Passion and interest is the last thing schools need to foster. What did passion ever do for Steve Jobs? Look where Jobs is now. Einstein’s interest led directly to Hiroshima. If the glorious President Reagan had has his way, then the Department of Education would no longer exist. America would be in a much better place. Our country would be able to compete with China, if only educators had followed Reagan’s inspired vision. Who would dare argue against the wisdom of America’s greatest President? After all, Reagan defeated Communism. If Reagan’s vision had won our nation’s factories would be filled with American laborers, working for pennies a day. America would have been great again.
Zhao states that schools are a “creativity killing machine” (Zhao, 2009, p.93). Public education is just now waking up from its own drunken night of passion with No Child Left Behind. What were people thinking? How could an educated teacher ever believe that “Excellence equals good test scores in math and reading and standards- and test-based accountability is the tool to achieve excellence” (Zhao, 2009, p. 2). What a mistake. In order to move forward, American education better delete NCLB from its cell phone. Using China as an example Zhao (2009) makes a strong case against such soulless instruction as what NCLB forced educators to engage in. My own district removed art from it K-8 curriculum in favor of improving test scores.
Every educator who teaches reading knows level plus interest equals success. It’s the old Zone of Proximal Development theory. Students exploring reading material below their level do so for recreation. If the material is too far above their ability level, then frustration occurs. Matching ability with proper instruction allows for great learning (Zhao, 2009). Les focus on what students are and more focus on who they are allows for greater success. I have seen, in my own class, when students engage in their own exploration of learning, then learning still happens. The best way to allow for student passion and interest to guide learning could be Project Based Learning (Larmer, Ross, & Mergendoller).
Through Project Based Learning students dive into some pretty deep and wide waters. Standards are addressed, so those who still are Facebook-friends with NCLB don’t have to worry. Gone is the drill and kill trivial approach to learning. Instead, working with their peers students learn to learn for themselves. Through PBL, I have seen heated discussions arise independently. I have also watch the same discussions lead to understanding and cooperation. PBL fosters student passion and interest. PBL aims at the heat of philosophy of education, rather than the technical aspects (Zhao, 2009).
The Department of Education is still around. Reagan’s dream of educational reform did not succeed. However, Reagan’s brilliant Trickle Down policies still have a major effect on education. Poverty is the greatest factor in a student's ability to learn (Zhao, 2009). Reagan successfully decreased the middle class and increased the poor in America. Passion and interest will always lose out to hunger.
Larmer, J., Ross, D., & Mergendoller, J. R. (2009). PBL starter kit: To-the-point advice, tools and tips for your first project in middle or high school. Novato, CA: Buck Institute for Education.
Zhao, Y. (2009). Catching up or leading the way: American education in the age of globalization. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.