Academic journal article Phi Delta Kappan

One Teacher at a Time

Academic journal article Phi Delta Kappan

One Teacher at a Time

Article excerpt

FOR AS long as most of us can remember, education has been tugged in two conflicting directions: pulled one way by "factory model" standardization and pulled in the opposite direction by instruction tailored to individual needs.

We use the shorthand phrases "top down" and "bottom up" to pigeonhole school reform efforts into one category or the other. And, as Evans Clinchy points out in this month's Kappan, despite its sorry record, "top down" has always been the dominant mode. We see it today in the feverish press to establish high academic standards and to administer tests to check on whether those standards are being met. (As though teachers have not had standards for their students heretofore! As though we can improve school performance by mandate! As though poverty and social class have no impact on students' performance!) Clearly, we're still suckers for the quick fix.

The problem with this particular quick fix is that it hinders genuine school reform by reinforcing a centralized bureaucracy that cannot countenance diversity. And without diversity, as Clinchy points out, school autonomy becomes impossible. Without diversity - as Judith Newman, a Canadian teacher educator, also notes in this issue - teachers are compelled "to act in ways they know won't further their students' learning." Without diversity, teachers will not be trusted to reflect on their practice or to "negotiate curriculum with students." Without diversity, children will continue to be "educated" as interchangeable widgets in an effort to produce standardized graduates who will fit smoothly into the jobs that await them in the shops, the factories, and the offices of America. …

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