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Representative Lew Frederick asks More Questions on Student Success

10 October 2014 10,786 No Comment

Representative Lew Frederick has served in the Oregon House for the past five years. Before that, he was a teacher, a reporter, and a district administrator Oregon. “He has witnessed how manufactured crises, extreme deprivation of resources, and radical overhaul proposals work together to repurpose public education in a way the public has not voted on.”

More questions on Student Success

By Lew Frederick

I believe that a couple of erroneous models of human development underlie a good deal of so-called education reform that has been under way of late. The first is that education is simply the filling of empty vessels. The second is that punishment, or the threat of punishment, works in exactly the way it is intended to, and the best way to motivate people is to tell them to do it or else.

Now, when a business leader has a pet theory about how best to motivate people, and puts it to work in his or her company no matter small or large, there are certain consequences if that theory doesn’t pan out. They can call it “innovation” if they want, but if it doesn’t work, it might take a while, but eventually it will be abandoned or the company won’t survive. Now, some of these approaches being imposed on public education as “reform” and “innovation” are actually pretty old fashioned in terms of education theory. The fact is, educators know better, and have for quite a while.

We allowed a small group of non-educators to experiment with their pet theories about education, using an entire generation as test subjects. But they are not really experiments. If they were, we would isolate variables and test them separately, do pilot programs with well-designed experimental protocols. Most of all, we would be open to the possibility that the hypothesis is incorrect.

But instead, we demand continual upheaval and restructuring, often without making a case as to why, and the constant in public education over the past twenty-five years has been turmoil. I think I’ve lost count of the educational initiatives that have been started and aborted since I’ve been paying attention. And when we talk about “reform,” it’s all about change. How can we talk about change without talking about what is essential and must be preserved?

What will our third graders’ reading scores mean to us in twenty years if they learn to hate reading? And this may be the true educational crisis of our time.

What if joy is an essential element of the learning process? How would we evaluate so-called “reform” efforts in light of that?

What if the educational struggles of poor children are rooted in the struggles of living poor? What if we took on the challenge of removing barriers for these kids instead of insisting that poverty is “no excuse.”

What if young minds are not empty vessels to be filled with knowledge, but living, growing human beings, who require a degree of safety, motivation and stimulation to grow best? How would we design the school day around that?

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