Eight Reasons to Study the New Framework for Science Education

Have you seen the draft version of the new Conceptual Framework for K – 12 Science Education (Framework)?  The final, and published version will be announced on Tuesday, July 19 in Washington D.C. by the National Academy of Sciences.  The Framework was designed by a committee of scientists, and teams of scientists and educators during the past two years.  It will be an important document for at least the next 15 – 20 years, as the National Science Education Standards were for the past 15 years.  Here are some reasons why it will be important.

  1. Credibility. It was developed by a cadre of scientists, who constituted the committee, and by four design teams  led by science educators and scientists with vast experiences at university and K-12 levels.  It was organized by and will be published by the National Academy of Sciences.  Funding for this project was provided by the Carnegie Foundation.
  2. Attempt to Reduce Content to Core Ideas.  Science educators have sought ways to reduce the shear amount of content is contained in contemporary textbooks.  Indeed, the 1996 Science Education Standards did not reduce content, but contributed to the expansion of concepts and ideas in science.  The Framework authors, according to the Draft Version have attempted to move toward a more coherent vision by focusing on a limited number of core ideas in Earth, Life, Physical and Engineering & Technology.
  3. Research Oriented.  The new Framework will also build on the notion that students learn progressively in a developmental way.  Basing their thinking on research in the learning sciences, you will see “learning progressions” as a key feature of the Framework.
  4. Basis for New Science Standards.  The Framework will be the guiding conceptual basis for a new set of Science Education Standards that will be developed Achieve, Inc.  As with the Framework’s development, the NSTA and AAAS will be involved.  However, the actual writing of the Science Standards will be done by Achieve, the same company that designed and wrote the Common Core Standards.
  5. New Curriculum Projects and Textbooks.  The combination of a New Framework and the subsequent writing of new Science Education Standards will no doubt lead to the development of new curriculum projects, and creation of new textbooks in science.
  6. Funding and Research.  The new Framework will influence science education researchers as they write proposals for funding from local, state and federal agencies.  Research projects at Universities will also be influenced in terms of rationale and objectives.  The NSES had a similar influence.
  7. High-Stakes Assessments.  Unfortunately, there is a national movement to continue and solidify the nation’s propensity for using standards to design assessments that are used as high-stakes markers to determine the achievement of students in school science, and now, unfortunately to use them as one influential factor in evaluation teacher and school effectiveness.
  8. Concerns about who is funding these efforts.  The movement, known as the Common Core Standards is funding that a very elite group of wealthy individuals and corporations, with little or no accountability.  For example, if you visit the Achieve, Inc. website, you will that the following groups are funding them:  The Battelle Foundation • Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation • The Boeing Company • Brookhill Foundation • Carnegie Corp. of New York • The GE Foundation • IBM Corp. • Intel Foundation • JP Morgan Chase Foundation • Lumina • Nationwide • Noyce Foundation • The Prudential Foundation • State Farm Insurance Companies • Washington Mutual Foundation • The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation

These are only eight reasons why you and I should study and become aware of the new Framework.  Is there a movement to standardize education?  Why do we continue these efforts when the effectiveness of “standards” in effecting student achievement is marginal?

 

Dear Mr. President: Take the Risk, and Try and Humanize Teaching and Learning

Tomorrow, President Obama will send his education blue print to Congress, which, according to the New York Times article, “strikes a careful balance, retaining some key features of the Bush-era law, including its requirement for annual reading and math tests, while proposing far-reaching changes.”

The blue print is really no different than what was put into practice by the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act, and is steeped in a corporate model of teaching and learning that uses test scores to drive the day-to-day work of teachers in schools.  The blue print is being sent to Congress less than a month after the publication of Diane Ravitch’s book, The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education.   I am in the midst of reading her book, and I can tell you that the previous administration, nor the current one will appreciate her conclusions, that basically we have it all wrong when it comes to reforming education by means of the NCLB approach which offered no insights about improving curriculum and professional development of teachers, but assumed that the corporate model applied to schooling would result in improved scores on achievement tests, and that using a top-down, dictatorial management style would keep teachers in toe (and off guard), parents worrying if their kid would pass the next test, and students not sure of what to expect, other than the next test.  Ravitch at one time supported the corporate model, and the NCLB act, but has since been convinced that these have been a disaster for the American school, and that instead of a corporate model, what is needed is a communal model that advocates values that advocates humanistic values.

