Sunday, May 19, 2013

Devaluing Diversity?

Once again, Sir Ken Robinson has helped me to see the light. Not only have I watched his MANY motivating and thought-provoking TED talks (Are Schools Killing Creativity? and Bring on the Learning Revolution to name a couple), but I've spent the last month reading The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything with a few colleagues where we've used Twitter (#SLelement) to share thoughts along the way as well as some face-to-face conversations.  It's been a thrilling ride to see Sir Ken's words through the eyes of my colleagues. Mostly, we think he sheds light on some pretty vital issues in our schools.

Personally, I've highlighted over 100 lines in the book.  But, NONE as important as the one I read last night. My jaw dropped and my eyes got wide when I read this sentence from Chapter 11: "...two things that most people eventually discover in their education. One is the hierarchy of disciplines in schools that we discussed in the first chapter. The other is that conformity has a higher value than diversity."

Is this true?

In under a minute, I came to the conclusion that, yes, it was. Until this year, when a student had an extreme view on an assignment, it would often get docked in the rubric and the idea would not praised in the classroom. In fact, I find it rare that a student even ponders a unique thought about an assignment because that's been beaten out of him/her since he/she started school.

This is a major problem. This CANNOT go on.

Let me clear about how I understand Sir Robinson's statement: he's not talking racial diversity or even fashion diversity. He's talking about a diversity in thought, a diversity in creativity.

So, let's get straight to the fix. We need to get straight to the fix. We cannot simply point out the problem and walk away. So, here it is:

WE CANNOT EXPECT THE SAME OUTCOMES FROM EVERY STUDENT. (I know, educators. It's hard to do when those are the legislations from on high--the same standards for every student.) So, let's pay attention to the standards and make them the MINIMUM, not the end all-be all. We must PRAISE students who see assignments differently and investigate pieces of a problem that even the teacher might not have considered.

Too often, as educators, we talk about the problem students coming up (and, yes, the students do have to own some of their behavior), but we MUST ask if we are doing everything we can to have the student succeed.

  • Are we accepting and praising different learning styles?
  • Are our assignments prepared so that every student can succeed within it?
  • Are we prepared for the diversity that is OBVIOUSLY in our classroom?
If the answer to any of the above questions is 'NO', then we must look at our teaching practices. 
  • We must get rid of that single rubric which does NOT fit every student.  
  • We must allow choice within the assignment, so the student can have invested interest in discovering his answers. 
  • And we MUST celebrate each child when he/she has success which is not solely defined by the state, administration, or individual teacher.
We must celebrate diversity of thought in our students.