Sunday, March 6, 2011

The NJ Clamming End of Course Exam

The tines of my clam rake are shiny again, as the rust is polished off by the sand that hides my prey. Spring is here again. I love clamming because, well, just because. I am pretty good at it, too, because I love it and persisted at it. It's not rocket science, true, but there's an art to spotting a keyhole, the mark of a quahog.

What would you teach in class if all your children had decent livelihoods waiting for them that did not require advanced math or public speaking skills? What if you had a child who loved clamming, was good at it, and who wanted to learn more about the world?

I suppose you could argue that he could use geometry to calculate the angles of his rake tines, and biology to find new clam beds, and language arts to create better copy for his business ads, but these are excuses, really, to teach what we want to teach, in 48 minute chunks, 5 days a week.

(When was the last time you used something you learned in high school you could not have learned on your own anyway?)

What would you teach a child interested in knowing more about the world aside from economic aspirations?

Yes, well, um, of course, but such a child is rare, you see, we must focus on the global economy, on future jobs we cannot predict, on beating the scores of China or Korea or Finland--we must prepare them for the "real world."

If you believe that children are not interested in learning about the world, you need to watch them outside of school.

It might just be that they're just not interested in what's happening in your room. Even if it's "on the test."

Imagine if you had to learn about clamming--trivia about the various rakes available, the various shellfish. Where are they found? How do you read a DEP map? How do you get a license? How do you read the tides, the wind, the water temperatures?

You might argue that learning about the particulars of clamming is, well, ridiculous, and I'd agree.

Tell me how "Us[ing] mathematical formulas to justify the concept of an efficient diet" grabs your interest.That's just one of our "cumulative progress indicators"(specifically 5.3.12.B.2) for biology. Now do this for multiple subjects.

And we wonder why the dropout rate is so high....

That's me clamming somewhere in New Jersey, and even saying that much is too much.


This Brazen Teacher said...

"Why are drop out rates so high?"

I endured school growing up. I never realized this until I became a teacher myself.

What troubles me more than the wholly uninspiring curriculum we present to our children... is the inability for most people to see another way. We've structured our schools with standardized, compartmentalized, and personally meaningless material for so long... that people have accepted (to borrow a term from j. spencer) "the kool aid."

I find most people assume that learning is something children (and adults for that matter) must endure long enough to get the carrot on the stick.

Even as I type the above I must suppress the urge to follow with an expletive

People know we need change. People are desperate for it. To suggest that learning is for something more than a series of hoops one must pass through to secure social and economic security sounds really great on paper (or a blog). Try to enact such ideas in the real world... and watch every heel dig into the earth simultaneously.


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