Thursday, October 22, 2009

Future competencies - beyond the 3Rs!

The universe is continually evolving - as are societies and individuals.

Our populist government is rushing ahead to return us to the limitations of a Victorian education system.This is not to say literacy and numeracy are not important, they obviously are, but they are at best 'foundation skills' for more expansive learning competencies.
And if the government's intention is to find out, and focus on, those students who are falling behind ( the so called 'achievement tail') we know where these students are already. And, as well, we have very efficient national monitoring systems in place to uncover areas of weaknesses across the system.
It all boils down to simplistic political promises and tapping into, or creating, parent worries without any appreciation of the success, or otherwise, of national national standards ( testing) in other countries.
What we need as a country, if we are to thrive in these challenging times, is to develop the talents of every student in the school system. If we have a problem it is one children disengaging from learning ; the real problem is one of motivation - of providing exciting programmes across the curriculum . And these programmes need exciting and realistic literacy and numeracy programmes.
It was interesting to read future competencies as outlined by a professor from the Harvard Graduate School of Education .The professor identified five core competencies we should be helping our students acquire.
First is the ability to manage ambiguity. Managing ambiguity is the tension between rushing in to take the first thought that come to mind and, instead, manage or live with the ambiguity. Creative people can cope with messy situations without falling apart .
The second is for learners to take responsibility for their own actions.We need to develop students with the attitude that they have the ability to deal with it.
The third is finding and sustaining community.This competency is about connecting and interacting.About maintaining community and maintaining links with people. This is about recognizing that we are part of a larger community , not just our own private world.
The fourth is managing emotions. This means getting away from the idea that emotions and reason are separate; that they work in combination.
And finally managing technological change - learning to use the new tools to change the ways we do things.
These all sound very much like the Key Competencies of our new curriculum!
As Guy Claxton , the English educator has written, 'learnacy is more important that literacy and numeracy. Resilience , he writes , is an important part of all learning.
How we achieve such things with the national standards in literacy and numeracy is beyond me. It is ironic that, just as our school have been given a 21st Century new curriculum , the new government seem to want to drag us back to the past.
We live in strange times.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Qualities required for creativity by Claxton

Guy Claxton is aways worth a read.
It is important for anyone interested in developing and new ideas to appreciate the creative process. One thing is certain it is not as simple and as easy as many think. Studying creative individuals in any field involves dedication and good old fashioned practice and personal effort.

Guy Claxton proves some guidance. Creative people, Claxton writes, draw on a great deal of prior knowledge and experience. Creativity , writes, Guy Claxton ‘is an advanced form of learning that involves a finely tuned sympathy orchestra of mental attitudes and capabilities playing together in complicated rhythms… it builds on basic skills and habits of more familiar kinds of learning.’ Creativity, as such, is a long way away from the current formulaic ‘best practice’, ‘intentional teaching’ and ‘success criteria’ which all too often crushes student creativity.

Claxton outlines eight main ‘sections of the learning orchestra’ that contribute to creativity. Many will recognize his ideas as another form of an inquiry approach. All begin with the letter ‘I.’

The first is learning through Immersion
involving steeping yourself in experiences. Creative people are good noticers.

The second is learning through Inquisitiveness. To be creative you have to have a questioning disposition and be able to tolerate the not-knowing that goes along with this. This is what the poet Keats called ‘negative capability’ the ability to ‘be in doubt... without any irritable reaching after fact and reason.’

The fourth is Investigation: the skills of research. ‘You have to know what to do when you don’t know what to do’, as Jean Piaget puts it.

The fifth, sixth and seventh are Imagination, Intuition and Intellect. Imagination to seek out possibilities; Intuition to let things just come to you; nod Intellect, knowing when to put them all together. The eight, oddly enough, is Imitation .All creative people, says Claxton, stand on the shoulders of learning of other people. Some call this ‘creative swiping’! We all pick up our ‘habits of mind’ from those who with whom we collaborate. Claxton quotes Albert Einstein who said, ‘the only serious method of education is to be an example’ and Einstein adds ruefully, ‘if you can’t help it be warning example’. Claxton writes, ‘like all coaches, a creative coach has to walk the talk.’

These qualities provide a challenge for teachers and schools.

