Books: Readings

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The respected educational researcher John I. Goodlad, expands on his previous work on teachers and schools in Educational Renewal. True "renewal,'' he writes, requires the continuous examination of institutional purpose, roles, and responsibilities. Below, the director of the University of Washington's Center for Educational Renewal cites the enculturation of the young as a primary mission of schools:

To ask schools to develop the best of human traits in each young person and to do this by providing compelling encounters with sound knowledge and thought is to expect of them a great deal--especially when circumstances press for processing students like raw materials to serve utilitarian ends. To ask schools to join with other agencies and those agencies to join with schools in order to insure a strong network of support services seems to run against the grain of the independent, self-reliant individuality seen to characterize the nation's past strength. But the challenge now is to deal with new frontiers that have to do with human relationships, multicultural understanding and appreciation, collaborative enterprise, and the making of a self-renewing polity. The most demanding political responsibility is to be a good citizen. The individuality likely to be most valued in the future will be marked by the successful blending of personal maturity and a continuing contribution to the public context that shapes personality. Education is at the heart of it all. Schools, however good, are not sufficient.

There is no question that schools could and should be much better. And there is no question that schools would do their appropriate work better if home, place of worship, health and social services, and other agencies would do their job better and in concert. But even if our schools were better, they could not insure either the individual maturity or the polity necessary to a just, robust, renewing, democratic state.

We are so fixed on schools as the source of our enlightenment and well-being that when we contemplate becoming a better nation or stronger individually, we turn first to schools. We prod and poke them and, even while proclaiming that they do their job poorly, ask them to do it longer. And even as we point to Japan and other countries as models of the longer schooling we would emulate, they are engaged in shortening the school week. We ignore the strong, supportive family of the Japanese child and the delightful art, music, crafts, science, and recreational after-school programs of the Chinese (designed to compensate for the absence of working parents until late in the afternoon). Until we apply ourselves to using the present hours of schooling in more educationally productive ways, the only excuse for a longer day, week, or year is to extend the baby-sitting function to accommodate the changing patterns of family life. But there are other ways to engage the time of children and youths usefully than to add minutes to the time of present classes or provide three or four replicas of today's classes on Saturday mornings.

If all the contingencies in the environment provided educational encounters related to their ongoing functions, we would have educative communities. There are villages in India and Africa where the first duty of all adults is to raise the young successfully in the culture. When a child approaches the blacksmith at work, for example, it is the latter's unhesitating responsibility to introduce the child to what he is doing. The villagers raise not only their children but all children within their daily scope of activities. This process of enculturation is truly education through paideia (that is, by virtue of the educative community).

While this casual approach to education may be sufficient for people at the margins of technological advancement and world markets, it is clearly insufficient for most of the countries of the world, including our own. But there is a powerful message for us: We should assign to our schools only the cultivation of traits that require for their development years of cumulative attention in carefully designed, systemic curricula. Here is where Theodore Sizer is right on target in proposing that less is more: curricula organized around key concepts and themes that are deepened over the years by coming at them through varied instructional procedures. The required pedagogy recognizes and seeks to bring into play those multiple intelligences of which Howard Gardner writes so convincingly. Students are intensively engaged in making meanings rather than in picking through the textbook garbage for clues to the tests they are about to take.

Reprinted with permission from Educational Renewal: Better Teachers, Better Schools, by John I. Goodlad. Copyright 1994 by Jossey-Bass Inc. Publishers. All rights reserved.

In Who Will Teach the Children?, Harriet Tyson, a writer, researcher, and former senior associate for the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, examines what is right and wrong with American teacher education. Her report on five reform-conscious schools of education and one state system debunks some common myths, but points, as in the excerpt below, to persisting barriers to change:

Many students in today's schools of education seem to be coming out of a time warp. The passive, rigid, xenophobic young ladies who want a socially respectable career, or whose parents may have insisted that they "major in something practical,'' are still with us in 1992. What they and their parents do not know is that their images of classroom and school life are out of date. In increasing numbers of communities, teaching is more like being a Peace Corps volunteer than being a modern-day version of "Our Miss Brooks.''

Teaching work requires flexibility, not rigidity. Merely to hold their ground against the anti-educational forces all around, today's teachers need to be tactfully assertive, not passive. It requires a well-developed self to understand and sometimes stare down the brazenly disrespectful students found nearly everywhere today, and to retain a sense of humor and detachment. It takes a real grown-up, not somebody's aimless or sheltered daughter or son, to see the good in all students and call forth their idealism and effort.

Teaching in 1992 requires a person who genuinely enjoys and seeks to learn from the multicultural mix that the United States has become. To lack those qualities is to conspire in the failure of the schools to teach children who are not white and not middle class. Even the smartest, best-trained teachers will not succeed without an authentic belief that all students can learn, and a spirited willingness to learn about their students.

Michelle Wallace, an African-American professor and writer, has said that "the educational system, which doesn't take seriously their [African-Americans'] educational potential, especially as writers, sabotages them from kindergarten to college. Since the Civil Rights Revolution, even more so. Either what they have to learn turns them off, or they're turned off by the spirit in which it is offered.''

In very large numbers, risk-avoiding graduates of teaching colleges take no teaching jobs at all rather than jobs where conditions vary from "Leave It to Beaver'' expectations. Even if they find teaching jobs in predominantly white, middle-class towns or suburban enclaves, they are probably not the right kind of people to be teaching even those students, who will need to become more flexible and more knowledgeable about the peoples of the whole world if they are to prosper in a polyglot democracy and a global economy.

The reform movement's emphasis on raising the intellectual qualifications of future teachers is warranted. There is a smarter group of people coming into teacher education--but academic smarts are not enough. In many places, the training of teachers is more expert--but technical expertise is not enough. The teachers in today's schools need to be street-smart, courageous, and grounded in the moral ideals of the American experiment. If they are not, then they probably should not be allowed to graduate from schools of education.

Reprinted with permission from Who Will Teach the Children: Progress and Resistance in Teacher Education, by Harriet Tyson. Copyright 1994 by Jossey-Bass Inc. Publishers. All rights reserved.

Vol. 13, Issue 32

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