In May, 2009 I wrote a “letter” to the President, and I am republishing it here, to coincide with Monday’s presentation of the President’s blue print for education.  I have great admiration for President Obama, and I hope that he will pursue an educational agenda that challenges what has been the status quo for too many years.  Although I am not convinced that our Secretary of Education is flexible enough to see beyond the corporate model that he is pushing through his reform efforts, especially the Race to the Top Fund.

The Letter

So here is my letter (originally published May 2, 2009),  which I sent onto the President today.

We know you have a lot on your plate—a deep recession, two wars in the Middle East, health care reform, extreme partisanship, the fast spreading swine flu. Yet the one area that that is essential to our well being as a nation–education–has yet to become center stage. I know it is a high priority of yours, and I know when you think the time is right, you will bring it forward for open discussion. I believe that teaching is an art, and that teachers in our culture should work with their students creatively in classrooms characterized as humanistic, experiential, and constructivist.

This letter is an attempt on my part to think out loud, and share with you views held by many science teachers across the nation that believe that their work is a calling, and that their work with students should be grounded in the latest research that supports an active learning environment in which students explore, innovate, and solve meaningful problems. I believe that you would share these views that are held by many of my colleagues.

Your beliefs and your experiences are are clearly explored and described in your books, Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance; and The Audacity of Hope. I read them in the order of their publication, and the books helped me understand your ideas, and it convinced me that you would be open to reforming science education from a humanistic science tradition.

Although you do not have a chapter in either book specifically related to “education,” your thoughts about education, your experiences with your own schooling and educational experiences, and your work in Chicago as a community organizer provide the reader with your fundamental views of education and the reform that is needed.

Those of us in the science teaching community have followed your views on science and technology in our society and in our schools, and many are more than satisfied with your appointments as members of the Science and Technology Advisory Council. I think there was much support within the community for your appointments of Dr. John Holdren as director of the Office of Science & Technology, and Dr. Stephen Chu as Secretary of the Department of Energy. Further, the stimulus package that was put into law provided an additional boost to the National Science Foundation, and theDepartment of Education has received nearly 100 billion dollars for America’s schools, and educational infrastructure. These are all positive initiatives, and I think they have received enormous support within the science teaching community.

The reform of science teaching that needs to be considered focuses on a paradigm shift from a traditional view of science to humanistic science. This paradigm centers on the way in which students and teachers interact in the classroom. The humanistic paradigm impies that teaching, at its core, is a creative and courageous profession that needs to reform itself from the bottom up—from the local school upward, not from Federal mandates downward. I think we’ve lost our way in this regard, and I am hoping that your personal school experiences in Djakarta, Honolulu, Los Angeles, New York, and Cambridge will inform you, and that the community organizing work you did in Chicago as a young man will be brought into the dialogue. Your sharing of these experiences can have a profound impact on how others view teaching, and help us chart a humanistic course.

In Chapter 13 of your book, Dreams from My Father, you talk about your desire to become involved with the public schools in the area of Chicago that you were doing your work–on the southside.

From the cover of Barack Obama's book
From the cover of Barack Obama’s book

I want to recall a section in that chapter for my readers that was very powerful, and supports the humanistic paradigm that I will propose here. You and your colleague & friend Johnnie had decided to visit a high school, and the principal of the school introduced you to one of the school counselors, Mr. Asante Moran. He was, according to the principal, interested in establishing a mentorship program for young men in the school. In his office, which was decorated with African themes, you discovered that Mr. Moran had visited Kenya 15 years earlier, and he indicated that it had a profound effect on him. In the course of your short meeting with Mr. Moran, he clearly told you that real education was not happening for black children, and then he offered you his view on what “real education” might be. Here is what he said on that Spring day in 1987:

Just think about what a real education for these children would involve. It would start by giving a child an understanding of himself, his world, his culture, his community. That’s the starting point of any educational process. That’s what makes a child hungry to learn—the promise of being part of something, of mastering his environment. But for the black child, everything’s turned upside down. From day one, what’s he learning about? Someone else’s history. Someone else’s culture. Not only that, this culture he’s supposed to learn is the same culture that’s systematically rejected him, denied his humanity (p. 158, Dreams from My Father).

