To the Editor:
As a person who left education almost 20 years ago, after having worked in areas such as critical-thinking skills, content knowledge, outcomes-based education, and quality schools, I had mixed feelings as I read Paul E. Peterson’s “Finding the Student’s ‘Price Point’” (Commentary, April 21, 2010).
Although there may be some promise, as he indicated, in innovations such as 3-D biology, I have become leery of seeing education through the lens of Mr. Peterson’s proposed instructional formula: “[Q]uickly identify a student’s reading, math, and science skills, and the curriculum can then be adapted.”
Recently, I experienced a webinar with Peter Senge, of The Fifth Discipline fame. I recall his phrase “we all went to the same schools,” implying that it’s hard for people to envision schooling beyond the conventions of disciplines and skill sequences. One big idea I took from Mr. Senge’s talk was that, in education, it’s all about teams learning together. I’m fearful that the current “school of one” thinking will reduce this possibility.
Mr. Senge and his colleagues at the Society for Organizational Learning have been doing eye-opening work that shows us how humans can work together in generative, life-affirming ways. Though there may be irony in the fact that my ideas on this subject were stimulated by a virtual class, I believe that to imagine a future different from what we have now, we must learn more about group learning for teachers, administrators, and the community at large.
This kind of learning needs to become the basis for our efforts in student development. It includes recognizing our own assumptions and understanding those of others, seeing systems, reflecting on learning cycles, and fully using the creative and generative capacities of all.
A version of this article appeared in the May 12, 2010 edition of Education Week as Finding the ‘Price Point’ by Learning Together