Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Who decides what kids should learn?

Stop me if you've heard these before...
"Kids these days can't do simple math without a calculator!"
"Kids these days can't write well at all!"
"Kids these days are lazy!"

So what?  What gives you the right to tell students today what they should learn?  You've never met my students, so in my view you have zero authority to tell them what they should be learning.  On the flip side, if you've never met my students, why is it okay to tell them what they don't need? (as you begin making those budget cuts to eliminate foreign languages and the arts)

Ultimately our kids should have the freedom to learn whatever they want.  There should be no reason that every student should have to take Algebra II before they graduate high school.  If they're interested in it or would like to try mathematics, then go for it.  If they have an interest in art, why would we then tell them that they can only take one art course this semester since they have to take 6 other subjects they don't care about?

Imagine if we required every student to take a painting and drawing class every year from 7th grade to 12th grade.  Why does that sound so blasphemous, yet we can easily require them to take a math class (or two) every year from 7th grade to 12th grade?

Don't get me wrong, I see the great benefits in students taking any mathematics courses.  I'm a math teacher.  I want kids to discover their own interest in learning mathematics on their own schedule, not on some mandated timetable. 


Frank Noschese said...

How do you reconcile those thoughts with preparing your students for the AP exam?

Christiansen said...

This is where I struggle. For my students' sake I'm not going to minimize the importance of an AP test. I will continue to point them towards making an impact (whether they make money, help someone, etc) and say "Oh, we have this test to take too".

It would make a statement if students collectively decide to not take the AP Exam because they want to do something bigger and better with their education than just take a test. Maybe they can take a field trip to Harrisburg or Washington, D.C. to present their plan for improving schools, the economic, or the social climate?