Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Where Did We Go Wrong? #Edchat

For those of you who do not know, I have a beautiful baby boy named Leo. He is 18 months old now. Part of the parenting job requires me to watch lots of children's programming. One of the things Leo likes to do is sit on my lap at watch YouTube videos. We scroll through the Sesame Street and watch some videos. My favorite is the one by Jason Mraz called "Outdoors". I recently watched a video by that really got me thinking.

There are tons of videos and segments that promote creativity and the value of being yourself. I see them daily on Sesame Street and other PBS broadcasting. They are fun to watch and always have catchy tunes. There seems to be so much emphasis on doing the right thing and accepting others for who they are. It's such a powerful message or children get while growing up. Then, it stops. 

I'm not sure what happened or where we went wrong, but it seems that spirit of individualism is lost on our students at a certain point in their life. By the time students get to me in high school, there is this awkwardness in them as they try to find the right place to fit in and find themselves. When I do my Transcendentalism Unit, there is this sigh of relief among some of my students when we talk about the value of being yourself and being proud of who you are. 

There are many people out there that talk about the value of being unique, but should that be left up to popular icons? It is sad to think that idea of being an individual is only a valuable thing to be taught in the early years and left at the curb once the kids enter "traditional" schools. 

Maybe the entire system is at fault. Does our current school system promote the individual? 

Where did we go wrong?


  1. Great article! Unfortunately I feel we do not foster the creativity and individualism we would like to see in our schools. Is it in direct relation to high stakes test scores? -BTarrance

  2. My kids' entire elementary school experience has emphasized, above everything else, the importance of reflexive compliance with "expectations." The school is fine with that as long as it gets to decide the expectations. It doesn't seem to occur to them that the kids may someday care more about their peers' expectations than the schools'.

    Maybe the first way to promote individualism is to help the kids learn to think for themselves about right and wrong, rather than simply do whatever an authority figure tells them to do. My sense is that the school -- which, after all, is the authority figure -- cares much more about maximizing compliance with its demands than it does about teaching that particular lesson.

    I agree, BTarrance, that high-stakes testing is making that situation worse. If you don't raise the scores, the school can get closed and you can get fired. If you fail to promote individualism, and instead promote unthinking conformity, nothing bad will happen to you.

  3. I think part of the problem is the misconception - among teachers, administrators, and parents - that respect for authority and individuality cannot peacefully coexist. That many differences among kids can lead to loss of control and/or disrespect of authority. My son is in 2nd grade, and we're starting to see the transition from the "kindergarten" mentality of "play, have fun, be yourself" to the more authoritarian "sit in your seat and wait for instruction." I don't think that respect for authority means that all individuality must be crushed, but I think that many schools inadvertently do this. When "classroom management" is a primary concern among administrators evaluating their teachers - over and above the learning and growth of the students - I think we have a problem. I don't think classroom management is a little, unimportant thing, but I don't think it's the only thing.

    In my "humble" opinion.

  4. I find our school does an amazing job of fostering individualism and have seen the opposite at other schools ive wored with. I find it a valued part of our school's culture that is actively exercised. I do see that as a society at large this is one of many things we say yet do not preach or reinforce. Such as "always play fair" & "cheaters nevrr prosper" butthrough our actions show that often this isnt true.

  5. Feeling like a stake holder is important for all human beings and, I believe much of our current push for more data, more measured accountability of all involved in education is quickly eroding any sense of being a vested participant. My sense is, and the growing consensus among educators in my area is that we are all simply worker bees regurgitating the company line. Work harder, don't Complain, daddy knows best. I'm frustrated by this to no end. Trust has been replaced by fear, and fear nuritiouses small mean minds who feel empowered to demean and punish.


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