The Daily Star, Oneonta, NY - otsego county news, delaware county news, oneonta news, oneonta sports

October 3, 2013

Modules take school reforms too far

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The Daily Star

---- — Think of the word “module,” and you might envision the lunar ones that landed on the moon. 

A module is a fine thing for an astronaut. It keeps him or her safe and secure from the harshness of outer space. 

But a module is a terrible thing for a child. 

Or a teacher. 

It protects them from nothing, and it keeps them in a virtual prison cell — away from the wonders of the world they should be exploring. 

Last week, about 80 people attended a Board of Education meeting at Oneonta’s Riverside Elementary School to discuss New York state’s Common Core curriculum, which includes what have become known as modules: instructional scripts dictated by the state to be used in all elementary schools this year. Teachers are required to follow the scripts, with strict restrictions on content and how much time is spent on each subject. 

While the state’s motives are noble — to ensure a quality education for children and accountability for teachers — it is difficult to imagine anything so short-sighted, counter-productive and just, plain asinine as these “modules.” 

Our kids aren’t robots. They aren’t automatons who all learn at the same pace. Their young brains don’t all operate the same way, and their abilities and personalities vary in too many ways to count. 

Where is the place for the dreamer, the child whose imagination hasn’t yet been stymied by the roadblocks a one-size-fits all society will throw in his path? 

Where is the time for a youngster to get a meaningful answer to a wild thought that stirred her to raise her hand? 

Why have teachers at all, if they are merely conduits for some rigid program written by a far-off corporation so a school district can get a high score on a state test? 

Had there been modules in ancient Greece, would there have been a Socrates? And if there were not a Socrates, would there have been a Plato, or an Aristotle … or an Alexander the Great? 

“We have become a tool” as the modules have “stripped the joys from learning,” said Valleyview Elementary School third-grade teacher Ken Sider at the Riverside meeting. 

Oneonta City School District Superintendent Joseph Yelich said: “I don’t want to lose creativity in the classroom” or the ability to tap into the “intellectual capability” of teachers.” 

Yelich said he would do what he could to give teachers more flexibility, and that is a good thing. But parents, teachers and others must raise their voices loudly and persistently to effect a change on the state level. 

The only thing at stake is the untapped potential of our children.