on December 22, 2016

I am sorry to have to say it, but the formalizing of students’ thinking and behavior is a waste of time and just plain silly. What I am referring to specifically is the teaching of grit, mindfulness, and resilience and the move to “personalized learning” which have become so popular recently. All human beings, including young children, choose how they think and behave and what they learn. We adults influence their decisions by our actions, but we cannot control them or teach them directly. If we want to kids to like being in school, value the required schoolwork, and be interested in the contents of the curriculum, we’ve got to make all those things meaningful and useful in their eyes. And, we have to recognize that much of what is taught in school now is mastered only temporarily, not for the long run.

Let’s consider for a minute our own school “learning.” Can we still speak or read the foreign language we studied in high school or college? Can we use algebra to solve complex problems? Do we remember why the War of 1812 was fought and against which foes? What place became our 49th state?  Just what are a gerund, a transitive verb, and a reflexive pronoun? *

The lasting things that can be learned or solidified in school are honesty, cooperation, respect for others, self control, self-respect, curiosity, patience, persistence and a deep interest in certain skills, arts, and sources of knowledge. Those are the things that good teachers and the other good members of a school staff practice regularly, and by doing so, teach students.

We have a big problem in this country because the officials advocating for strict and traditional public education do not realize how shallow and ephemeral much of it is — even for the Japanese students who score so well on international tests. Over the past twenty or so years what we have heard from the decision makers at the national and state level and the critics is that the standards for American students must be raised. Why? They say, “So we can compete with other countries.” Unfortunately, they don’t mean we should be giving health care to everyone and free college to all students.

In this blog I have written as often as possible about the good things I see or hear about in schools, and I wish every day that I was aware of more. What I recognize is that most of my readers are realists who know the difference between fads and pipe dreams and the lasting things that can be learned in schools.

*Don’t feel bad; I had to look up most of those things, too.

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