Starting with the child as he or she is, and helping them connect to their environment—this is the core of humanistic teaching. Most teachers know and try and act on this humanistic philosophy, but for many, it is an upstream battle. The locus of control is far removed from the individual teacher’s classroom. The control is centered in state department’s of education, and the No Child Left Behind act (NCLB). And much of that control creates a conflict for innovative teachers. As responsible professional teachers, they want their students to do well on the high-stakes, end-of-year exams, yet know intuitively that this persistence on testing leaves creative teaching behind. There is a need to shift the locus of control away from the Federal and state power centers, and move it to the vast number of communities of schools (there are about 15,000) around the nation. These 15,000 districts have a better understanding of the nature and needs of its students, and has a cadre of teachers who, I submit, are quite able to formulate curriculum, and design instruction that favors a humanistic paradigm. I am not suggesting that we erase the National Science Education Standards. I am suggesting that professional teachers are able to interpret the Standards, and create educational experiences grounded in constructivist and humanistic theory, and provide in the long run, meaningful school experiences.

I believe that you understand what I am talking about. Your motivation to leave New York City and move to Chicago to become a “community organizer” was because of your belief in “grass roots change.” In fact, in your first book, here is what you said:

In 1983, I decided to become a community organizer. There wasn’t much detail to the idea; I didn’t know anyone making a living that way. When classmates in college asked me just what it was that a community organizer did, I couldn’t answer them directly. Instead, I’d pronounce on the need for change. Change in the White House, where Reagan and his minions were carrying on their dirty deeds. Change in the Congress, compliant and corrupt. Change in the mood of the country, manic and self-absorbed. Change won’t come from the top, I would say. Change will come from a mobilized grass roots (Dreams for My Father, p. 133).

Humanistic science education is not a new perspective on teaching. It has had to compete with the pipeline ideology of traditional school science, which has been ineffective for most students. Pipeline ideology is primarilly based on training for the scientific world, and the organization of the curriculum tends to a strict adherance to canonical science. A humanistic science perspective tends to be context-based or science-technology-society based. Instead of a science concept being the starting point for learning, the humanistic science teacher starts with contexts and applications of science. Science concepts are explored within these contexts. Humanistic science teaching trives in STS programs, environmental science projects, gender projects, and culturally focused investigations. These experiences shed light on science-related social content for students, and often focus on the affective outcomes of learning, how students feel about science, how it impacts their lives, and what they can do to solve science-related social issues. Many teachers know from experience that projects like these help students see themsleves as citizen-scientists, using social and scientific processes to solve real problems.

Recent results on The Nation’s Report Card show that there has been little change in 17 year old’s performance in math and reading from 2008 to 2004, and 1973. Although there were slight gains in achievement among all students, the achievement gap between white students and black & hispanic students has not changed. And the NCLB act was intended to close the gap. Your able Education Secretary, Mr. Arne Duncan has said that he wants “real and meaningful change” in the nation’s schools. Real and meaningful change can not be more of the same—longer school days, the same curriculum and standards.

I suggest that for meaninful reform in science teaching, there needs to be an openness to new ideas, and there needs to a very strong involvement of grass-roots teachers for this kind of reform. Teachers and students should not be on the receiving end of decisions made by academic vice-presidents, governors, and commisioners of state departments’ of education. These constituencies are important, but the reform must be grounded in practice & related science education research; refom needs to be in the hands of professional teachers.

Well, there you have it. Am I totally off-base here? Can meaninful reform be a grass-roots effort? What are your thoughts? I hope you will be willing to share them.

Resources: Grounding Humanistic Science in Research—Starting Places:

New Generation of Science Standards: Part of the Common Standards Movement?

The National Research Council has received funding from the Carnegie Corporation of New York to develop a framework for a new generation of science standards (K-12) based on the idea of disciplinary and cross-disciplinary core ideas. A committee of experts has already met (January 28-29) to begin the process of developing the conceptual framework. The 16 member committee is comprised of 13 university science and science education professors, a NASA scientist, an official from a state department of education, and the director of a science teaching professional development collaborative.

Much of the rationale for this new NRC project can be found in the 2006 report (follow the link to read the report online) by the NRC entitled “Taking Science to School: Learning and Teaching Science in Grades K-8.” One of the goals of the “new standards” committee is to develop a rationale that will focus on a few “core concepts” in each of the major science disciplines, as well as those ideas that cut across disciplines.

