Graduation 2009: from, to where?

The return of late-night drag-racing on my street and broken alcohol bottles on beaches tells me it’s that time of year again: graduation. Another orbit of the sun, another group of kids spilling out of local schools, many near-delirious with their new-found freedom and a view of the open-road called summer or life, with nary a teacher or assignment in sight.

My teen-age daughter and many friends are among those bolting from a local high school and steering straight-on to sweet summer. She and her peer group achieved top grades but I am left to wonder – what does her graduation from grade 10 signify? Has her time and effort resulted in her being ‘much better educated’ than, say, last September.

From my perspective as an observing (and little-interfering) parent my answer is no, I sure don’t think so. Though I do know my daughter to be intelligent and clever, for the most part, her schooling experiences since last September have been characterized by tedium and mediocre teaching and generally banal leadership that I trace to the school district office.

Part of my conclusion arises by noting what was excluded from my daughter’s education this past 9 and a half months:

– she had a total of one teacher using internet-asssisted technology, albeit very simplistically, to assist course delivery. This is not unique to her school, in fact, it’s quite clear that many (most?) teachers continue to eschew technology to assist in their respective teaching responsibilities. What world are they living in?

– by and large course delivery relied on ‘traditional’ teaching methodologies; if this ‘horse and buggy’ method of teaching were so effective I wouldn’t criticize it, but it’s not. It defaults to a methodology driven by ponderous text-books, rote memorization, a skewed emphasis favouring linguistic, rational and mathematical intelligence, and is capped by simplistic, time-wasting multiple choice exams. This did NOT prepare my daughter to be a more effective, mindful and flexible self-directed learner, where, according to author and “e-learning” guru Jay Cross, the future of effective human learning begins and ends.

– this was an extraordinary year of political activity in this region, featuring 3 elections and the historic US election last fall; almost no mention was made of any of these experiences in her classes, by her teachers or school leaders. Is it any wonder young people feel disenfranchised from civic and larger political processes? Not to me. This is where the pump is primed or the well runs dry.

As when I was a student and observed when working as a conventional school teacher, the educational environment as determined by individual teachers was of paramount importance in the overall result for my daughter this past year. She says there were times when her teachers created the environment in which much inspired learning resulted for her and her friends. But tedium definitely beat out ‘Ah-Hah!’ by a long shot.

This needs to change.

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