BY SHARON MARTIN
People who have never taken an education class want to fix education. They want to fix it, all right! They will pare it down to the basics, give students just enough education that they can sign their names, follow direct orders, and work for minimum wage. Except their kids, of course; they will go to private schools subsidized by our taxes.
Unless you’ve spent some time in a classroom as a teacher, you shouldn’t be trying to mess with what you don’t understand. Being a student doesn’t prepare you for teaching any more than being a patient prepares you for being a doctor. Being a dentist doesn’t qualify you to be Superintendent of Public Education, either.
Our dentist is promoting charter schools. Only 17% of charters outperform public schools. Is this really the fix we need? And what other fixes are we about to find ourselves in?
So-called education reformers are pushing a curriculum that eliminates what they consider nonessential. That includes music, which bolsters math skills, and art, which promotes problem solving and creativity. Now there’s a push to eliminate most fiction from school reading programs.
Some people confuse reading with decoding. Decoding lets readers unlock the mystery, lets them reach the goal of reading, comprehension. That’s where stories come in. Stories help us understand.
When it comes to decoding, about half of all students will learn to read any old way the teacher teaches the skills. Then, there are those will learn to read only if they are explicitly taught phonics. Another group learns in a mysterious way that combines listening, looking, memorizing, and imagining that we call Whole Language. There are a few who require one-on-one intervention to correct processing difficulties. Fewer still may never be able to process the written word, through no fault of their own or the teacher’s, but must rely on spoken language. No child should be left, however, to live a life barren of stories.
If we want our schools to serve students, we must demand funds to pay for reading specialists and librarians. We must stock libraries with the books that students want to read, both fiction and nonfiction. We must give students time to read. We must instill the love of story.
The money we spend on testing, those tests that eliminate and leave behind, can be better spent to insure that no student is left without stories. Stories make content across the curriculum accessible, and we have to insure that they remain in our schools.
– Sharon Martin lives in Oilton, OK and is a regular contributor to The Oklahoma Observer