It is idealistic to expect that schools will suddenly become creative and place their focus on developing every child’s gifts and talents as there is still a strong sense of conservatism in education to overcome. The power and pull of the status quo will ensure that it will require teachers who are prepared to take the necessary risks and, more importantly, courageous principals who are able to create the conditions to protect such teachers. Ideally creative schools ought to network with others to share their expertise. Creating such networks (but not controlling them) could be a creative role for the Ministry. A study of creative people in any field shows that challenging accepted thinking is a risky business but also that it is to such individuals that we need to look to provide real breakthroughs.

With the publication of the 2007 New Zealand Curriculum, not withstanding the recent intention of the new government to introduce reactionary national standards, the scene is set for another burst of creativity. The standards may well ensure that we do not get into another bandwagon scenario? Creativity ought not to be too easy! Some are saying it will be like returning the excitement of the 60s but hopefully this time doing it right. Creative teaching is also encouraged by those calling for a more personalized approach to learning as against the current standardized ‘one size fits all’.
Only time will tell if school have the courage to take a lead in developing creativity in their students - or as Sir Ken Robinson has written not killing it off. Robertson believes that in the future creativity will be as important as literacy and numeracy.
Will someone tell our Minister of education!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Rip van Winkle would be pleased with National Standards

At least Rip would feel at home in many secondary schools!
All is not well in our current education systems as more and more students fail to leave the ‘confident, connected, creative life long learners’ equipped with the necessary future competencies, our new New Zealand Curriculum asks of schools to deliver. Failure seems endemic in educational systems worldwide. The new curriculum provides a ‘more informed vision’ of what could be but our current system, particularly our secondary schools, remains caught up in a web of educational thinking that was set in place over a 100 years ago. The assembly line mentality of such schools needs to give way to more enlightened ideas.

If Rip van Winkle were to awaken in the 21stC after a hundred year snooze he would be utterly bewildered by what he would see. Every aspect of the world would baffle him until he found his way into a secondary school. There he would know exactly where he was – ‘we used to have these in 1909’- although her might be a bit confused with electronic whiteboards and computers, the bells and fragmented transmission style learning would be familiar.

Obviously secondary schools are not frozen in time it only seems like this when compared to every other aspect of life. Kids still spend most of their time sitting in rows, listening to teachers drone on, using outdated textbooks, shifting from class to class as if in some factory assembly line.

For many students a yawning gap (with the emphasis on yawning) separates them from the reality of the world outside. Bill Gates has written that American high schools are obsolete – missing is relevance, reality and rigor.

In 2007 the Ministry of Education introduced a new innovative curriculum that has the potential to begin a dramatic transformation of our schools but it could be ‘stillborn’ as the new government has diverted focus to implementing the failed concept of national standards. Rip van Winkle would be pleased.

We need to focus our attention on what our students need to thrive in the future; to move from a standardized mass education to a personalized approach that develops the gifts and talents of all our students. Literacy and numeracy, as important as they are, are a meager minimum - ‘foundation skills’ - at best they are means to an end so as to allow all students to become ‘active seekers, user and creators of their own knowledge’. Future students must leave with the initiative to think ‘out of the box’ as the future success will place a priority on creativity and innovation. Such students will have to know how to manage all the overflowing information available. They will need good people skills to be able to work well with others and with people of different cultures.

Can schools, developed in Rip van Winkle’s time to educate students for an industrial age, able to make the shift to future requirements? It doesn’t look good so far. Schools will have to dramatically change or risk being bi-passed entirely by the use of modern information technology. The pressure is on to change but the resistance is strong. History, as Galileo’s round earth ideas shows, changes over time but time is one thing that is not on our side, as sustainability issues indicate.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Time for a transformational vision?

As Einstein said 'Unthinking respect for authority is the greatest enemy of truth.'
We are a battle between populist politics of national standards and creative education. Time to speak out!

It is at the ‘edge’ that all new learning occurs but it is not always a comfortable place to be. New ideas, in any area of life, are by their nature unsettling and to those in power can even be seen as heretical. Mind you, nothing wrong with heresy –all it means is having an alternative point of view.

I think now is the time for a bit of courageous heresy as the current government is determined to impose National Standards in schools no matter the professional opposition and even though NZ currently does well in International literacy and numeracy testing. The government is well aware that National Standards have a wonderful populist appeal, along with crushing boy racers cars and locking people up in prison. Interestingly NZ is currently second internationally to the USA for incarcerating prisoners – and we even have 20% more per head of population in prison than our neighbours the Australians. The government believes there is a connection between literacy, numeracy and imprisonment – this may be true but it is just too simplistic.

