What struck me about the online chat was that it was difficult to get at true diversity issues in learning. Most educators are still stuck doing school the way it was done to them. Yet, we know that many students need something very different. As adult learners we can see this. Adults have demanded online classrooms at the college level. Almost all major universities are now embracing this idea because they have no other choice. They simply cannot remain viable without virtual courses. Adult students can choose from a variety of ways to learn. Yet, we don't offer these choices to our K-12 students. We expect all of them to come to a designated building every day and sit in classrooms where learning happens the same way it has for over 100 years. This way of organizing happened as a result of the industrial revolution. We treat kids like products on an assembly line, moving from subject to subject, grade to grade, without very much differentiation. We ignore research on the benefits of multi-age classrooms, integrated curricula, collaborative learning and other strategies that will work. It is just too hard to move past what we know. We even maintain calendars and daily schedules that were set long ago to accommodate our farming roots. Now, with standardized testing and curricula we are seeing some of the results. Although I believe there are a host of problems that need to be addressed in this standardization, we have learned something through this process. Many of our children are not getting what they need. They are not learning to read early enough and they are not graduating from high school. At least one fourth of our students nationally are not finding success with the current system. Can you imagine if your car only started 75% of the time? What if your doctor only prescribed the right medication 75% of the time? Would you accept a 75% accuracy rate from a cash register at the grocery store? Yet we are reluctant to really change anything.
I have worked to establish alternatives for challenged students. When these alternatives are offered, there is always an immediate backlash against them. This always astounds me and usually results in the alternatives becoming much more similar to the mainstream in the end. I have attempted to work within the system and outside of it. What is clear to me after 29 years of beating my head against the wall is that most of us are happy with the way things are and completely resistant to changing things for our kids. School worked for us and we are incredibly fearful of having it change for our children. I am not sure what it will take to positively impact learning environments, but it is time we at least start to try.