This Sunday morning, like so many Sunday mornings, I started the day on the couch, drinking coffee, and enjoying what my friends call 'light reading' - i.e. textbooks about the history of educational policy and practices.
I came across this passage from the book Keeping Track: How Schools Structure Inequality:
"...The mere fact that child in a single schoolroom spoke a half-dozen different languages, none of them English, inevitably altered the life of that schoolroom. And the problem went far beyond language, for each language implied a unique heritage and unique attitudes towards teacher, parents, schoolmates-indeed, toward the school itself."
Imagine for a minute that you're standing in front of a pile of newspaper scraps, you're asked to reach in an grab one at random, and you draw this passage. What year would you guess it's from? Given my experiences in teaching in four major metropolitan school districts in the United States, I would guess this passage is from the present, circa 2012.
Truth be told, it describes the state of American schoolrooms in 1909.
On of my favorite songs currently on the radio is Bastille's Pompeii, and as I consider on the ethnic makeup of American classrooms from 1909 to 2013, I can't help but reflect on the lyrics of the chorus to the song:
If you close your eyes, Does it almost feel like nothings changed at all? If you close your eyes, Does it almost feel like you've been here before?
There is a tendency for educators to view their problems in isolation, as if this is the first time in the history of mankind that one teacher is responsible for educating a refugee with zero English and the affluent daughter of a police chief all in the same classroom. When in fact, if you close your eyes and think back on the history of schooling in this country, you would realize that you've been here before. Indeed, we've been here many times.
Generation after generation of educators in America have taught this class. That is the uniqueness of our profession in this country. The beauty of this is our fore bearers have left behind a legacy of best policy and practice that modern educators can learn from.
Which is why this Sunday, like so many Sundays, I am sitting down on my couch, with my coffee, enjoying some light reading.
It may be obvious to some of my blog readers, but I'm a big Wisconsin sports fan. Today, Ryan Braun was suspended for the remainder of the season for what seems to be juicing. A pity.
In other news, it's a bright day for the field of education because - of all sources - CNN. From the creator of the expose on McDonald's documentary Super Size Me, Morgan Spurlock has a new show on CNN that piqued my interest this week. For his latest Inside Man documentary, he compares the American education system to that of Finland - one of the highest performing systems according to international student testing data.
If you've read my blog post Why Does Finland Have Better Schools, you may have an edge on the highlights of the CNN show. In short, Finland has virtually no standardized testing, very high educational requirements for teachers (only 1 out of 10 teacher applicants gains entry to teacher programs), and very equitable income and social services distributions.
After reading Pasi Sahlberg's book Finnish Lessons and watching Spurlock's expose, it does make one wonder why American educational policy is what it is. As a school leader, I often reflect on how I can use my knowledge of best practices to influence my own work environment.