I have been thinking about traditional school and standards lately — it’s in the news a lot. I guess as it always is, but perhaps especially because it’s the beginning of another school year.
For example, there is this recent one from the NY Times lauding Massachusetts (LINK) But is it that actually so great?
The article notes:
1. This is just one test of 8th graders
2. There is still a substantial performance gap between rich and poor
3. Schools are improving, but a big part of that is due to “teaching to the test”. So does this even matter?
4. The 95% percentile in Mass is still substantially below Singapore in the chart they report shows. So we are not that great. Perhaps this is showing MA is substantially holding back a substantial group of kids.
My points would be (as a Sudbury Valley School parent and Sudbury School advocate)
1. There are clearly deeper problems causing the rich/poor performance problems
2. What are the graduation rates at these schools?
3. Parents should choose. This is not the way I choose to educate MY KIDS. But we each should choose.
4. I remember doing science projects in elementary school — hermit crabs, measuring rainfall, observing clouds, growing plants. It was vaguely interesting, but I am pretty sure that I was not grasping any greater point trying to be made. If anything, I remember it sorta sucking the interest out of me (being forced to measure rainfall, plant growth etc)
5. My wife happened upon a random science/biology textbook in her house when she was in elementary school (her brothers?) and DEVOURED IT. By herself. On her own terms.
6. Compulsory curriculum is not needed to produce inquisitive scientists, capable adults, upstanding citizens, good people. Sudbury Valley School has been doing it for more than 40 years. There is empirical evidence.
7. There is not a “critical window” for learning science.
8. Childhood is (in my opinion) for free play with direct experience with nature and their surroundings. Sounds like a good breeding ground for scientists. Kids at SVS are fishing, discovering crayfish, etc, etc in the creek. That is priceless vs sitting around in a classroom.
9. Most schools are generally not thinking about who the kids are now, but rather worrying about who they could/should/need to be in the future. Kids are people. Right now.