Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Numerical Quantification of People

As you walk through my school one thing you will notice is that the common belief “that all students can learn” is evident. Our school is rich in extra curricular activities that spark and entice many students to remain well after the day is “over” and arrive back the next day before most of the teachers. All students can learn however not all students learn in the same way. In the Gould introduction to “The Mismeasure of Man” it struck me immediately when he referred to the work of Howard Gadener and multiple intelligences. Most educators in my school truly believe in multiple intelligences however most teachers still believe that ultimately you must teach for the test. Although Gould was obviously referring to the pitfalls and inherent flaws of IQ tests and quantifying a person to a number, we as NYC teachers fall under the pressure of quantifying our students both by state tests and end of the term grades.

Regents tests are never going to paint the holistic picture of a student. Wiggins suggests a project based learning approach. Are standardized test grades really that important? When we as adults look back at our own school days do we remember the great “four hour June heated exams”, or the teacher and lab partners who, through a hands on activity, together better understood the structures of a cell. Are we as purveyors of these numerically quantifying exams just repeating the myth that Socrates was clearly warning us against? (Socrates warns us of the dangers of creating a sense of urgency and importance around a class replicating factitious set of cultural literacy standards.)

We need to refocus education on what is important. I’m personally not sure how to break the cycle. I observed a gym class the other day and some of my more difficult students shined. Watching your “numerically quantified failures” participate in other classes, knowing the whole student, attending an after school event that your students’ planned, might be real good way to see that both Gould and Wiggins are trying to guide us in the same direction that Socrates first encouraged.

No comments: