My personal musings about anything that gets on my radar screen--heavily dominated by politics.


Education Reform That Matters, part last 

The Big Picture

If we increase the rigor of classwork for the college-bound, and if we do not allow students to pass out of those subjects that they have not demonstrated a mastery of, than we have to have something to do with those who we do not automatically matriculate.

I mentioned in my last post that we should create more options for students, that we should value trades and skills and arts more. And, to that end, I find it encouraging that the Denver Schools' reform plans includes adding more specialty schools for the arts and for other "non-academic" pursuits.

And that brings everything back to, I suppose, the beginning.

We MUST begin with the premise that every student is somebody special, and has the potential to be somebody spectacular. God created each of them in his image, with his spark and with a infinity of possibilities for their lives.

But if we spend the entirity of their educational experience trying to pigeonhole them into a mold of what WE think they should be, they will never get a chance to explore those possibilities; or, worse, in many cases we will do it in a way which DIScourages them from ever exploring their possibilities on their own.

I just came home from watching 1500 students perform from 7 to 9 minutes of incredible music, with intense choreography and very mature demands on their energy, their intellect, and their commitment to their friends and their best selves. In many cases, these performances were in . . .unpleasant . . . weather.

And what I saw was 1500 students finding in themselves the will to perform, the courage to lay themselves on the line, and the faith to do it with their friends and comrades in a situation that requires trust and skill.

In short, I saw 1500 students find in themselves the potential to be GREAT. And greatness, as Gene Hackman said in a bad but entertaining movie from a few years back, no matter how brief, stays with a man--or woman.

And this event had absolutely NOTHING to do with increased graduation requirements.

But I believe firmly that every student is vastly better for their role in tonight's competition. And that this sort of event provides a young person with a far greater insight into their potential and into their ability to fit into the world than any three math classes.

So to blindly go forward with increasing graduation requirements--which actually rarely improve actual skills--at the expense of other important programs in the schools does a MASSIVE disservice to students.

Bring reforms--obviously, there's reason to think that American public schools aren't accomplishing what they purport to.

But bring SMART reforms that will prepare students for the post-high school world without sacrificing all of the great opportunities we currently provide for students to explore their humanity . . .and their almost-limitless potential.

Because, after all, if we don't try to find the upper limits of what our students can accomplish, then they will always be content to work around the lower limits of what we expect.

And THAT is the greatest failure of American education.

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