Wednesday, July 14, 2010
I am going to say something that you may find ludicrous, ridiculous, and/or just plain uninformed. But, there is no such thing as an achievement gap; its an experience gap. Because you will never be what you don't know you can become.
Think about that for a second... You will never be what you don't know you can become. That ain't profound. That is common sense.
When you live in poverty, you don't travel or go to state-of-the art schools, and the people and the world you know aren't filled with possibilities. Quite the opposite. Everywhere you turn, you see nothing but your limitations. Sure, we can blame the parents, the children, the teachers, and the politicians. It is far easier to blame someone than to do the work of solving the problem. Here's my plan.
Begin with creating themed or subject-area focused schools. That will allow students to pursue an academic program according to their talents, passions, and career interests. Next, gather every worksheet and workbook and hold a bonfire. Neither of them have no business being used in the 21st century. Instead, teachers should engage their students with discussion, project-based learning, and technology. While we're at it, let us do away with tenure and give teachers and administrators 1 to 5 year contracts. And lastly, schools and/or grade levels must make sure that out of the school learning experiences are a part of the curriculum - which is where things get really interesting...
When students are exposed to people, places, things, and ideas outside of their neighborhood, they begin to raise the expectations they have for themselves. The simple act of creating a job shadowing program or students participating in a service-learning project, or skyping with another school in a foreign country is enough to spark something in a young person. I have seen in it with my own eyes. In fact, my wife and I were approached by a former student in Target. He mentioned how he still remembers learning how to salsa and the dance he did for the state language fair.
Yes, there are students who don't have the knowledge-base or the skills they should have. This post was not meant to deny that fact. What I am saying is students have to feel and embody a hope for the future before they see the relevance of getting an education. And it is through those academic and out of the school learning experiences that young people begin to see their world as a place filled with possibilities. That is why there is no achievement gap. It is an experience gap. You will never be what you don't know you can become.