Chalk it up to January blahs, but I just can’t get excited about this new coalition and its call for more imaginative and creative instruction in the public schools. According to the group’s recent poll, a solid 30 percent of voters — the so-called “Imagine Nation” — say “incorporating building the capacities of the imagination into core courses is extremely critical.”
And what’s wrong with that, oh bilious blogger? Nothing. Nothing at all. It’s just that, well
Isn’t it obvious?
“Educators get it. Students get it. The public gets it,” said John Wilson, executive director of the National Education Association, speaking at a news conference in Washington, D.C., last week “We hope the policymakers get it.”
I fear, like those at the press conference, that No Child Left Behind has so pushed instruction — especially instruction for disadvantaged kids — to the “drill and kill” side of the spectrum that it will take years to undo the damage. However, speakers at the press conference say there’s a large constituency that will back candidates who support more enlightened instruction.
Trouble is, Mr. Pessimist points out, there’s no NCLB militating for more imaginative and creative classrooms. At least not yet, and I don’t know how you would devise one.
It seems the pendulum swings this way and that, and never stops in the middle. Are you for “imagination and creativity” or “Core Knowledge?” “Direct instruction” or “project-based learning?” Well, can’t you be for all of them? For example, I could imagine a U.S. history course in which students would be taught the basics of what’s happened, from colonial America onward. They would even know a few names and dates! There would even be lectures! Part of the class would be devoted to this teacher-directed instruction, but there would also be class discussion of compelling themes in U.S. history. Finally, students would have the chance to pursue subjects that interested them in greater depth, in the form of projects, performances, and research papers.
The key is finding teachers who could do this kind of teaching. And, studies show, it’s disadvantaged children who have less access to them. For example, a University of Missouri study released this month found that “67.6 percent of high-socioeconomic status students are taught by highly qualified teachers, compared with 53.2 percent of low-socioeconomic status students.”
“This opportunity gap of 14.4 percent is significantly larger than the international average of 2.5 percent,” the report says.
So it’s not just a problem of educational theory and practice: It’s a problem of equity as well.
I applaud the coalition for pushing for more creative and innovating classrooms in the public schools, and for championing the arts and music, which are so vital to a well-rounded education. I just feel it’s got a big job ahead.
Lawrence Hardy, Senior Editor