The implementation of National Standards will move NZ school away from the creative future that our ‘new New Zealand Curriculum was heading towards and will lead us back into the restrictive ‘Three Rs’ mentality of Victorian times. This reactionary shift, along with bulging prisons, will be the legacy of our current conservative government.

No one is arguing against literacy and numeracy although, if you listen to media commentators and newspaper editors, you would think no one teaches reading and maths these days. If anything the true is the opposite – literacy and numeracy in many schools have all but ‘gobbled up the entire curriculum’.

Thoughtful schools need to argue that literacy and numeracy need to be seen as ‘foundation skills’ necessary to allow all students to realize their gifts and talents and, in the process, their confidence to become ‘lifelong learners’. If schools are to be judged solely by their scores in literacy and numeracy (this is the spectre of ‘league tables’) this will divert teacher’s time and energy and narrow the curriculum. The argument ought to be that the real need for schools is to develop exciting and challenging programmes to tap into and amplify every student’s talents and for this to include literacy and numeracy. To judge achievement solely on reading and maths will be to demean many otherwise creative students. Do parents, if they were well informed, want this? Don’t they want schools to capture their children’s imagination and individual creativity? Have we asked them?

To develop innovative programmes, and to resist the temptation to narrow their curriculum, teachers will need courageous leadership from their principals and their collective organizations.

The alternative to inevitability of narrowing the curriculum is to put faith in the developing of exciting, authentic programmes to tap into and amplify all students’ innate desire to learn. There is no shortage of research to back up such a creative personalized approach to learning. New Zealand has been always well served by creative teachers, past and present, to provide inspiration for schools to follow. Research shows students engaged in such programmes do well on standardized testing. Powerful learners, driven by a need to explore challenging areas of interest in depth, become powerful readers as they ‘see the point’ of learning to read and do maths. In contrast the Ministry apologists, presenting the government’s position as part of their ‘consultation’ process, have little research to back up their hollow words and overseas examples fail to impress. This is simply populist politics determining policy.

To develop creative schools will require intellectual courage (or heresy) by principals and teachers. Without courageous leadership the vision of the ‘new’ New Zealand Curriculum, of developing all students as ‘confident creative life long learners’, is at risk. It is important for all to appreciate that the ‘new’ curriculum does not neglect literacy and numeracy but it does requires such learning to be achieved through meaningful contexts.

I recently read an enlightening paper by Andy Hargreaves called ‘The Fourth Way of Change: Towards an Age of Inspiration and Sustainability 2009’. Hargreaves’ paper is not only just ‘from the edge’ it also provides a ‘helicopter view’ of the past few decades to put things into perspective

His paper outlines the development of the ‘First Way’ – the creativity and freedom of the 60s remembered by some as the ‘golden age of education.’ Success or failure in those days depended on the ‘lottery’ of creative teachers and principals. As economic conditions worsened in the 70 and 80s a ‘market forces’ ideology was imposed on schools based on competition and choice resulting in standardized curriculums with their strands, levels, and the ‘measurable’ objectives, we are now leaving. This ‘Second Way’, with its almost incoherent curriculums, was found wanting in practice and ‘morphed’ into the ‘Third Way’ of the last few years with its more focused ‘targets’ and Ministry formulaic ‘best practice’ contracts. As a result of the ‘second and third ways’ there has been an erosion of professionalism with principals becoming more managers than leaders, and teachers more technicians following prescribed ‘best practices’. Education has been well and truly captured by a corrosive surveillance and accountability culture. Schools have learnt to be complaint rather than creative.

The current government’s National Standards, with their requirements to pass on data to the Ministry, is a throwback to this controlling agenda of the ‘Third Way’. Schools, it would seem, have exchanged a ‘nanny state’ for an ‘Orwellian ‘big brother’ environment. The relentless emphasis on standardized testing in literacy and numeracy is an agenda which taps into the uniformed general public’s desire to return to the nostalgia of past certainties.

