USA Falls in Olympics Standings: Legislators Pass the No Child Left Unfit Law

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Rankings in the International Olympics indicate how great and powerful a nation is. The outcome shows that the USA is losing its premier position. Legislators in Washington acted in a bipartisan way to pass the No Child Left Unfit Law. This requires all students to take physical education every single school day from 6th through twelfth grade. They are further required to pass standardized skills tests at each grade level, including swimming, tennis, soccer, skiing, ice skating, hockey, badminton and gymnastics, which were chosen as the most important Olympic sports. Every student must develop a minimum level of proficiency in each of these sports in order to graduate from high school.

A few objections were raised. What about the students who don’t have access to swimming pools, ice rinks or ski slopes? The government will just have to pay big business to build these in our impoverished cities and towns and in the south. What about students with disabilities? Depending on the disability, the school will need to document it and provide a list of related skills that the student is capable of mastering.
All objections were dismissed when Michelle Obama said this legislation would definitely help to ward off obesity and make kids get in shape.

No one asked about the gym class klutz. We’ve all known these kids; they trip over their own two feet, they have no visible or medical disability, but seem to have been born clumsy. No amount of practice seems to help them hit a tennis ball or keep their balance in any sport. Should these kids be denied a high school diploma or will they drop out, knowing they haven’t a prayer of meeting this requirement?

This legislation is hypothetical, but think about the legislation that does exist: students are required to demonstrate proficiency in mathematics, beginning at early grade levels because the USA is not a top-performing country in math and science tests. We claim that standardized tests will move our country toward more highly skilled math and science professionals. This, in turn, will gain world dominance in new technologies for the USA. How many years must we perpetrate this fallacy before we realize that education is not a factory where all products must come out the same?

Life is like a game of Pac-Man: Priorities in Education

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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.