In the Carnegie Corporation announcement of the NRC project, the focus of the new framework is as follows:

Given the proliferation of knowledge in the sciences, particularly knowledge that blurs the lines between traditional science disciplines (e.g., chemistry or biology), the identification of core ideas has greater importance for organizing curriculum, teaching and learning. The core ideas in science around which the education framework may be developed include physical sciences, life sciences, earth sciences and applied sciences, as well as cross-cutting ideas such as mathematization*, causal reasoning, evaluating and using evidence, argumentation, and model development. The framework will look at student learning in at least 4th, 8th, and 12th grade.

As stated in documents that I’ve read, the committee will be influenced by three science education efforts over the past thirty years:

The effort will involve first the development of the rationale, and then the actual writing and publication of a new standards. The Carnegie Corporation puts it this way:

As the National Research Council committee works toward completing a final report, design teams from Achieve, Inc.,National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) and American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), will begin the process of developing science standards. The National Research Council’s framework will be central to this process.

Underpinning this effort is a set of recommendations for fewer, clearer, higher standards drawn from Opportunity Equation: Transforming Mathematics and Science Education for Citizenship and the Global Economy the June 2009 report by the Carnegie Corporation of New York – Institute for Advanced Study Commission on Mathematics and Science Education.

Although not part of the Common Standards movement of the Council of Chief State School Offices and the National Governors Association, the new generation of science standards will be very tempting to those who wish to have a singular set of standards for America’s 15,000 school districts.

If you examine the 2006 report, Taking Science to School, recommendations are made for new standards, and it seems clear that this new effort by the National Research Council will be based on these statements found in the report:

  • Recommendation 1: Developers of standards, curriculum, and assessment need to revise their frameworks to reflect new models of children’s thinking and take better advantage of children’s capabilities.
  • Recommendation 2: The committee thinks that the next generation of standards and curricula at both the national and state levels should be structured to identify a few core ideas in a discipline and elaborate how these ideas can be grown in a cumulative manner over grades K-8.
  • Recommendation 3: Developers of curricula and standards need to present science as a process of building theories and models using evidence, checking them for internal consistency and coherence, and testing them empirically.

With additional meetings in March and April, the expert committee will develop a K-12 science framework which will then be used to write new science standards under the direction of Achieve. Achieve was “created in 1996 by the nation’s governors and corporate leaders, Achieve is an independent, bipartisan, non-profit education reform organization based in Washington, D.C. that helps states raise academic standards and graduation requirements, improve assessments and strengthen accountability.

It will be important to follow the development of the new standards.

Dear Mr. President: The Need for Meaningful Reform in Science Teaching

We know you have a lot on your plate—a deep recession, two wars in the Middle East, health care reform, extreme partisanship, the fast spreading swine flu. Yet the one area that that is essential to our well being as a nation–education–has yet to become center stage. I know it is a high priority of yours, and I know when you think the time is right, you will bring it forward for open discussion. I believe that teaching is an art, and that teachers in our culture should work with their students creatively in classrooms characterized as humanistic, experiential, and constructivist.

This letter is an attempt on my part to think out loud, and share with you views held by many science teachers across the nation that believe that their work is a calling, and that their work with students should be grounded in the latest research that supports an active learning environment in which students explore, innovate, and solve meaningful problems. I believe that you would share these views that are held by many of my colleagues.

Your beliefs and your experiences are are clearly explored and described in your books, Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance; and The Audacity of Hope. I read them in the order of their publication, and the books helped me understand your ideas, and it convinced me that you would be open to reforming science education from a humanistic science tradition.

Although you do not have a chapter in either book specifically related to “education,” your thoughts about education, your experiences with your own schooling and educational experiences, and your work in Chicago as a community organizer provide the reader with your fundamental views of education and the reform that is needed.

Those of us in the science teaching community have followed your views on science and technology in our society and in our schools, and many are more than satisfied with your appointments as members of the Science and Technology Advisory Council. I think there was much support within the community for your appointments of Dr. John Holdren as director of the Office of Science & Technology, and Dr. Stephen Chu as Secretary of the Department of Energy. Further, the stimulus package that was put into law provided an additional boost to the National Science Foundation, and the Department of Education has received nearly 100 billion dollars for America’s schools, and educational infrastructure. These are all positive initiatives, and I think they have received enormous support within the science teaching community.

