Center Stage of Schooling
Input leads to output. So what we teach, and how we teach it, determine how
well our children are prepared for the future. That would seem to be the
essence of education. How are things going in the key realm of curriculum and
Lively! Very lively. Many of the
hottest potatoes in the education stewpot are in this area.
How are we doing in math and science
vs. the rest of the world? Are we squeezing out arts education to our peril?
There's all the hubbub over the alignment
of the curriculum to the standardized tests and the transformation from "tests"
to "assessments," in all their new-fangled forms. Is the federal government
gaining too much power over K-12 curriculum? Are the needs of employers being
There are differences of opinion
over whether all children should receive the same basic, specific elements of a
core of academic knowledge, or if that constitutes a nationalized curriculum.
On the other hand, we don't want the curriculum to splinter into a thousand
special-interest "tracks" so that we don't turn out well-rounded citizens who
can understand and appreciate each other.
Does "Developmentally Appropriate
Practice" dumb down or lift up? Does "Thematic Instruction" create lots of
time-wasting repetitions from grade to grade, and leave wide gaps in the
student knowledge base? What about discipline? "Looping" and "spiraling"?
What about special student
populations, from those who don't speak English very well, to those with
special needs, to those who are 'way ahead of their classmates?
would agree that the student population is much more diverse than a generation
ago, but is the curriculum reflecting that adequately? Is curriculum getting
too vulnerable to influence from special-interest groups, too politicized? Or
are the schools too insulated from the real world and not moving fast enough to
keep teaching them what they need to know?
What can we do to encourage good
teachers to continue to create and innovate and inspire our children with good
curriculum and smart teaching methods?
What can we do about teachers who do
the bare minimum, and shortchange students by merely lecturing from a textbook,
instead of opening wide the world of exploration and knowledge with interesting,
On the other hand, what can we do
about project-happy teachers whose insistence on distracting, trivial pursuits
leave the gold nuggets of valuable knowledge on the cutting-room floor, among
all the fool's gold of time-wasting activities?
What they teach, and how . . .
things are lively, and how.
Homework: Visit the Association for Curriculum
and Development, www.ascd.org, for the
education establishment's point of view. Then see the Core Knowledge
for a look at a sensible new approach that is gaining ground nationwide.