Avoiding “Mediocrity by Design”

What is the purpose of public education and how can we provide the best learning opportunities for each of the students we serve?  In this era of information overload, there is a need to boil it down for our new teachers and for those who are anxious or intimidated by the frequent changes and mandates in public education.  Perhaps the Twitter medium can serve that purpose.  Here’s my best shot(s).

You are a teacher and will make a difference in the life of each child you serve. Know as much as you can about each one and help them grow! (140)

Find and publicly recognize each child’s strengths. Build mutual respect by modeling it. Learning standards and individualism must co-exist. (140)

In searching for ways to better serve our students, plenty is written about our latest reform,  the Common Core Learning Standards.  There is no shortage of powerful arguments for and against these standards and, more specifically, the standardized assessments (known privately as annuities, I suspect, to their publishers) that are mandated.  However, as teachers we have the responsibility to serve the needs of each child and ensure they are growing into the creative and self-motivated life long learners we so frequently reference.

The following was published more than 65 years ago, and it should serve as a reminder that our service to students does not wait, and time will not make things better.  It is our collective commitment to individualism, creativity, and higher order thinking that will make a difference.

The following treatise upon the higher education comes to me by way of an MIT professor, but whether the authorship is his, I don’t know. It says: One time the animals had a school. The curriculum consisted of running climbing, flying and swimming, and all the animals took all the subjects.

The Duck was good in swimming—better, in fact, than his instructor—and he made passing grades in flying, but he was practically hopeless in running. Because he was low in this subject, he was made to stay after school and drop his swimming class in order to practice running. He kept this up until he was only average in swimming, but average was passing so nobody worried about that except the duck.

The Eagle was considered a problem pupil and was disciplined severely. He beat all others to the top of the tree in the climbing class, but he always used his own way of getting there.

The Rabbit started at the top of the class in running, but he had a nervous breakdown and had to drop out of school on account of so much make-up work in swimming.

The Squirrel led the climbing class, but his flying teacher made him start his flying from the ground up instead of from the top down, and he developed charley horses from overexertion at the takeoff and began getting C’s in climbing and D’s in running.

The practical Prairie Dogs apprenticed their offspring to the Badgers when the school authorities refused to add digging to the curriculum.

At the end of the year, an abnormal Eel that could swim well and run, climb and fly a little was made Valedictorian.

1946 May 4, Boston Herald, This and That In Bill’s Book by Bill Cunningham, Quote Page 6, Column 1, Boston, Massachusetts.
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