Hargreaves ‘Fourth Way’ is a ‘view from the edge’. He is calling for schools to be more innovative and creative. To succeed, he writes, will require the articulation of an inspiring and moral and sustainable purpose for education rather than a narrow literacy and numeracy one. To achieve this, Hargreaves believes, it is necessary to have a ‘Great Public Debate’ about the future of education in, say, 2020. This transformational approach, rather than compliance to the governments top down imposed standards, is the future schools and their communities should fight for. Hargreaves suggests the need for networks of like-minded schools, and the development of partnerships with parents and students, to work together and to share ideas; tapping the expertise that lies within school communities.

I am with Hargreaves. We need to develop a new coalition between the wider community and the schools. Education needs to be seen as the responsibility of all – not just to be determined by the short term vision of politicians and for the ‘achievement tail’ to be solved by schools alone.

Hargreaves sees creative teachers as the ‘ultimate arbiters of change’ and the key to his ‘Fourth Way’. ‘The classroom door’, he writes, should be seen as a ‘golden gateway’ rather than a ‘drawbridge’. Our new curriculum is such a ‘golden gateway’ but will only be realized if teachers have the courage to stay with it. Unfortunately the imposition of the National Standards has the potential to encourage the opposite – for teachers and schools to ‘pull the drawbridge’ up for their own survival and, in the process, narrowing the ‘rich’ educational opportunities our students deserve.

The ‘Fourth Way’, based on teachers and their communities creating teaching and learning programmes, offers a creative alternative and a real opportunity for the expression of professional leadership. This is in direct in contrast to the demeaning current depressing scenario of compliance.

Such a transformational vision is definitely a powerful view from ‘the edge’ but, as Einstein wrote, ‘Unthinking respect for authority is the greatest enemy of truth.’

Are school leaders, and their communities, up to the challenge?

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Reclaiming the joy of learning

Painting from the cover of Elwyn Richardson's book 'In The Early World' re-published by the NZCER.
The ideas of Elwyn have been a strong influence in my own thinking particularly in trying to place curiosity, creativity, environmental awareness and imagination at the centre of learning. Once someone said I was ,'locked into the 60s' ( when this book was published). At the time I reacted against this but now I no longer mind. Ever since the 'experts' have imposed national curriculums on schools creativity has been at risk. Recently someone said ( but not to me) that my recent book was old fashioned . No apologies from me. The best of education is as much back to the future as it is reaching forwards. Only the status quo is unacceptable - and the imposition of National standards. We need to do the 60's again but this time properly!
It seems proper when thinking of creativity our classrooms to reflect on the writings of 1950s pioneer creative teacher Elwyn Richardson. His ideas are to be found in his inspirational book ‘In the Early World’ first published by the NZCER in 1964 (reprinted 1994).

In the forward to Elwyn’s publication John Melser writes that the book, ‘gives a vivid picture of a school full of vitality in the pursuit of values deeply rooted in the children’s lives and capable of serving them lifelong’. ‘Oruaiti School’, Melser continues, ‘functioned as a community of artists and scientists who turned a frank and searching gaze on all that came within their gambit. Curiosity and emotional force led them to explore the natural world and the world of their feelings…..Studies and activities grew out of what preceded them. New techniques were discovered and skills practiced as each achievement set new standards.’

From such environmental inquiries Elwyn’s students learnt answers, Melser writes, to the question ‘who am I? They gained respect for their and others achievements, taking great pride in their craftsmanship or artistry.’ It was a form of disciplined personalized learning set in a ‘community of artists and scientists.’ Elwyn’s work was based on an awareness of the natural world involving careful scientific observation and a demand for personal and excellence of their ideas in whatever medium used.

Elwyn’s role in achieving personal and artistic excellence was a delicate and encouraging one, always humbly ready to learn from the children. Elwyn has written elsewhere that ‘the children were his teachers as much as he was theirs’. The results were certainly not the standardization of product that one sees today; the result of over teaching. Believing in high standards to Elwyn each new creative product mattered as much as the process.

Elwyn, along with all the other creative teachers I have had the privilege of working with, responded to all children’s efforts and achievements with sincere interest and pride. His book is a testament to his love of children’s ideas and imagery and, the respect he gave their work, respect that was returned in kind to Elwyn. Elwyn gave his students Melser writes, ‘an opportunity to reach their full heights as artists, as craftsmen, as scientists, and as students’ in a ‘community of mutual respect’.

Creative teaching is not new it has just been sidetracked.

