From The Red Pencil by Theodore Sizer, on how we define secondary schooling:
…a class of twenty or so adolescents gathered by age into grades to learn together a subject both for its content and for the skills embedded in that content taught by a single teacher who is responsible for delivering that material, assigning homework, and assessing each student’s performance in a uniform manner, all this proceeding in sequential blocks of time of forty to sixty minutes each in a specialized school building primarily made up of a succession of identical rooms that are used for six hours for fewer than half the days in a year.
The more I mull that passage over, the more troubling it becomes. First off, the idea that learning (not schooling) is this linear is just so foreign to the ways we as adults learn. We have to relearn learning when we get out of school. We do so in groups large and small, with people of all different ages, from many different teachers without a defined curricula or method of assessment (other than whether or not we can use that learning successfully), in all sorts of timeframes and environments, weekends and holidays included. We learn those things that are meaningful to our lives, and we put that learning to use in some way. Otherwise, why learn it at all?
I’m not saying there aren’t certain things that all students should know and be able to do. But how strange is it, when you really think about it, that we “teach” them these ideas and skills in a structure that is so totally irrelevant to what they’ll find when their formal “schooling” is over?
Scott Moore says
Thanks for bringing this passage to my attention. Good stuff. I wrote an extended to your own response on my site. Got me thinking, that’s for sure.