The reform of science teaching that needs to be considered focuses on a paradigm shift from a traditional view of science to humanistic science. This paradigm centers on the way in which students and teachers interact in the classroom. The humanistic paradigm impies that teaching, at its core, is a creative and courageous profession that needs to reform itself from the bottom up—from the local school upward, not from Federal mandates downward. I think we’ve lost our way in this regard, and I am hoping that your personal school experiences in Djakarta, Honolulu, Los Angeles, New York, and Cambridge will inform you, and that the community organizing work you did in Chicago as a young man will be brought into the dialogue. Your sharing of these experiences can have a profound impact on how others view teaching, and help us chart a humanistic course.

In Chapter 13 of your book, Dreams from My Father, you talk about your desire to become involved with the public schools in the area of Chicago that you were doing your work–on the southside.

From the cover of Barack Obama's book
From the cover of Barack Obama's book

I want to recall a section in that chapter for my readers that was very powerful, and supports the humanistic paradigm that I will propose here. You and your colleague & friend Johnnie had decided to visit a high school, and the principal of the school introduced you to one of the school counselors, Mr. Asante Moran. He was, according to the principal, interested in establishing a mentorship program for young men in the school. In his office, which was decorated with African themes, you discovered that Mr. Moran had visited Kenya 15 years earlier, and he indicated that it had a profound effect on him. In the course of your short meeting with Mr. Moran, he clearly told you that real education was not happening for black children, and then he offered you his view on what “real education” might be. Here is what he said on that Spring day in 1987:

Just think about what a real education for these children would involve. It would start by giving a child an understanding of himself, his world, his culture, his community. That’s the starting point of any educational process. That’s what makes a child hungry to learn—the promise of being part of something, of mastering his environment. But for the black child, everything’s turned upside down. From day one, what’s he learning about? Someone else’s history. Someone else’s culture. Not only that, this culture he’s supposed to learn is the same culture that’s systematically rejected him, denied his humanity (p. 158, Dreams from My Father).

Starting with the child as he or she is, and helping them connect to their environment—this is the core of humanistic teaching. Most teachers know and try and act on this humanistic philosophy, but for many, it is an upstream battle. The locus of control is far removed from the individual teacher’s classroom. The control is centered in state department’s of education, and the No Child Left Behind act (NCLB). And much of that control creates a conflict for innovative teachers. As responsible professional teachers, they want their students to do well on the high-stakes, end-of-year exams, yet know intuitively that this persistence on testing leaves creative teaching behind. There is a need to shift the locus of control away from the Federal and state power centers, and move it to the vast number of communities of schools (there are about 15,000) around the nation. These 15,000 districts have a better understanding of the nature and needs of its students, and has a cadre of teachers who, I submit, are quite able to formulate curriculum, and design instruction that favors a humanistic paradigm. I am not suggesting that we erase the National Science Education Standards. I am suggesting that professional teachers are able to interpret the Standards, and create educational experiences grounded in constructivist and humanistic theory, and provide in the long run, meaningful school experiences.

I believe that you understand what I am talking about. Your motivation to leave New York City and move to Chicago to become a “community organizer” was because of your belief in “grass roots change.” In fact, in your first book, here is what you said:

In 1983, I decided to become a community organizer. There wasn’t much detail to the idea; I didn’t know anyone making a living that way. When classmates in college asked me just what it was that a community organizer did, I couldn’t answer them directly. Instead, I’d pronounce on the need for change. Change in the White House, where Reagan and his minions were carrying on their dirty deeds. Change in the Congress, compliant and corrupt. Change in the mood of the country, manic and self-absorbed. Change won’t come from the top, I would say. Change will come from a mobilized grass roots (Dreams for My Father, p. 133).

Humanistic science education is not a new perspective on teaching. It has had to compete with the pipeline ideology of traditional school science, which has been ineffective for most students. Pipeline ideology is primarilly based on training for the scientific world, and the organization of the curriculum tends to a strict adherance to canonical science. A humanistic science perspective tends to be context-based or science-technology-society based. Instead of a science concept being the starting point for learning, the humanistic science teacher starts with contexts and applications of science. Science concepts are explored within these contexts. Humanistic science teaching trives in STS programs, environmental science projects, gender projects, and culturally focused investigations. These experiences shed light on science-related social content for students, and often focus on the affective outcomes of learning, how students feel about science, how it impacts their lives, and what they can do to solve science-related social issues. Many teachers know from experience that projects like these help students see themsleves as citizen-scientists, using social and scientific processes to solve real problems.

