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Home > Blog > Don't Get Around Much Anymore
Out of Our Minds
Monday, November 14, 2005 2:47 PM
Don't Get Around Much Anymore
Anita Sharpe on Making a Difference

A California teacher who works at an elementary school serving mostly poor children asked her fourth-graders to write about what it would be like to have a pet elephant for a day. The kids just scratched their heads -- most had never seen an elephant.

And now, thanks to the No Child Left Behind Act, underprivileged kids are less likely than ever to be exposed to new experiences. That's because our federal government, in its infinite wisdom, is discouraging field trips in favor of more math and spelling drills. A number of schools in Michigan, Kentucky and Missouri have totally eliminated field trips, according to the October issue of Edutopia , an educational magazine published by the George Lucas Foundation.

But as Michele Reese, the California teacher, tells Edutopia, we're doing the kids and society a major disservice: 'Kids need to see that there are jobs out there. They need to see careers. . . Real intelligence comes from making connections. We can raise their test scores, but it's not going to change their lives, really. All learning is based on prior knowledge, and field trips help kids learn about the world.'



7 comments

Ted - 11/15/2005 1:03:45 PM
Perhaps some educator with the right connections could get a grant and conduct a study to prove that field trips improve performance on standardized tests. I've seen exactly that justification invoked to prevent cuts to 'nonessential' art and music programs. So it might work.

Unfortunately, the educational bureaucracy is now stuck in a deep dogmatic rut. They have entirely redefined the purpose of education. Education is now an efficient assembly line that turns out students drilled and trained to rapidly produce the correct response to standardized stimuli. Not coincidentally, that's ideal preparation for life as an expendable worker-drone in a cubicle owned by one of the corporations that are donors to the ideologues who have mandated this wholesale redefinition of education.

Since it's too difficult to change a large bureaucracy marching in goose-step to an overwhelming ideological drummer, perhaps the best we can hope is that creative teachers will work within the system to find ways to expose children to experiences beyond the mandated test-preparation drills. And the way to do that is to convince the lower levels of the bureaucracy that such experiences have a statistical correlation with the One Goal of improving test performance. The one encouraging thought is that there's always room for creativity, even in institutions that do their best to stifle it as a threat to their Metrics!
Ted - 11/15/2005 1:02:01 PM
Perhaps some educator with the right connections could get a grant and conduct a study to prove that field trips improve performance on standardized tests. I've seen exactly that justification invoked to prevent cuts to 'nonessential' art and music programs. So it might work.

Unfortunately, the educational bureaucracy is now stuck in a deep dogmatic rut. They have entirely redefined the purpose of education. Education is now an efficient assembly line that turns out students drilled and trained to rapidly produce the correct response to standardized stimuli. Not coincidentally, that's ideal preparation for life as an expendable worker-drone in a cubicle owned by one of the corporations that are donors to the ideologues who have mandated this wholesale redefinition of education.

Since it's too difficult to change a large bureaucracy marching in goose-step to an overwhelming ideological drummer, perhaps the best we can hope is that creative teachers will work within the system to find ways to expose children to experiences beyond the mandated test-preparation drills. And the way to do that is to convince the lower levels of the bureaucracy that such experiences have a statistical correlation with the One Goal of improving test performance. The one encouraging thought is that there's always room for creativity, even in institutions that do their best to stifle it as a threat to their Metrics!
Ted - 11/15/2005 1:00:55 PM
Perhaps some educator with the right connections could get a grant and conduct a study to prove that field trips improve performance on standardized tests. I've seen exactly that justification invoked to prevent cuts to 'nonessential' art and music programs. So it might work.

Unfortunately, the educational bureaucracy is now stuck in a deep dogmatic rut. They have entirely redefined the purpose of education. Education is now an efficient assembly line that turns out students drilled and trained to rapidly produce the correct response to standardized stimuli. Not coincidentally, that's ideal preparation for life as an expendable worker-drone in a cubicle owned by one of the corporations that are donors to the ideologues who have mandated this wholesale redefinition of education.

Since it's too difficult to change a large bureaucracy marching in goose-step to an overwhelming ideological drummer, perhaps the best we can hope is that creative teachers will work within the system to find ways to expose children to experiences beyond the mandated test-preparation drills. And the way to do that is to convince the lower levels of the bureaucracy that such experiences have a statistical correlation with the One Goal of improving test performance. The one encouraging thought is that there's always room for creativity, even in institutions that do their best to stifle it as a threat to their Metrics!
kate - 11/15/2005 12:33:18 PM
This reminded me of an article I just read in one of our local free papers, commenting on the imminent arrival of the Georgia Aquarium- and implying that a field trip can perhaps literally save a life. The piece quotes Martina Correria who works for Amnesty International and is a single mother:

“Children need things like this,� she says. “The so-called ‘monsters’—the murderers or the people who commit heinous crimes—we create them, they aren’t born that way. Children need to see and experience things that show them a world beyond their own, a world of opportunity that’s positive. If all they know is what’s bad and violent, then that is what they will grow up to be.� Exposure to inspiring experiences, Correia says, is the difference between going to college or going to prison.

The full article can be found here: http://atlanta.sundaypaper.com/NEWS/News/NewsArchives/tabid/202/articleType/ArticleView/articleId/771/111305NewsWemightbetheanimalstheGeorgiaAquariumhelpsmost.aspx
Jerrod - 11/14/2005 10:12:00 PM
Decent point, Julie, but I'm 52 years old and I still have vivid memories of a field trip my New Jersey class took to Philadelphia when I was 10 or 11. There's something special about leaving the building, boarding those yellow buses, b.s.ing with your friends, and seeing a little bit of a different world. Kind of brings new meaning to concept of which children are being left behind.
Julie - 11/14/2005 9:49:26 PM
One thing that schools need to do, in addition to field trips, is to welcome non-educators into the schools. Since public education is so critical to our future, all adults should consider ways to improve the schools in our communities. Students need to meet adults and to encounter the world, but they don't ALWAYS have to leave their world to do it. Adults who volunteer regularly in schools touch students more individually and more deeply than zookeepers who show them the elephants. Every city has a need for adults to read to kids in public schools. In addition, working people can volunteer to give demonstrations in the schools and address the questions of students. Bringing the outside in can be as valuable, and in some cases more, than the efficient and expensive process of loading up the buses and going for a ride.
dillan - 11/14/2005 7:26:24 PM
So much for progress, right? We try so hard to get it right that we get it wrong and this is the problem with education in America. I 100% agree with the assertion that real intelligence comes from making connections, getting out there and seeing things!! Books, math tables and scientific charts are great but how about LIFE? Let’s experience the real things in life!!!

Name a ‘good’ businessperson, teacher, writer, inventor, entrepreneur who answers the question, ‘so where did you learn that?’ with ‘oh a book, or a classroom, with a math drill, the last spelling or reading lesson’. They all need to be combined with real experiences. The fact that field trips are no longer in existence is a travesty. I can still remember my trips to a tomato factory, a farm, a candle maker, a wastewater plant, a fishery, the zoo, on and on and on. These were some of the most enlightening experiences and most valuable from my education in childhood. I am a self described ‘successful person’ and I am not sure where the value of math and spelling drills fall? This is a profound and very tough issue to crack. Thank you so much for talking about education and how the government is pushing programs which are detrimental to our kids.

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