Life is like a game of Pac-man. It’s hard to remember that the objective is to clear the board of dots when you are busy running from the monsters. Take education, for example, we are busy with school security, gun control, bullying policies, teacher training, standardized testing, evaluating teachers to name just a few of the monsters distracting us from the real task of education. Because of an obsession with data, we label students, schools and districts underperforming. When the true significance of the data is questioned, the response is to collect more data, to slice and dice it longitudinally, and to try to justify it.
We have forgotten that the real task is to clear the dots, to prepare all students to be self-supporting, contributing members of society, to be educated to make their life’s work something they are passionate about, or at least interested in. Education involves such life skills as the ability to plan ahead, to problem solve, and to work with others. To achieve this goal, it is essential that we recruit and train good teachers and provide them with the resources to teach. They will be able to build self-esteem through high standards, hard work and encouragement. The monsters of false fairness, unearned praise, social promotion and fear have kept us running for too long.
To clear the board, we need to find the talents and abilities of our students and to encourage and build on these. The more we try to make the future Isadora Duncans into scientists and the gym class klutzes into athletes, the less likely we are to succeed.