Whenever I hear someone use the word “real” to define anything, I’m reminded of Marge Piercy’s poem For the Young Who Want To. In it, she writes:
The real writer is one
who really writes. Talent
is an invention like phlogiston
after the fact of fire.
Work is its own cure. You have to
like it better than being loved.
I know that this is a poem about remaining true to one’s art- I read it for the first time on the call board in the University of Missouri’s Theatre Department during my undergraduate days. My perspective has shifted a bit since then, and now I see it through the lens of my current work as a school change agent. And since today is a Day of National Blogging for Real Education Reform, sponsored by AASA and ASCD, I’m spending a big chunk of today pondering those words. Real Reform. I can’t help wondering if real reform is reform that really…reforms things. Changes things. With purpose and integrity and with kids at its center. More of what Ted Sizer and Deb Meier and Linda Darling-Hammond and Jon Kozol would call “reform” and less of the Test Is Best dogma that has become the center of our national edu-nightmare.
Here’s a crazy idea:
Let’s create schools that are small enough for kids to be known well and then teach them both the content and the process skills they need to be good human beings and citizens of the world. Let’s have them demonstrate what they know it real contexts so that we really know what they know. Let’s view them as people first and students second. And, while we’re at it, lets assume that their parents are doing the best they can and not judge them for our perceptions of their shortcomings.