The Best Way To Teach

A friend recently shared this video of a candidate for state representative in my home state of Kansas discussing Common Core:

Ms Levings rhetorically asks, “What’s the best way to teach kids…?” That is the fallacious assumption behind academic initiatives that attempt to standardize instruction. People are unique, and different instructional approaches will work differently for different people. Let’s be real. What we are really after here is trying to find the most cost effective approach that will work for the most students. While it may not work for your kid or my kid, in theory it should work for most kids.

Thinking there is a “best way” of doing education doesn’t hold up in a messy, real world of individual ideosynchrasies. What if we thought this way about dining? Instead of appreciating Chinese or Mexican cuisine, we would blend it all together in an attempt implement the very best methods of cooking, but we would wind up eating some very nasty smoothies every day.

I’m still waiting for an initiative that recognizes that everyone involved in education, students and teachers alike, is an individual. Where is the initiative that encourages kids to discover their life’s purpose? Where is the program that encourages teachers to teach from their strengths and to tap into their individual creativity so their students will benefit from the very best possible teaching? Because of the assumption that there is a ‘best way’ to teach, we have developed a hostile culture that has zero respect for individual professional educators. Year after year, our young people are subjected to mind-numbing testing in the name of “holding teachers accountable” to the standards that may or may not be relevant.

Standards in themselves are not a bad thing to have. But the real fallout from Common Core has been to suck the joy out of childhood. Kids are fearful and ashamed when they must take tests that make no sense to them. It is the adults who write the awful tests and the adults who subject kids to them who should be ashamed.

Yes, teachers should be accountable. Primarily they should be accountable to the young people whose lives they influence, and to the parents and communities they serve. Let the local school leadership do its job in determining whether or not teachers are doing their job.

I also think that politicians who implement these educational initiatives be held accountable. How many of the many new programs designed to improve education have been successfully implemented over the years? What are the real, measurable results? No one ever seems to hold politicians accountable for their failed policies. Instead, we incessantly move on to the next big thing.