I haven’t looked into this in great detail, so if any of you know more about the issue, please expand, but I find this kind of think to be tragic:
I was devastated by Michael Winerip’s article on how the No Child Left Behind Act has affected the creative teaching at a New Hampshire middle school. It used to be that eighth graders at Oyster River Middle School chose semester-long “genre” projects in English class. They’d pick “a subject area like mysteries, read masters like Agatha Christie, study the writer’s craftsmanship (‘Explain how the author foreshadows doom’), then draft their own.” In science class they would spend two weeks building a real underwater vessel; in social studies they reenacted the Boston Massacre.
But No Child Left Behind is changing all that. Based on the law’s annual progress requirements toward 100 percent proficiency by 2014, 69 percent of New Hampshire schools are failing. Oyster River is one of them, largely because of the scores of a dozen of its 110 special education students. The bottom line? The school will cut back on its mainstreaming of special-ed kids (unfortunate in itself) and start aggressively teaching to the test. Its new motto, Mr. Winerip reports, is “Fill the Box.”
In a related vein, I read in the local paper a couple of weeks ago that one of the surrounding states run by a wingnut governor (I can’t remember if it was Kasich’s Ohio or Corbett in PA) was radically cutting back arts, music, and phys ed with sharp budget cuts. I can’t draw a stick man or carry a tune in a bucket, but I consider myself very lucky that I had really good art and music classes both in public school and for the few years I went to a private school. I still remember hating carrying that damned saxophone in the clunky faux-alligator skin case up the ginormous hill, but my art and music classes still stick out in my memory. I even remember what instruments my friends played, and that was 30 years ago. I also hated those stupid damned recorders, fwiw. But back on point- a basic understanding and appreciation of art and music is a vital portion of any education, as those things makes us what we are as humans. Every culture finds its roots in food, music, and art, and to ignore that is to ignore the better aspects of what civilization has produced over the last several thousand years. Everyone likes to talk about the genius of Steve Jobs, but what made Steve Jobs a genius is his devices made it easier to deliver and create art and music in the computer age.
It’s a god damned shame what is happening.