Friday, October 23, 2009

Theodore Sizer

Is this blog hopelessly idealistic about what school could be? It's easy to conclude that the practices of today's schools, while perhaps unappealing, are necessary, because there is no other way. That response certainly serves the interests of those who benefit from the system the way it is, as well as those who would just prefer not to have the boat rocked. But in fact there are alternative approaches; they aren't unthinkable, and there are schools that put them into practice.

Theodore Sizer, who died on Wednesday at age 77, was the founder of the "Coalition of Essential Schools," based on the idea that schools should be egalitarian communities, "rooted in a kind of democratic pluralism." "In his ideal, educational policy should be determined from the bottom up, at the level of the school, rather than as a result of state or federal directives. Schools, he argued, should abandon one-size-fits-all educational methods like standardized tests, grading and even the grouping of students into classes by age." There are now several hundred Essential Schools across the country. Sizer's obituary is worth reading, as a reminder that things do not have to be the way they are.

..How can I comment?