Currently, school reformers impact schools in such a way that little is done to assist students to be inventors. To teach young people to invent means looking at them as individuals with interests and uniqueness—hopes and dreams.
It means providing experiences that foster those interests–introducing them to new ideas.
Schools need to encourage and trust students to have time to think on their own, and teachers need to have time to assist them to explore how the world works.
There is nothing to encourage invention when students focus mostly on reading and math performance for the high-stakes testing. Students spend much of their time doing classroom drill like they are in the army. Sit still, shape up, and do not break eye contact!
And, of course, obtain a high test score.
Students don’t even learn the beauty of reading and math as subjects!
Where are the other classes to inspire? What happened to learning science, social studies and the arts? Where’s music to make life joyful and worth exploring?
When students are highly controlled, they will act the way they are told, to get what the classroom controller expects. But there is no opportunity to be inventive in such a process.
The New York Times recently asked 13 year olds and older, what they thought were the greatest inventions. They listed electricity, plumbing, the printing press, flight and many other discoveries that some of us take for granted.
But I couldn’t help but wonder.
Can you imagine Thomas Edison in a class taught by a teacher from Relay?
Relay is the new crop of alternative teacher educators started in part by the KIPP guys Mike Feinberg and Dave Levin. They stress strict control when it comes to schooling. Their title for teachers is Learn. Practice. Perform. They don’t use the word “create.”
If teachers are taught without being given the opportunity to be creative themselves, if they follow nothing but scripted directives and programs, how will they encourage students to invent?
There is nothing about invention in such strict class environments.
What if the Wright Brothers both scored lousy on the FCAT in third grade? Students who score poorly in Florida have been retained for years.
Do you think students who don’t do well on one test, and who watch their classmates move on while they stay back, will strive to invent something new in the future?
Will they even care about learning?
Would Jonas Salk have thought outside the box if he attended one of the many strict charter schools? Such schools are regimented and students must do as they are told. Deviate and they will be punished or even expelled.
Students have little control to think anything on their own. It’s one-sided. There is no student innovation.
If all students do is work towards what adults tell them they must learn, they will end up only complying and following rules so they don’t step out of line—not inventing.
Today’s school reforms are the opposite of inventing.
Schools that stress strict standards measured by high-stakes testing give students a narrow road to walk. It is more about keeping students in control on that narrow path than innovation and invention.
When it comes to schools today, I’d say we are in the dark ages. The over-focus on testing and standards is too narrow.
That’s the big problem with standards of any kind.
Today’s reformers will argue that students need to learn basic skills before they can progress…that it is all about getting students to college.
I think helping a student explore on their own and find their passions could lead to a better understanding of what they want to do with their life–what goals for which to strive.
But the current obsession over standards, classroom control and high-stakes test scores ignores students—even squelches their passions. Today’s learning isn’t about the student, it’s about their score.
So, where will that leave America when it comes to future inventions? I worry about it, and you should too.