Write Angles

April 24, 2005

School Choice and Diversity

Filed under: Diversity,School Choice,School Reform — Damon @ 6:12 pm

Some people seem to believe that school choice would be the end of the school system as we know it. I don’t really understand the logic behind this fear.

I teach 11th grade math at a very unique school. We teach the core subjects within the context of semester long projects. For example, last semester’s theme was revolution. Each group of students produced a magazine in which each issue dealt with a different revolution. We covered cultural, historical, and scientific revolutions. The idea is to integrate different subjects within one project. (This approach does have its problems. One is that we have difficulty covering all of the curriculum. But I’ll save that discussion for a future post.)

Our project-based approach works well with most of our students. One reason is that students have to apply to our program and be accepted. For the most part they choose to be there. We tend to get students that are natural entrepreneurs.

I don’t pretend to think our school would work well with every student. And that is my main point.

Every student person is unique and learns in different ways. Some students are linguistically intelligent while others are more mathematically inclined. There are, supposedly, 7 or 8 different intelligence types. Combine that with, supposedly, 4 different learning styles and you get 28 to 32 different intelligence/learning style combinations. And if you combine that with…

Anyway, you get the idea. Our students are a diverse group of people. It only makes sense that they should be able to choose from a diverse set of learning environments. It seems that we have moved towards creating a cookie-cutter approach that is, supposedly, good for everyone. Teacher credential programs emphasize the different learning styles, different cultural backgrounds, etc. And creating variety in your instruction makes it more interesting and enjoyable for both students and teachers.

I don’t have a problem with any of that. My concern is this. In trying to make every classroom ideal (and equal) for every possible student it seems we are leaving every real child behind.

I may not be articulating myself well. (I am, after all, a math teacher.) I may even get hate mail from liberal educators teachers’ unions. But I think we should give students, and parents, more choices in where they go to school. More students who are interested in science or math could attend pre-engineering type magnet schools. Students interested in the arts could attend artistic magnet schools, etc. I guess I don’t understand the harm in that.

Would there be schools that lose enrollment because of problems? Yes. If so, should they work to reform their programs? Probably. Does school choice solve all of the problems? No.

But I think it would help.

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