Thursday, January 14, 2016

Lake Woebegon Returns

A year ago I wrote this piece about signing up for high school courses. Entitled "Exceptional", the post examines questions about what choices are best for students. It concludes:

It's a fine line, isn't it? Like Lake Woebgon, in Howard County we want to believe that all our children are above average. But education should be about meeting the actual needs of the students. We should not be getting bogged down in a head game for adults. I'd like to hit a reset button on this one.

My daughter is now planning her schedule for the next three years. She doesn't feel a need to pile on AP courses, and we support that. There are a few she is interested in but none for her sophomore year. As she enters her choices into the school-provided scheduling app, it suggests helpfully, "You could be taking more rigorous courses. Have you considered signing up for AP classes?"

Oh, brother. Rigor, my favorite word.

I'm not the only one pondering the question of "how much is too much." In "Statistics vs. People", Candidate for Board of Education Kirsten Coombs writes:

Instead, HCPSS is pushing us to be Lake Wobegon - "Well, that's the news from Lake Wobegon, where all the women are strong, all the men are good looking, and all the children are above average."

I stopped my Mathematics education at Calculus II but all children are not above average. All children do, however, deserve to be treated as individuals in achieving their own goals, not those designed to make HCPSS look good.

There's Lake Woebegon again! And there, too, is the concern that the school system is pushing our children to be "exceptional" in the very same way, rather than helping students and their families make choices that honor individual needs and goals.

There's a lot about the public school system nationwide that harkens back to its roots as a way to turn out workers with just enough knowledge to provide the ever-growing factories of our country with qualified employees. Sometimes it seems as though the schools are factories unto themselves. The students are widgets. The teachers are placed along the production line to "deliver content" so that each widget will meet inspection criteria.

It feels like a numbers game. It is a numbers game. As a parent and a teacher I am interested in people who are questioning the benefit of protecting the production line. I've had these conversations with parents and with teachers. I'm looking forward to the upcoming race for Board of Education because I want to see where the other candidates stand on this issue.
What are the questions you want to ask?




From "Voices of parents and stakeholders in HCPSS" Facebook Page:

Another closed meeting has just been added to the Board of Ed schedule and it is for today at 2. We are not sure, but assume that they discussed the Superintendent's request for contract renewal at yesterday's closed meeting and will be voting today.


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