It is this vision of creative teaching that has inspired me and one reinforced by the all the creative teachers I have seen over the years. Creative teaching ideas though have a long history leading back to such writers as John Dewey who wrote about similar ideas in early years of the 20th C in such books as ‘Education Through the Arts’ and ‘Education through Experience.’ In the United Kingdom, after the dark days of World War 2, innovative teachers made a break from the arid formalism of pre-war days, and developed child centred programmes leading to official approval expressed in the 1967 Plowden Report. In the US an ‘open education’ movement added to the impetus. Ironically official approval was a kiss of death as teachers scrambled to get on to the bandwagon. Creativity it seems works best when working for a change. In New Zealand, under the leadership of the then Director-General of Education Dr Beeby, similar ideas were being encouraged – ideas that were also soon under attack from conservatives but not before creative teaching was at least established. Richardson was working in these times. Creative ideas were spread throughout New Zealand by means of art advisers led by their charismatic National Director Gordon Tovey. The art advisers ran Related Arts courses, spreading the idea of integrated learning. I was lucky enough to become involved in the mid 60s and during this time assisted a local teacher to develop the first six week integrated unit in our province based around exploring the life in a local stream.
And today our reactionary Education Minister is dismantling the last of the Art advisers to focus on literacy and numeracy not realizing the problem is engaging learners not measuring them! 'Learnacy', to quote Guy Claxton, 'is more important than literacy'. And Sir Ken Robinson who says, 'creativity is as important as literacy or numeracy. What is really required is to return to the approach of Elwyn Richardson and to integrate it with the power of ICT.
The Taranaki approach to creativity.

In the 70.80s group of Taranaki teachers became well known for what was called ‘environmental’ or ‘quality’ education. Encompassing many of the above ideas the teachers involved believed strongly in making use of the immediate environment, and the need to value effort and perseverance so as to achieve quality work. A particular feature was the stimulating room environments featuring displays of student’s research, language, observational and creative art. Key phrases used by such teachers were the ‘need to do fewer things well’ and to ‘slow the pace of students work’ so as to allow time teachers to come ‘alongside the learner’ to provide assistance. Aspects of this quality learning are still to be seen in local schools today but now as whole school approach. One important idea creative teacher’s hold is that process of achieving success is itself a powerful transformational experience – providing such experiences is the challenge for teachers.

Real change depends on creative teachers.

From my experience, then and now, I believe that all real lasting educational change will only come from such creative classroom teachers particularly if it is a whole school ‘learning community’ approach. Unfortunately, since the late eighties, the climate has changed against such creativity as we entered recent decades of standardized curriculums and imposed compliance requirements. It is reassuring to still find creative teachers working away ‘under cover’ throughout New Zealand and it is to them that we must look for a creative revival.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Tapping the learners default model of learning.

The students in this class are following a river from source to sea ( possible in our part of NZ) and are following up their research questions and, as well, with sensitive teaching, making full use of mathematics to measure and calculate, poetic writing, drawing and art. This approach to teaching builds on the natural default mode of the students. It is based on in depth learning; doing fewer things well This is the type of learning that has been lost with the emphasis on covering content.

There is no doubt far too many students do not ‘achieve’ as well as we would like in our education system.

Populist politicians, their supporters, and the media see the answer in simplistic terms – what is required are National Standards ( tests) to identify the students at risk and to focus teachers to correct the situation. Like all simplistic solutions it is not as simple as such people would think.

The conventional wisdom sees that teachers and students deserve most of the blame and that a little bit of ‘market forces’ (pressure to improve or face the consequences) will do the trick. Test. Rank. Reward. Punish. Publicize. Penalize.

The irony is that we already know which students are failing and the suggested cure will be worse than the problem – it certainly will narrow the curriculum even more than it currently is but, worse still, it will put at risk teacher creativity and the unrealized potential of the new curriculum. The National Standards will become the curriculum!

And all this totally ignores how students learn.

Students are born with an innate desire to make sense of their experiences. This is their default mode and it is putting this mode at risk which is creating the so called achievement tail and the eventual disengagement from learning.

There is a lot of talk about complexity theory, or system thinking that seems to have bypassed school totally yet it is the system that young learners make use of from birth. Not for them the need to fragment learning into subjects – they simply make use of whatever is required to solve their problems. Only, it seems, do scientists and artists retain this facility. Young children, artists and scientists are drawn by their intense curiosity and need to express what they discover. For such learners there is no such thing as a need for motivation or any worries about failure – these concerns only begin when adults interfere with their learning process.

