Educational Conversation

Voice Card  -  Volume 27  -  John Card Number 6  -  Tue, Feb 2, 1993 2:56 AM

This is ONE OF 3 responses to VC 27 Larry 16 ("What's right?")...


I agree with all five of your ideas. The only one that gave me some pause was number four, schools as full service child centers. Up to a point it seems like a great idea and, as you suggest, might even save money by reducing unnecessary duplication. But is there a limit to the services we can afford to provide? Is it possible to go too far with this idea? (I'm honestly not sure... What do the rest of you think?)

I have two more ideas/questions to kick around. The first involves teaching credentials and is directed at everyone.

I find it somewhat troubling that, with my MA in English, I am allowed to teach composition in universities but NOT in secondary schools. And I sometimes worry that many of the people who ARE allowed to teach (those who have endured years of bureaucratic hoop-jumping to earn their credentials) might be too homogenious, conventional, and bland in their thinking. Aren't institutionalized certification processes too much like factories? Don't they tend to filter out creative and unconventional people?

Granted, some kind of process is needed. There is a lot teachers need to know about teaching, especially teaching children, and parents will demand (and certainly deserve) some kind of standards. But don't you think there's a danger here, that by restricting teaching to those who fit a standard mold, we inevitably deprive our children of the kind of growth that can only come from exposure to a variety of unorthadox and contradictory adults from all walks of life? Is there room for some kind of compromise here?

Maybe the bulk of a child's education should be handled by state certified teachers. But I think it would be interesting to assemble of a diverse pool of talented, intelligent UNCERTIFIED people and give kids access to these people on a limited but regular basis, say one hour a day or one hour a week.

I suspect the central problem with this idea is not with the certified teachers (who would probably welcome the help if it didn't threaten their own situation), or even the parents (although some parents will be angry when their kids pick up unconventional ideas); the central problem would be assembling the pool.

Perhaps we could draw on the ranks of the unemployed, the slackers, the elderly, even the homeless. If Clinton implements his scheme of paying off student loans with public service, maybe some of the service could take place in the classroom. Could a week of teaching be assigned at random like jury duty?

What I'm trying to do here is to introduce a few wild cards into the deck and give it a good shuffle. As a writer I mistrust ALL systems, however well-intentioned they may be. I think a little anarchy, judiciously applied, is healthy in the long run. What do YOU think? And if you were asked to teach classes for one day on ANY subject at all, what would YOU talk about?

My second question is directed at Larry (although I would be interested to hear other responses as well).

Larry, you and Diane used to talk about forming your own private school. Suppose that tomorrow you won the lottery and decided to drop everything else and build your own school from the ground up. What would your school be like?

I assume you would have thematic teaching and a three-month-on, one-month-off schedule. But are there things you could do in a private school that you couldn't get away with in a public school? Any radical ideas you would want to try? Feel free to daydream...