One Size Fits One, in Education
The biggest trouble with having a great classroom discussion in one period is that it sets the bar impossibly high for the next.
I managed to get my first block of students to argue about Barack Obama versus Hillary Clinton, poetry versus prose and change versus experience for a full hour once we finished presenting our posters in the first 30 minutes of class.
These are media-constructed arguments, with few if any valid applications, but at least they’re timely, relevant and getting them interested in American government.
With these two Democratic contenders, I think I have my hook.
The hook is the most important part of motivating students to learn the boring stuff. Once I can get them to care the job is as simple — not easy, mind you, but simple — as subtly harkening back to that common interest. For both classes, Obama and Clinton were the hot topics. I even have a Ron Paul supporter in the first block, and one of my students is fascinated with Mike Huckabee.
The trouble is that my second block of kids weren’t nearly so responsive as the first.
I goaded my second class into participating into the same discussion, but it took quite a lot of goading, and it wasn’t nearly as satisfactory. I had to prod them every inch of the way.
As far as I knew, from gaging the reaction of my students, these kids had the same hook. The same method, the same provocation, the same ideas should have promoted the same, or similar, discussion.
It didn’t, mostly because no two groups of kids are ever sufficiently the same.
On a larger level, that’s the trouble with No Child Left Behind, the hack legislation initially penned by the surviving noteworthy Kennedy and supported by the reigning Bush. Bipartisan doesn’t make it worthwhile.
It seems a secret to politicians that centralized education, defended here by a straw man, doesn’t work. However much teachers vent, they don’t vent loudly enough.
If we assume all kids are alike enough for identical education, we condemn them to, in the best case, mediocrity.
Moral of the story? If we pave one road to success, most of us end up in the gutter.