They are system thinkers, creating connections as they learn; continually revisiting and revising their theories about how the world works. It is a process of enlightened trial and error – the essence of life long learning.

Trouble happens when this systems approach to learning clashes with the conventional subject fragmentation of the school system. The students who fail are those who cannot cope with such fragmentation, or more basically, lose faith in their personal systems of learning that, up until formal learning, has suited them well.

At school they have to achieve according to what adults presume they ought to be able to do. Many children arrive at school with the appropriate experiences to cope with school in place, and obviously succeed, but at the price of their individual creativity. For others, with less school orientated backgrounds, it is the beginning of losing faith in their own ability to learn for themselves.

Imposing National Standards will not help such students –what is required is for adults to appreciate how children learn. This is the real challenge. Teachers need to appreciate that their efforts to assist learners can both help or hinder.

The problem with ‘failing’ students is one of motivation – motivation they had before they reached school. Their intrinsic motivation is replaced by this thing called the curriculum. It is the curriculum that is causing poor achievement. The educational reformers have been immersed in the traditional curriculum all their lives – they literally can’t imagine alternatives to it. As the saying goes the fish are the last to discover water.

There is already a curriculum available for teachers to tap into –every student brings with them their own lives, their curiosities, their concerns , their questions, their sensory impressions, their theories, their environment, all available to be utilized, amplified and extended by the teachers. In the past creative teachers did exactly this. It was the bread and butter of innovative primary teachers until curriculums were imposed – particularly the incoherent learning objective curriculum of the 80s Today the early education Emilio Reggio schools of Milan continue this tradition as does the writings of James Beane for middle school students.

In this emergent and personalized learning approach traditional subject area are not simply dismissed they are still vital but must be used in context of the child’s learning. By means of internal motivation children will want to talk about, write and use number to describe and express what they see, imagine, do and feel. If they see the point of writing , reading and maths they will happily make use of the power of each to express what it is they want to say or do. As mentioned this was the basis of the child centred learning of the 60s – until ‘our’ curriculum got in the way. And of course music, dance, drama and the visual arts, and modern ICT, all will be used if students see the point, or if it is to their learning advantage. It is a world of connections and relationships – which is the basis of complexity theory or systems thinking.

As system thinkers, students use whatever they need to satisfy their curiosity or to solve a problem; they will happily cross traditional subject barriers. They come to school (well all except those whose experiences have been less than wonderful) as ‘confidant, connected, active life long learners’, already able to ‘seek, use and create their own knowledge’. This is the vision of the New Zealand Curriculum. The challenge it is not so much to develop these future competencies but instead not to crush them.

National standards will distort this natural way of learning. So will well intentioned ‘best practice’ teaching’ based on ‘expert teachers carefully shepherding their students to achieve outcomes defined by external criteria, pre planned teaching intentions and required evidence of success. Such formulaic teaching will develop competent conformist learners. Standards simply standardize and create winners and losers; all a time when creativity and talent development is at a premium.

Those children who currently succeed under this imposed technocratic model of learning may well be competent but they certainly won’t be creative. And, as well, we will still have our ‘achievement tail’. Problems of boredom, discipline, disengagement and burnt out teachers will still be the inevitable consequences.

The role of the teachers is to help every student recognize and amplify their natural gifts and talents and their ability to work with others. This is a creative and hopeful challenge. It will require teachers who will still to know their content so as to provide help as required; but ‘just in time rather than just in case’.

Students have an organic ‘system’ of learning hardwired into their brains. The teachers role is, as Jerome Bruner has written, ‘the ‘canny art of intellectual temptation’. We need to expose our students to all the forms of learning that make us human. As teachers we have to surface, acknowledge and cultivate our students’ knowledge making frameworks. This desire to learn is one of our deepest drives. That this love of learning is lost to many students need not be the case if we changed our own minds about learning and worked with their default mode of learning.

It is our curriculum based fragmented thinking that is the problem. A curriculum that ignores the natural thinking capabilities that students bring with them contributing to school failure – but who is failing who? It is conventional wisdom that is the problem. Learning is not simply passed on, and tested, it is created individually by each student. This is the basis of constructivist teaching.
We ought to be developing the full potential of all our students – not judging them by their success at curriculum that holds so little meaning for so many students.

Who would want to learn if one can't see the point of it?