FTLComm - Tisdale
February 13, 2000
What happens at this building and ones like it all across this country is important
stuff. Everyone in our society has been through our school system and considers themselves
an expert on education and yet there is a strong tendency to pretty
|much take schools and what they do for granted. It might be instructive for you
consider the function of education, public and otherwise and the role it plays in
our political and economic world. The first thing that we have to do is to face
reality, the stern cold hard facts of what schools are all about and to do that we
have to deal with the "myths" of education.
Schools are about the 3 "R"s
Sorry folks that is not was schools are about, Learning to read, write and develop
a proficiency in mathematics would seem like a reasonable explanation for having
schools. After all if we are going to depend upon educated qualified voters who
have the skills to find out about things for themselves there is a need to train
children who in time will become voters who can accept their responsibility as informed
This basic concept of what school's are for is a total myth.
Schools in our society are a part of the social and political structure of society
and they are publicly funded and attendance is mandatory because schools serve society
as a means of "acculturation". From a sociological perspective the function
of schools is to help the children of that society adapt to the rigours that are
a fundamental part of that society. In a modern world that means people who are
disciplined, who will work diligently accepting the "work ethic" without
question and will be able to do as they are told
Schools teach children important knowledge
The actual content that is part of the school curriculum is incidental to the purpose
and underlying function of the school system in a society. This does not mean that
the curriculum material is unimportant because it is, children and young adults learn
a great deal from their school experience but the content of courses is a side dish,
not the main course.
You will discover that high school and university teachers actually believe that
what they are teaching is important. This is perhaps a plot to motivate them but
the reality is that elementary teachers all know with certainty that the "how"
process will serve the student better then "what". Subjective material
and on going research tends to dilute the importance of most school course content
whereas learning skills will serve the student for every day of the rest of his or
The main instructional and learning component of school is the process itself. Understanding
how to work and cope with others, handling authority, developing leadership skills
and most important of all - acquiring life long learning skills.
The real lessons in school are not what is taught but how it is learned. The excellent
training we have in our teachers of today and the experience the education world
has gained has produced outstanding and effective learning techniques that are enormously
Learning to Read is the most important function of our school system
Not that reading is over rated but the public and schools in response to public pressure,
place far to much emphasis on reading and do so at far to early an age that is inconsistent
with the psychological development of children.
Reading is a intricate process that requires that the learner develop oral language
skills, establish common experiences and then through their own input create the
magic that we call reading. No teacher living or dead ever taught anyone to read.
The teacher creates the atmosphere in which the reader has the opportunity to develop
the skill on their own. Tricks like phonics and a host of other popular processes
are a waste of time for the learner and resources for the school.
Learning to read is really unimportant if you do not provide the reader with the
skills and reasoning experience to deal with what he or she might read. The main
function of education of any kind is to produce effective thinking and reasoning
skills that will allow the learning to be self propelled.
Schools need to have recognised standards
Accountability and applying business principles to education is a spiral dive that
leads to disaster. As stated here, schools are to produce people would will fit
into the society in which the school is located. From the very beginning of public
education the concept of local control and input has been the main and most pervasive
"standard." In the back of our minds all of us understand that the school
system is to serve its community and must reflect the concepts and values of the
community in which it is located.
Therefore imposing standards that relate to content skills, which are not the focus
of the institution in the first place is simply wrong headed. You will discover
that those of the political right are the most aggressive about imposing so-called
standards in education because those folks are the ones who most seriously worry
about the realisation that schools are part of the social-cultural structure. In
Alberta where "standards" are frequent and popular ideas the course material
that the rest of Canadian students will refer to as social studies, the combined
concepts of history, political science, geography, economics and civil rights and
duties used to be referred to in Alberta schools as "Enterprise". Most
of the curriculum content in Alberta's social studies courses reflect that political
bias and so it should, since that is a reflection of the Alberta society.
Standardised testing for basic skills is helpful for administrators and curriculum
planners to know the strengths and weaknesses of their school programming and can
act as guides to point them toward working on special areas, but in no way should
such things be used to calibrate the abilities of the students, since there are no
standardised tests that will measure adaptability, logic, creativity and reasoning
skills, which are the main work of the school system.
Students need to meet specific skill levels in order to advance through the grade
There are no credible long term studies that have found that repeating a grade has
any benefits for any child or student.
Since the school's content material is (as stated here) not that important, accomplishing
that content is not particularly important. Every person has to meet enough "failure"
in life and it serves no functional purpose in the school setting to place additional
road blocks before learners.
What the learner is faced with each and every day is improving his or her reasoning
and learning skills. For more then 80% of all students that process is in complete
synchronisation with his or her peers. However, they will be some through misadventure
or interruption of their normal development that will come out of step with people
their own age. It can serve no purpose for them to be re-assigned a different chronological
age to produce a better fit. In most cases students who repeat a grade will be forced
to learn on their own, or not, for the rest of their lives. Because remember, what
happens to you as a child determines all that will happen to you as an adult.
No child should "pass" to the next grade, all children must "advance"
as they grow older learning with people their own chronological age.
|Well, you were warned that this is a much different view of education and do not
think that this article is a condemnation or criticism of any school system. This
is instead a description of what we have in a generalised way and this system is
threatened severely. Parents are increasing feeling that they do not have adequate
input into what is going on in their public school system and are opting for "home
schooling" because of the desperation they feel. "Home schooling"
is a valid form of education but it is not "schooling" and as I have mentioned
here, there is a difference. Our society still needs public schooling and every
child can benefit in feeling the comfort of fitting into a society. "Fitting
in" is what schooling is all about and it is astonishingly successful.
It is easy for you to see that post secondary education lacks the community awareness
and "fitting in" aspect of our public school system and for that reason,
dedicated to the content it proports to teach, the University system is pretty much
Public schools on the other hand are "success oriented" and to make them
even better you as a parent, tax payer and responsible member of society must accept
your duty in this a democratic society to positively contribute with your opinion
and support to your school systems. Criticism is healthy and participation is even
more healthy. A public systems needs the public, in fact can not function without
the public's involvement.
Schools form the basis for our creation of each successive generation and for that
reason we must give them, not only all the resources we can, but all the encouragement
and consideration that is possible. In the end, we are doing this for our selves.