Sunday, January 17, 2016

Is it only the curriculum? Or everything but the curriculum

The tendency to blame tween-age and teenage stress on grueling classroom academics, I've realized, is the one case where education pundits single out academics. Ironically, when it comes to academic achievement (or lack thereof), these people readily blame factors other than classroom academics (or lack thereof). Whether it's grit, socio-emotional skills, socio-economics, family stability, or nutrition, what's notable is that the culprit is anything but the academic curriculum.

In other words, education pundits hold the K12 curriculum responsible for stress levels, but not for skill levels. And they view factors like poverty, family instability, nutrition, and online social networking as more responsible for low skill levels than for high stress levels.

All this relates to several other weird reversals that I've noted here from time to time:

1. Schools that try to nurture and coddle in loco parentis while asking the parents to drill their kids on the arithmetic facts that they (the schools) claim to be too busy to teach.

2. Schools that sanction monthly field trips and movies during class time while assigning lengthy projects and summer reading tasks that detract from quality time outside of school.

3. Schools that try to teach and grade students on things they don't actually know how to teach them, like "grit," creativity, organizational skills, and social skills, as opposed to things that they should know how to teach them, like academic skills.

Perhaps there's some grandiose philosophy behind all this. Or perhaps some entity is simply trying to avoid taking responsibility for that for which it was once held primarily responsible.


Auntie Ann said...

I just heard of a suburban L.A. high school which assigned rising 9th graders a 35 page paper over the summer.

Once kids got to school, they found out it was only worth a fraction of one percent of their grade.

What kind of respect does that engender in the students towards the school, when those who blew off the paper are able to look at those who spent their entire summer working on it and cry "suckers!" and when the kids who did do the work know full well that they were?

Now, that's starting high school right! How utterly demoralizing to the good students and families who dutifully gave up their summer for nothing.

GoogleMaster said...

@Auntie Ann, are you sure that's not a typo or a mishearing of "3-5", i.e. "three to five"? That would be much more reasonable, and entirely expected in a college prep high school -- that is, college prep as it used to mean, actually preparing you for college, not "college prep" as it is now, a euphemism for general ed. My rigorous high school of 30 years ago never assigned us a 35-page paper my whole time there. We had multiple 15-page term papers over the years, but most ordinary papers were three to five pages.

Auntie Ann said...

35. I've known PhD theses that were shorter.