On how parents should act in a meritocracy

Standard

“ …while parents have every right to act in ways that will help their children’s lives go well, they do not have the right to confer on them a competitive advantage – in other words, to ensure not just that they do well but that they do better than others. This is because, in a society with finite rewards, improving the situation of one child necessarily worsens that of another ”

Richard Reeves, ‘How the middle class hoards wealth and opportunity for itself’, The Guardian

On the replacement of knowledge and analysis by numbers

Standard

“ There’s nothing wrong with quantitative metrics. But they should be supplemented with qualitative yardsticks, and assessed with rigor. Instead, administrators use a narrow set of metrics to justify the neoliberal policies they endorse. For example, they defend the shift to STEM education on the basis of some empirical research while ignoring findings that would suggest a different set of educational priorities. Numbers have all but replaced analysis (…) Faculty end up worrying more about the number of articles they publish than their quality. Students end up focusing on grades rather than acquiring knowledge. Assessing a school’s performance comes down to enrollment numbers, grade distribution, and the introduction of new technologies. Intellectual curiosity, a passion for knowledge, and the pursuit of exciting questions have disappeared; no one has time to do anything except perform by the numbers (…) Schools and states are attacking the idea that faculty, who work in a setting where the free flow of ideas is vital, should be protected from controversy in their teaching and research ”

Harry Targ, ‘An Education Worth Fighting For’, Jacobin Magazine

On how the concept of family should evolve from two heterosexual parents and sons

Standard

“ There is nothing wrong with a heterosexual, two-parent, mono racial family: it’s an age-old arrangement for bringing up children, and it can work beautifully. I raise no objection to it; I grew up in such a household myself. But it is not the only method that can work beautifully. We need to acknowledge that families come in multiple shapes and sizes, that love is not a finite asset, and that care-giving involves more than a genetic imperative ”

Andrew Solomon, ‘Families have evolved. Now language must too’, The Guardian

On how capitalism restrains education for disabled people

Standard

“ Under capitalism, the labor market and the organization of work are key components in the construction of disability as a social category. Inherent in the ideology and practice of capitalism is the idea that a person’s well-being is dependent on their ability to sell their labor for a wage. Thus, physical and mental differences that preclude or interfere with performing wage labor are considered central to very condition of disability […] We cannot fight for a vision of education justice that includes disability justice within the current neoliberal model of education, because that model was built to exclude special-needs students and to silence those that demand free, accessible, community-controlled schools that can genuinely serve children of all abilities. As a result, we should focus our demand not on “equality” as defined by the proponents of the one-test-fits-all position, but on equity. Our side must put forward a vision of education that acknowledges diversity in learners and strives to give each child an education that is responsive to their unique needs. ”

Lauren Nickell, ‘Fighting for Special Education’, Jacobin Magazine

On the teacher’s educational role

Standard

“ …the fundamental role of a teacher is not to deliver information (which starts to become obsolete the moment it’s left our mouths). Rather, a teacher’s role is to guide the social process of learning – to inspire, challenge and excite students so that they actually want to learn and develop the thinking skills they’ll need in the real world ”

Eddie Woo, ‘Raising a child is mission impossible. That’s why it takes a school’, The Guardian

The aim of education shouldn’t be assessment

Standard
“In stories that we are told often, the line between fact and myth can become so blurred that we easily mistake one for the other. This is true of a story that many people believe about education, even though it’s not real and never really was. It goes like this: Young children go to elementary school mainly to learn the basic skills of reading, writing, and mathematics. These skills are essential so they can do well academically in high school. If they go on to higher education and graduate with a good degree, they’ll find a well-paid job and the country will prosper too”.
This quotation, extracted from Sir Ken Robinson’s brilliant and thorough book ¨Creative Schools: The Grassroots Revolution That’s Transforming Education¨, perfectly explains the roots of the current crisis of education. This book has encouraged me to look more in depth into the problems of our educational system, in particular of the European Schools.

Education should promote several values and qualities, which the students can then use throughout their lives. Such qualities include critical thinking, curiosity, interest in social and world matters, flexibility and, last but not least, creativity. Educational assessment, or testing, is at its roots the evaluation of the knowledge, skills and attitudes acquired through a learning experience. Assessments and tests can allow teachers to better comprehend each student’s struggle and what teaching methods work better for him\her. Assessment also allows students to engage in self-criticism, and helps them in their ¨search for identity¨, typical of adolescence, by making them figure out, among other things, what they enjoy and are passionate about, and what they are good at. I am therefore not against assessment and testing by principle; in fact, I think that if practiced correctly, they can be very useful tools.However, the current assessment methods in our educational system are highly ineffective, and are turning into a pointless process used to associate students with numbers. Nowadays, teachers don’t assess the broad range of students’ capabilities and skills but merely their notional knowledge, usually evaluated in numbers. Passing exams is increasingly perceived as being the ultimate, most important goal of school education, and many teachers continuously bolster the equation of good grades with the prospect of a successful life. How many times have we students heard teachers saying “Guys, this is really important for your exam, so listen carefully!” implying that whatever facts or skills not necessary for an official assessment are insignificant. European Schools in particular are shifting towards a standardization and harmonization of exams. This means that all exams are more or less equally structured and contain broadly the same content. Such a system opposes any kind of individuality or creativity, since students are forced to answer questions in an impersonal and strictly conformed way. The current highly standardized system compels students to act as emotionless machines rather than sophisticated human beings. Moreover, standardization of tests and exams doesn’t allow a profound teacher-student relationship, crucial in any learning experience, to flourish by jointly assessing the student’s work. Under the current system, the teacher, like the student, has to be detached and bureaucratic, correcting the student’s work in the way he\she has been instructed to.

Education isn’t something that should be applied in the exact same way to all students. And I’m not alone. Fortunately, there are some positive examples showing our education system could change for the better. Finland, for example, has a revolutionary educational system, founded on several values that I completely share. Sir Ken Robinson and many others are pushing for an education more designed to develop every student’s potential as much as possible. We, as students, are the protagonists of this process, and can strongly influence future changes. How? First of all, by promoting critical thinking and the qualities I previously listed. They should become the fundamentals of our education system. Then, as students and future parents, we should involve ourselves as much as possible by engaging in debates on education, policy-making, and down-to-earth teaching. Finally, we shall make society and politicians realize that we are not only students, but also complex, diverse, human beings. Not only chatters, but also learners. Not only mobile phone addicts, but also the future of our society. And we should be treated as such.

On the failures of our current educational system

Standard

” …if you want a job , you must be as unlike a machine as possible: creative, critical and socially skilled. So why are children being taught to behave like machines? (…) Governments claim to want to reduce the number of children being excluded from school. So why are their curriculums and tests so narrow that they alienate any child whose mind does not work in a particular way? ”

George Monbiot, ‘In an age of robots, schools are teaching our children to be redundant’, The Guardian