Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Wounded by School

Kirsten Olsen author of 'Wounded by School'.

Today a friend of mine, who works with students the school system is unable to cope with, returned a book I loaned him.

There is no doubt, in my mind, that school is not aways a positive experience for all children. This is all the more so when one takes into account the current focus on achievement gaps, accountability demands, National Standards, obsessive testing ,and setting of targets, all concerned with a narrow range of academic abilities to the detriment of other equally important areas of learning. This accountability surveillance culture harms both creative students and teachers. As a result this distortion distracts teachers from the biggest problem schools face the one of disengagement of students and, as a result, many creative teachers are leaving the profession.

Kirsten Olsen writes powerfully in her book about students wounded by schooling. Wounded by the emphasis on conformity and compliance to centrally imposed demands. A system that increasingly rewarding conformity over creativity, a system that flattens students' interests and dampens down their differences.

Current accountability approaches will simply fail to produce the kinds of minds needed to thrive in the 21st Century. Such demands will sidetrack the good ideas in the 2007 New Zealand Curriculum. Instead schools will continue to shame, bore and disable many learners.

Creative teachers and creative schools are the only solution but they are swimming against the tide. It is vitally important that creative schools and teachers keep the joy of learning alive. Such teachers need to celebrate and value the diversity of their students rather than trying to fit them into demeaning politically imposed National Standards.

The Ministry of Education ought to be ashamed with their support for such failing policies.. They have lost the trust of the teaching profession.

Olsen's book is a powerful argument for transforming our schools. She believes current schools harm everyone by ignoring their individual gifts and talents and judging them by narrow criteria for success.

The below is poem by Olsen from the preface to her book.

A Learner's Bill Of Rights

Every learner has the right to know why they are learning something, why it is important, or may be important to them someday.

Every learner has the right to engage in questioning or interrogating the idea of 'importance' above.

Every learner has the right to be confused and to express the confusion openly, honestly, and without shame.

Every learner has the right to multiple paths to understanding a concept, and intellectual inclinations as completely as possible.

Every learner has the right to understand his or her own mind, brain wiring, and intellectual inclinations as completely as possible.

Every learner has the right to interrogate and question the means through which his or her learning is essential.
Every learner is entitled to some privacy in their imagination and thoughts.

Every learner has the right to take their own imagining and thinking seriously.

Kirsten Olsen 2008

'A bird does not sing because it has an answer
It sings because it has a tune'

Chinese Proverb.


Mac Stevenson said...

Well said Kirsten. Couldn't agree more. The sad thing is that it is all getting worse as we continue on the path to narrow outcomes and ridiculous targets.

Bruce Hammonds said...

Thanks Mac

You have to wonder what it is all about these days.It certainly isn't about the development of the gifts and talents of all students;ensuring all students have a positive learning identity.

Time to go?