Are the brains of boys and girls so different that they require different styles of teaching? Betsy DeVos, Donald Trump’s appointment as Secretary of Education, thinks they are and supports segregated schools where girls are rewarded for good performance with a dab of perfume. (“Of Two Minds,” by Kiera Butler, Mother Jones, March/April 2020 pgs. 52-57.)
A wave of nausea surges through me when I recall all the education fads I endured as a teacher: closed classrooms, open classrooms, team-teaching, schools within a school, alternative schools, magnet schools, and charter schools, to name a few. Frankly, it’s all voodoo. No one knows how we learn. For that reason, I never claimed to teach anyone how to think.
What matters is that a teacher has a mastery of the subject. From mastery comes the juice that sparks a student’s interest.
That’s why I’d forget the dab of perfume and improve the teachers. No more scooting along with a B. A in education. What does it matter if a person knows methods if he or she has no matter?
I’d like to see schools do away with grades, too. Young people need to trust their teachers. But how can they trust when they are being judged if they fail?
What’s wrong with failure, by the way? It’s a step toward learning. If people never failed, they’d never know why they succeeded. All they’d experience is dumb luck. True, some students will catch on faster than others, but what does it matter? Are we interested in learning or the speed of learning?
The formula for success in the classroom is simple. Take one tenacious teacher who loves the subject, who is determined to see every student succeed without the threat of grades, then let the fun begin. After that, people like Betsy DeVos have but one obligation: get out-of-the-way.