Nostalgia Kills Innovation In Education

Nostalgia is pleasurable but it kills innovation in education. Seemingly everything about the by gone days of the schoolhouse is better then the current classroom. Whether it was the mixed age groups of the one room schoolhouse, the stern, expert, spinster, spanking teacher, or the devotion to memorization and repetition, the “ole days” are credited with producing better-educated citizens. Nothing could be further from the truth. In the main, public education was intent on educating white boys for higher education and the world of work. People of color and girls were not desired students because their IQ’s were thought to be inferior. Immigrants from Europe were targeted for Americanization—learning English and the requirements for becoming a citizen. Classrooms were large and desks nailed to the floor in rigid rows. And, the curriculum was tracked, relegating most students to preparation for manufacturing plants. Teachers, mostly women, were employed like piece workers in large factories. How convenient it is to forget why reform is an industry as old as public education. Every innovation in education has been the object of warring factions because, despite evidence, tradition trumps wisdom. Innovations like compulsory attendance, kindergarten, co-education, busing, food service, or educating African American children was the basis upon which educational warfare was waged during the 19th and 20th centuries. Not much has changed. Testing dominates public schooling despite being methodically flawed. Worksheets instead of digital tools are a preferred pedagogy. The agrarian schedule persists even though more instructional time is needed. And, early childhood education is not universally available while limited access comes late except for children of economically advantaged families. Notably, teachers are still employed as piece workers suitable for factories instead of college educated professionals. Nostalgia governs and kills innovation.

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