Congratulations to the awesome minds at the Peel District School Board for doing what many have been reluctant to do: create a clear, explicit document that all staff and stakeholders can point to for official advice when traversing the sometimes-minefield that is the educational social media stratosphere. I’m posting this to provide a longer-than-140-characters forum for us to converse. Click here to read the Guidelines and please share your thoughts and interact in the comments section below. (BTW I, for one, have breached pretty much every bullet point in the document.)
We are going through a fairly hot debate in our district right now around specialized schooling. The discussion has centred on a particular arts-based (our only one) elementary school, but if you look deeply, it’s really a debate on public schooling in general. Essentially, the question is:
Should public school districts offer specialized elementary schools (such as language immersion, arts, sports, technology, etc.) to students?
One side of the debate contends that families need to be given choice in the public system. One size does not fit all, and we need to cater to multiple needs. Many proponents of this view use anecdotes of students that were disenchanted or marginalized in mainstream schools, and were subsequently rejuvenated (for lack of a better word) in the specialized ones.
The other side posits that specialized schools leave us with less impetus to change what is wrong with our current system. Similar to arguments for universal healthcare, they contend that as long as people can opt out, there is no need to improve and evolve the status quo. Furthermore, the extent to which the arts, sports, gifted education, or technology is seen as a ‘specialty’ item shines a glaring light on their marginalization from mainstream schooling.
Interestingly, both sides will defend the importance of equity in the issue. The pro side says it is inequitable that families cannot choose a specialized school for their children. The nay vista argues the inequity of having to, in some cases, audition or be first in line for these schools (also noting how SES correlates greatly with a family’s ability to do so).
I’m likely not doing justice here to the nuances of the argument, so I’m hoping you can add your two cents or more. The reason I am blogging about this is because I myself am really on the fence with the issue, and am interested in sparking more discussion on it.
What are your thoughts on, and experience with, specialized public schools? What is best for the greater good?
We all know that the classroom where students are predominantly in rows, working privately, and assessed only by the teacher is not the best way to learn.
Or do we?
I feel as though this is a practice that, like adultery or excessive gambling, we speak about in admonishing tones, yet flock to like seagulls at a beach picnic. In staff rooms, conferences, and lecture halls the world over educators nod their heads and appear to require very little clarification as to why the quiet class/staffroom isn’t necessarily the learning one. After all, there is a dearth of research supporting this model of learning. Then our actions do the real talking and we revert to the quiet classroom faster than an arm reacting to a funny bone hit.
There is a mountain of literature supporting the dynamic, collaborative, and purposely noisy classroom, but my simple mind wants to observe the issue with a plain question:
When’s the last time you had an interesting, never mind profound, learning experience with your fellow humans in which you couldn’t talk to one another?