As I travel around the state and work with teachers and curriculum I can’t help but wonder how come our kids struggle so much with the content. I encounter great teachers every day with great skills and knowledge. With all of these great teachers how could kids not learn? I mean to me this stuff is exciting and powerful it generates emotions and energy. It fills me with a sense of wonder and responsibility. It is the lens through which I see the world and attempt to make sense of it. So as I look at what students know and are able to do I am disappointed to see that our students aren’t more knowledgeable, more civic minded, more civil, better critical thinkers, better citizens, and more successful in college and career. It has dawned on me recently that perhaps we are too good at what we do.
How does a student know what gold is? Well in most cases teachers have shown them pictures of bars, bullion, jewelry, and coins and said this is gold. But in most cases they would be more likely to throw gold ore in a lake than recognize it as gold. I think we have done our students a disservice by doing the work for them. Teachers have mined, refined, molded, polished and then held up an example of gold and said: “This is Gold!” We haven’t given our students the opportunity to recognize gold in the raw. We need to allow our students to do the mining, refining, molding, polishing, and make the claim: “This is gold!” It is how they will recognize information in the raw and learn how to use what they know to become who they want to be.
Educational Program Consultant for History, Government, and Social Studies
Kansas State Department of Education