It's hard to imagine what could be more important than developing the critical thinking skills that facilitate our students' ability to discern truth from fake news. Media literacy may be in the standards, somewhere, but it's not on the test, so it gets short shrift in the classroom.

An urgent call to teach our children this: Making and appreciating art that reflects our collective joys and sorrows is part of what it means to be human. Art helps human movements and causes take flight.

I'm hardly the first person to say this, but we expect way too much from our schools, which are only as good as the steadfast people who show up to work in them. Schools can't re-order the mess we've made of our democracy or work individual miracles on every undernourished child.

Why do adults appoint themselves arbitrators, limiting and defining the voice and credibility of teens and young adults?

We live in a country that turns its back on our very future: our public schools, the precious children who attend them, and the teachers who sacrifice their energy, spirit and personal resources to keep these children safe and growing.

Using a range of materials, and, more important, creating hands-on experiences and interactions with big ideas within a discipline, helps students construct and apply knowledge.

What's the purpose of an arts education? Is it soaking up specific knowledge and polishing technical skills? Or are there other, more subtle benefits to studying the arts?

In my teaching career, I have had more than the usual number of opportunities to have outsiders (including media, education organizations, researchers and, yes, legislators) visit my classroom. And I can testify that most visitors don't come to learn something new from an hour or two walking in the teacher's shoes. They come with an agenda.

What tangible benefits have there been, for all of us, in categorizing children and offering enrichment to those with high potential?

Angst is not what teachers, parents and school leaders are looking for in their op-ed/blog reading. Inspiration, perhaps—or confirmation that their observations and ideas are shared. Thoughts about coping, adapting, revising—it's what teachers do, and have always done. But this has been an extraordinary year. The entire realm of education policy is up for grabs (and grabs is the correct word).

The opinions expressed in Teacher in a Strange Land are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.

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