Reforming Our Schools
To effect change within the schools, parents need to be informed of what works and what does not in educating children, so that they have research and expert testimony to back their requests for reform. While this may sound intimidating, a perusal of any good bookstore will produce two or three books that will set you well on your way. Success may then necessitate a small group of parents joining forces to initiate a specific, one-step-at-a-time, strategy for change; creating rapport and working cooperatively with teachers and administrators, volunteering for school activities, and being actively involved in school politics.
Effective steps to reform could include any of the following: introducing materials and teaching modalities that respect multiple intelligences and make learning relevant, challenging, and fun; educating not only for academic competence but for caring, social competence, and planetary stewardship; encouraging critical thinking, problem-solving, and imagination; replacing grades and scores with daily or weekly teacher-student assessments; emphasizing self-motivation and avoiding competition; communicating with and trusting children and families to know what is best for themselves; keeping classes small; providing opportunities for every student to have a meaningful relationship with an individual teacher or teacher's aide; offering children reasonable choice in how lessons are presented; allowing teachers considerable autonomy within their own classes; bringing parents and community--including the very young and very old--into the school; re-involving children with the real world--real world adventures and experiences, work/study programs, apprenticeships of a day or longer. Community service can provide children with opportunities to act unselfishly, and to hold real responsibilities in the mainstream of life. Patience, perseverance, play, options and experimentation are key.
In addition, parents can regard their homes as a learning center where they can support their child in growing in those dimensions that the school does not provide for, while remembering that children often learn best without supervision. They are under tremendous pressure these days to grow up too fast, too soon. Let them be. Be present and available when you are wanted--to listen to them, respect their views, allow them to explore emergent ideas and interests in ways they choose rather than parents direct. Support them in becoming responsible, resourceful, and caring individuals. Consider the extended family, community, and the natural world as learning resources.