Hastings College is pretty big into education, and I have a few issues with some of the teaching methods that are instructed around here. Of course, this is just one man’s wholly uneducated opinion, as I have not taken any education courses. I have, however, taught in a classroom. For the last two years of my high school I was involved in many education ventures: teaching basic computer skills to adults, teaching writing to fourth graders, teaching American literature to eighth graders. And, of course, the thousands of times “peer education” was used in my regular courses.
I go round and round with the girls over the subject of full inclusion; that is, placing slower students with faster students. According to several leading education models, mentally challenged students that are included more in regular classrooms receive many developmental gains, both socially and academically. The idea being the more they have to be a regular student, the more likely they are to become regular students. This, of course, makes intuitive sense. If the slower students are simply exposed to the faster students, they will be able to adapt and learn by example; become smarter simply by osmosis.
However, at what cost is this to the advanced student? Little sympathy is given to the gifted youngster because he or she is “smart enough.” Why do they need to excel any further? Or worse, they learn how to deal with people slower than them on a daily basis, increasing their communication and expression skills to the lesser percentiles.
It must be said I’m hardly calling for an intellectual elite or a “only the smart survive” sort of environment, but of the many great shames of America, our education system is built on models that seek to advance the lower end of the Bell Curve, largely at the expense of the higher. What kind of world are we creating? An educationally homogenized nation that is likely to be completely outclassed by the Europeans.
In defense of the European model, one test can decide your future if it is preceded by several years of preparation. It’s not like this is some sort of pop quiz; if students are properly prepped and equipped, then one comprehensive examination should be able to determine which tier of educational success is best for them. There are people that just aren’t cut out for high school. There are people that need a lot more challenge. Sadly, we’re screwing our gifted young ones much more than our disabled. And which, I wonder, will be more important to our society in the coming years?