Sunday, May 19, 2013

Nostalgia and Education

The New York Times has an interesting column here about the dangers of nostalgia.  A psychologist studying the phenomena found that people who could view their childhood realistically--rather than with rose-colored glasses—were more successful as parents themselves.  

This is a very interesting insight by Professor Coontz.  As a high school teacher for 37 years, I can see now that nostalgia is behind many of the “new” education reforms.

I think the nostalgic belief driving these reforms is that in the old days students studied hard, while wearing uniforms and sitting in desks neatly lined up in rows.  Teachers were hardworking and strict, with none of this nonsense about union protections.

The reality was that whole populations of children were left behind in the 1950’s.  Special Needs children could be—and usually were—excluded.  African-American children were in abysmal schools often without textbooks.  The only reason that scores were reasonably high was that children still turned to books for their entertainment, rather than television or video games.

I’m afraid with the assessment and curriculum guides being mandated under the Common Core, we will leave another whole generation of children behind.  We need to look behind the nostalgic veil covering schools sixty years ago.

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