Preparing for an uncertain future is a difficult task when students are given outdated tests and being subjected to outdated methods, while teachers are encouraged to be innovative, out-of-the-box professionals working in an in-the-box education system.
“We need to prepare them to be flexible, critical thinking, problem solvers.”
In consideration of all that I observe, even with some great innovation, and a whole bunch of technology integration that is taking place in so many schools across the country, I don’t believe “preparing our students for life” is the focus or goal of education today. The real irony is that school for kids is real life, a fact often overlooked by educators.
The most obvious reason this is not the case is that we don’t have a clue what the future holds for our children. We will have them in public schools for 13 years. Try to envision what it was like looking backwards to the world as we knew it then. 1999 was quite a different world. We had scarcely a clue of what to expect to find in 2012. The only way to prepare kids for life was to make adjustments every step of the way. The education system does not favor on-the-fly adjustments. The education system needs to weigh, deliberate and consider each and every change. It must all be research-based, and research takes time. Education is not ahead of the curve in incorporating technology in learning, it continues to play catch up. A technology-driven society does not allow the luxury of catching up. Yet, we still claim to be preparing kids for life.
Content in past decades was slow to change. Even as advances were made in science, history, geography and literature, the world itself moved at a slower pace, so time and change were less critical. We had a print media that was driven by time-sensitive events, but the time was stretched out by print deadlines. Textbooks were relevant for longer periods of time. Today, whole countries that were in existence a short while back have changed names, boundaries, populations and cultures seemingly overnight. Our outdated textbooks that we continue to use cannot keep up with the rapid change of the world today. Yet, we still claim to be preparing kids for life.
We have research showing different modalities of learning. We embrace differentiation in teaching. We strive for inclusion of all students to learn in a single teaching environment while addressing individual strengths for learning. We talk about personalized learning for each student. We use individualized learning plans to maximize learning. We recognize that all kids are created different. Even in consideration of all of that, we standardize their assessment. Yet, we still claim to be preparing kids for life.
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