We are effectively working hard to destroy a generation of children by what we are doing and not doing to them in the name of education. The headline in our local paper last Sunday was: Mandatory Cramming – Students and Schools are anxiously bracing for this years vast array of tests. Is there any relief in sight?
Here is what is going on (Not just in Sarasota/Manatee Florida, but nationally). School day is lengthened. Recess has been eliminated or cut back to almost nothing. Kids are made to sit in ill-fitting furniture that exaggerates poor posture. They are asked to stare at computer screens for extended periods of time. There is limited physical education (60 minutes a week) or none, the same for art, music and theater arts. Not to mention the diet that they eat that is heavy on refined sugar and carbohydrates. All of this to train them for a non-stop blizzard of standardized tests in order to meet state and national mandates to raise our children’s standard of education! It is so bad that even kindergarten students will take as many as five “final” exams. Overall it was reported that the students would take on average 12 standardized tests this year.
I feel sorry for the children and the teachers. What are they really learning? The teachers are trapped, their evaluations are now partially based on results form the standardized tests. We are creating a generation of physically illiterate sedentary dolts who are force fed a non stop stream of disconnected facts necessary to score well on standardized tests. These kids can’t think, they are unhealthy and we sit back and watch. Folks this is our future. Forget developing athletes, we need to wake up and do something about developing healthy people who can read and write and think critically.
It can be done. Rafe Esquith who teaches in Los Angeles in a very poor area has been getting it done for years. He refuses to teach to the tests. He sets high expectations for his students. He teaches PE everyday! His class puts on full a Shakespeare play each year. It can be done, but it takes initiative, passion and dedication and a big streak of rebelliousness like Mr. Esquith has shown. I suggest you read Esquith’s Teach Like Your Hair’s on Fire: The Methods and Madness Inside Room 56 and There Are No Shortcuts to be inspired along with the The Teenage Brain: A Neuroscientist’s Survival Guide to Raising Adolescents and Young Adults by Frances Jensen. Folks this is not about politics of the left or right, this is about our future. If we don’t do something now we will have a lost generation that will severely compromise the future of our society.
Start by getting recess back and full lunch hour, re-institute mandatory daily physical education, teach cursive writing again (a fine motor skill that helps with brain body connection) and eliminate standardized testing. There is so much more but those are simple things that will make a profound difference. Save our children – get out and do something now!