In Search of the Healthy Education Diet
What is the right way to eat? What is the right way to teach? I am putting these two questions together for a reason: The approaches we have been using to stay fit, lose weight, and get healthy have a lot in common with the approaches we are using in education to improve teaching and learning. The result? The more we rely on science and research and standards—be they the Common Core State Standards, or otherwise—the less nutritious our education diets have become. A close look at how we get our food and how and why it has lost nutritional value offers a good analogy for what's going wrong in education.
The journalist Michael Pollan, who for many years has been studying our eating habits and the food system that supports them, identifies a number of problems at the root of what's happened to the contemporary diet. One of the major culprits—"nutritionism"—is our increasing reliance on science to dissect our food and tell us what to eat. As Pollan points out, the problem with this scenario is twofold: Food and what it offers is simply too complex to break down in a way that we can reassemble it and get everything our bodies need. And the search for antioxidants, vitamins, and other specific nutrients has opened the door for manufacturers to create edible food products with all the "right" ingredients, market them to us as healthy, and then cash in. This isn't nutrition, and it certainly isn't food.
There is a strong argument to be made that what we are serving up in our schools isn't food, either. Just as the problem with today's American diet begins with an overreliance on isolated nutrients, the problem with American education begins with an overreliance on isolated standards. We wrongly imagine that a curriculum based on a definitive cataloguing of skill sets will yield a rich education diet,...
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- English Teacher
- MVCSD, Mount Vernon, NY
- Executive Director
- Doctors Charter School, Miami Shores, FL
- Assistant Professor of Educational Administration
- Mississippi State University, Mississippi State, MS
- Senior Content and Curriculum Leader
- BrightBytes, San Francisco, CA
- Senior Curriculum Developer and Trainer
- Institute For Curriculum Services, San Francisco, CA