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Education Doesn’t Need Nip Tuck: Our Normal Approach is Useless Here

Repost from Dreams of Education

|Kelly Tenkely|

Education isn’t about achievement, and yet, somewhere along the way that is exactly what its purpose became.  Somewhere along the line our perspectives shifted and we began to believe the lie.

The lie that the purpose of education is a number.

A grade.

We put so much emphasis on the notion that achievement is everything, that students began to believe that the number actually meant something.

That the number was everything.

If achievement is everything, education is surely at the pinnacle of its demise.  It can’t just be about the numbers. It has to be about more. It has to be about something more tangible, more real.  Right now we are in a cycle of implant syndrome (can’t claim this idea, came from my friend @matthewquigley who calls it “fake boobs”- stay with me here). We want our schools to look good on the outside, we want them to look perfect (like implants), but at the end of the day, what they represent isn’t real. There isn’t a whole lot of substance to them because substance isn’t the point. Looking good is the point. Getting noticed is the point.  This is the problem I have with focus on achievement and scores. The point isn’t substance, the point is to look like we have students who are performing at what we have deemed is an appropriate level.  When you get right down to it, isn’t there beauty in the imperfection?  Isn’t there beauty in natural learning process?  I love the opening scene of The Social Network movie where we see Mark Zuckerberg going on and on about scores and what else he can do to get in and get noticed. He says something to the effect of: If everyone gets a 1600 (perfect score on the SAT) what differentiates them?

Right now the education system puts the focus on what students don’t know.  We make students feel ashamed of what they don’t know and try to use that shame (of a poor grade) to make them work harder.  What if instead of focusing on what a kid doesn’t know, we help them realize what they do know?  What if we started capitalizing on what they know and used it to help them make connections in their learning?  What if we minimized the focus on achievement?

There are incredible teachers who have refused to sell students the lie that achievement is everything. There are incredible teachers who every day work to capitalize on what students do know and value students for more than the number.  My plea for education reform: minimize the focus on achievement and shift to a focus on learning.

Today as I was going through my overflowing Google Reader, I read this from Seth’s Blog:

“Our Normal Approach is Useless Here

Perhaps this can be our new rallying cry.

If it’s a new problem, perhaps it demands a new approach. If it’s an old problem, it certainly does.”

The direction of education is an old problem, our normal approach is useless here. It is time for education reform to be education re-imagine. Our normal approach is useless here.


About ktenkely

Specializing in instructional technology Professional development. Consulting. Teaching.


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