Written By Catherine Malcolm
What’s the buzz in the school carpool line?
Common Core State Standards.
Yes, it’s as dry and un-appealing as it sounds, but every parent and every student in 48 states is affected by this new initiative. And while the Core Standards (CCSS) debate continues, we continue to drop to the back of the class in the global rankings.
“U.S. students, who once led the world, currently rank 21st in the world in science and 25th in math,” Newsweek reported in 2011.
The Huffington Post headline yesterday read,
“U.S. Students Still Lag Behind Foreign Peers, Schools Make Little Progress In Improving Achievement.”
CCSS is a hot topic in parenting and teaching circles. Everyone wants what’s best for their little budding brainiac. But does it work? Many, like Sir Ken Robinson (acclaimed educationalist) and most of the elite private schools in the world might disagree.
Not only is the CCSS initiative based on an old paradigm of teaching and testing; production line education at its best produces conformity. When the early educators and curriculum developers designed our current system, conformity in society was what everyone wanted. “Follow the leader!” they said, and everyone did. The handful of creative thinkers who dared to step outside of the box became pioneering entrepreneurs. And everyone else conformed, and followed. While knowing how to get along with the group is as necessary as learning one’s ABC’s, that kind of “teaching to test” fails us when we try to stand out or even stand up to the new global dynamic.
The major problem with the CCSS initiative is what it leaves out. The arts are not extra-curricular, they are essential educational experiences that nurture true visceral relationships between the student and his/her curriculum. It helps to foster divergent and critical thinking whereas CCSS promotes group-think and let’s be honest, rote memorization. It’s not dynamic and it’s not 21st century.
Schools shouldn’t be factories with children on an assembly-line toward jobs that no longer exist. To compete in today’s society, with technology, social media and communication at it’s most powerful in the history of our world, we must create a new educational paradigm.
We need a model that embraces the arts and its ability to nurture divergent thinking. A curriculum that uses the tools that we have at our disposal, tools that the authors of our old educational system couldn’t even have imagined. We need teachers who are given the chance to nurture critical thinking and creativity, and a support system to allow those possibilities to grow.
Sir Robinson said of education, “Teachers will tell you, ‘don’t copy!’ – it’s cheating. But when you leave school, it’s called collaboration.” Sure, some kids cheat. So do some adults. But that’s not the discussion. Children learn from each other and even when they “borrow” another’s answer, sometimes they might just learn something.
A study published in the book Break Point & Beyond illustrates the need for change in our current educational system. A longitudinal study tested children for “Divergent Thinking” (the ability to think critically and creatively about a problem).
The first group showed a remarkable 80% scoring at the GENIUS level. How old were they? Kindergarten level. These same children were tested 5 years later. The same children. The same test. The genius level scores dropped to 50%. Five years following…down to 15%. While the educational system cannot be laid blame for all of the decline, it certainly can’t be left outside the margins of cause and effect.
In the last 5 years, with the rise of mobile communications and “smart phones” there is a growing trend toward parents sharing “play” time with their children on apps, some of which are labeled “educational.” Even some “entertainment” apps have shown to encourage a child’s intellectual and creative growth. While apps for children, especially in the educational market is the fastest growing segment in this market, there’s a lot out there that are simply “product.”
The growth of good, high quality apps that help to support what schools are doing, and better yet, NOT doing, is small. App developers have an opportunity to really make a difference, not just in the world of mobile games, but to effect change in our fragile educational eco-system. Great developers could a “game changer.”
Great app development is expensive and labor intensive, while many apps released are either free or cost less than a cup of coffee at Starbucks. Which is now 10 cents more this year than last. Less than that cup of coffee. Imagine that for a moment. You’ve just experienced divergent thinking. Now imagine what a good app could do for your child…or maybe even you.
Here’s an excerpt of Sir Ken Robinson’s discussion of our current educational crisis and what he believes are key points of inquiry. http://bit.ly/EduNOW