An article in last week's Education Week discusses how U.S. lawmakers are moving to revamp No Child Left Behind so that it focuses on "the whole child," and not just on academics:
As Congress gears up for renewal of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, lawmakers and the Obama administration are seeking to address a perennial complaint: that the current version of the law, the No Child Left Behind Act, places too much emphasis on students’ test scores and pays little attention to their health and other needs.
And at a hearing of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee last week, lawmakers agreed that the idea of educating “the whole child” encompasses a wide range of support services, which advocates are hoping could be reflected in the rewrite of the ESEA.
Those include dental and mental health, as well as programs aimed at providing prekindergarten and library services, summer and after-school enrichment, mentoring, college counseling, and increased parent and community involvement. The whole-child concept can also refer to making sure schools attend to students’ nonacademic interests, through programs such as the arts and physical education.Some of this sounds innocuous enough, but to anyone familiar with current trends in education, the term "the whole child" carries a lot of baggage. Concerned about some of this baggage, I posted the following comment:
I'm concerned that the emphasis on "the whole child" will move beyond measures to ensure basic physical and psychological welfare to include measures that require students to spend even more of their time working in groups; writing about their personal feelings; making dioramas for language arts, posters for science, and illustrations for math problems; and doing large-scale, open-ended, interdisciplinary/multi-media projects.
There's altogether too much of this at those k12 schools that are considered models for other schools, and it alienates large numbers of what I call "left-brainers," who languish with groups and arts & crafts requirements as much as they thrive with independent work and academic challenge.
Also, nearly all American students need more rigorous math and science than they are currently getting (thanks in part to the bar-lowering that No Child Left Behind has inspired, as well as to Reform Math). "The whole child" should include these priorities; unfortunately, the analytical needs of children are not the first things that come to mind when we ponder terms like "the whole child."