Recent results on The Nation’s Report Card show that there has been little change in 17 year old’s performance in math and reading from 2008 to 2004, and 1973. Although there were slight gains in achievement among all students, the achievement gap between white students and black & hispanic students has not changed. And the NCLB act was intended to close the gap. Your able Education Secretary, Mr. Arne Duncan has said that he wants “real and meaningful change” in the nation’s schools. Real and meaningful change can not be more of the same—longer school days, the same curriculum and standards.

I suggest that for meaninful reform in science teaching, there needs to be an openness to new ideas, and there needs to a very strong involvement of grass-roots teachers for this kind of reform. Teachers and students should not be on the receiving end of decisions made by academic vice-presidents, governors, and commisioners of state departments’ of education. These constituencies are important, but the reform must be grounded in practice & related science education research; refom needs to be on the hands of professional teachers.

Well, there you have it. Am I totally off-base here? Can meaninful reform be a grass-roots effort? What are your thoughts? I hope you will be willing to share them.

Resources: Grounding Humanistic Science in Research—Starting Places:

Are Reformers Willing to Involve Students in “Cultivating a New Culture of Accountability?”

With the election of a new administration in Washington, one of the major areas of “change” will be education. More than $100 billion will be invested in education as part of the Economic Recovery and Reinvestment Act. In a speech earlier this week, President Obama has called for sweeping changes in American education calling for the removal of limits on charter schools (laboratories of innovation), improving early childhood education, and linking teacher pay to (student) performance. In fact, the President went on to say that we need to “cultivate a new culture of accountability in America’s schools.”

But there is a serious omission in the current focus on education by the new administration (and past ones, as well), and that is the consideration of a valid and viable student culture. According to research reported in the Journal of Research in Science Teaching by Wood, Lawrenz, and Haroldson:

U.S. students have been largely ignored in discussion and planning for their own, presumed futures.

In their study they clearly show that students’ values are fundamentally different from those of their teachers. On one hand students value schoolwork that is interesting, seems productive, and straightforward. While, teachers, on the other hand believe that students need [science] for the future, that content is important, and that they [teachers] have responsibilities in the classroom. Furthermore, students look at the classroom and their experiences within classrooms in ways that are strikingly different from teachers’ views. For example teachers might say that science is important for the future decision-making capability of students, while students say repeatedly that school science is uninteresting, and seemingly irrelevant to their lives.

As Wood, Lawrenz, and Haroldson point out in their research, common knowledge has it that science education is justified as preparation for later life. The National Science Education Standards defines what this science should be, and provides the rationale upon which we plan the science curriculum informing students that it will be good for their future. We then design examinations that will be used to “measure” student achievement in science, and we are consistently disappointed with the results. On national tests there are disparities by race and class, and on international tests, U.S. students “lag” behind their counterparts in other nations. This picture has remained in freeze-frame for years. The usual claim is that our educational system is failing. Or the teachers are failing. Or, the students are failing.

But, hold on.

The policy- & decision-making apparatus that directs U.S. educational policy tends to ignore student culture, and assumes all students should learn the same body of content, typically to prepare students for the future. Aikenhead has shown that the traditional science curriculum effectively is unconnected with students’ lived-worlds, and more often than not turns students away from school science. As I reported in a weblog post earlier in the week, Svein Sjøberg, director of the Relevance of Science Education Project (ROSE) suggests that the lack of relevance of the science & technology curriculum is seen as one of the greatest barriers for good learning and as the reason for young peoples’ low interest in the school subject and lack of motivation for pursuing the subject in their higher education.

Wood, Lawrenz, and Haroldson refer to Dewey’s argument in his 1916 book Democracy and Education that a future-oriented approach to curriculum results in an oppressive learning environment. They describe Dewey’s four evils of the preparation-for-the-future-focused education:

  1. It undermines motivation by diverting focus from the present interests of the student to preparing for an unknown and intangible future.
  2. It breeds ‘‘shilly shallying’’ and procrastinating, because the future for which students are being prepared seems far off.
  3. It emphasizes the average over the individual, making the future for which the student is being prepared seem even more remote and abstract.
  4. It requires extrinsic rewards and punishment, because it is divorced from the present interests of the student.

We need to take into consideration the nature of student culture in any reform efforts, be they charter schools, tying teacher pay with student achievement, or infusing the classroom with new methods of teaching. Without knowing how student culture develops and how it impacts classroom practice and learning, we will be left wondering why achievement test scores have either remained the same, or have dropped.

We have to do more than simply tell students to study hard, and do their part. The new “culture of accountability” has to take into consideration the culture of students.