Thursday, November 15, 2012

Do we want compliant students?

     Should schools place a high priority on fostering compliance among students? Compliant means yielding - especially in a submissive way. It means being a conformist. It means making no waves or as few as possible.
    Compliance was a well-suited characteristic for the industrial era when monotonous assembly line work favored the compliant and the submissive. Schools helped set the stage. Teachers lectured while students, for the most part, passively took notes. This outdated model of teaching (and preparing students for the workforce) is even called the factory model. Robert Freeman, author of "Competing Models for Public Education," states that it was so often teachers that saved students from the de-humanizing process of the factory model of education.
    As I see it, teachers themselves are now dealing with forces that are intent on de-humanizing them. For instance, proponents of the new teacher evaluation process in NYS (APPR) have forced teachers to  place mandated standardized tests high on their priority list (if not at the top). They have foisted on students an astonishing number of high-stakes, high-stress tests. Teachers know that what is valued now is student results on these tests - for that is how they (the teachers) will be judged/evaluated by their bosses.
    Should schools place a high priority on compliance? I hope teachers are not compliant about what bureaucrats have foisted on them vis-a-vis APPR. I hope parents are not compliant in accepting such broad and deep testing. I hope students know that compliance is a double-edged sword - it can  help students win the approval of a certain type of teacher or boss but it can hurt students at a time they are supposed to be learning how to stand up for their beliefs and convictions.
     We are past the Industrial Age and have moved to the Information Age. Students need to work and learn collaboratively. They need to be creative and think outside the box. They need to question what they are told. They need to debate. They need to be active learners in a class - not passive receptors. They need to be more facile at finding information than memorizing "facts" because in our Information Age, what is a fact today may not be a fact tomorrow.
     What traits should be fostered by schools? Thomas Jefferson said, "In matters of style, swim with the current; in matters of principle, stand like a rock." And let's hope that students know that when it's time to stand like a rock, they should not yield, should not be submissive, and should not be compliant.

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