After 50 years of teaching , my greatest accomplishment has been persuading my students that their voice matters, giving them the opportunity to have their voice heard, and helping them sharpen their means of expression, be it in written or spoken form, so that voice reaches people more effectively. None of those objectives can be achieved throughstandardized testing. Starting with my first courses for high school students in the Columbia Upward Bound Program in 1968, I have sought to inspire and empower students through a pedagogy that involves reading and research, lots of writing, discussions and debates, and opportunities to express ideas through poetry, music, theater, film or other forms of artistic expression.
These methods work. My students, many of whom came from families of modest means, have become teachers, social workers, attorneys, architects and planners, musicians, film makers, police officers, leaders of businesses and founders of non profits, even mayors of small cities. Over a hundred have become professors, and more than 50 have written books.
But virtually ever lesson I have learned in lifetime of teaching and coaching has been discarded by current policy makers. Rather than finding the spark in every student, and organizing skill development around that quest, we are trying to force students to adapt to abstract standards far from their experience, drilling them till they reach it, and intimidating and humiliating them if they don't, can't or won't.
The genius in every child should be the basis of our pedagogy. It is there, waiting to be discovered, Its forms my vary. It may come in writing, in speech or song, in mechanics and invention, in things that can be built or repaired with ones hands, in athletic talent, in compassion and empathy.
You can smother that genius through drilling and testing, You certainly cannot find it, nurture it, or help it find its most appropriate means of expression.