A Child Left Behind

My 9 a.m. class was canceled today. So, I used the extra 50 minutes before my next class to read and prep for a class discussion activity. My assigned readings dealt with the lack of Critical Thinking in our CA education system. I use to think that No Child Left Behind (NCLB) laws were a form of affirmative action for “at risk” students as it gave them a chance to keep up with the rest of the better performing students. Well, was I wrong! NCLB has hindered our education, and we have a number of statistics ranging from test, social, behavioral, and economic performances to support this argument. But, perhaps the greatest hinder lies in the common norm that NCLB does not sanction Critical Thinking. Rather, the assessment of our children are reduced to 4 letters to choose from. One can become a great test taker without even knowing the subject.

Critical Thinking is the pinnacle of the concept of education. Critical Thinking demands the individual to think for them self, to understand the processes of how something came about, to apply learned knowledge and concepts to his/her very own personal way of perceiving things, to problem solve, and to supports one’s argument with logical supportive evidence. How can this fit in a multiple choice test? Even worst, how can these important concepts be taught where the objective to to make the score. The San Francisco Chronicle stated that many countries have national standards and test and manage their systems different. These top-scoring countries include Finland, Japan, Singapore, Australia, Canada, and others. Yet, the common factor is that they all focus on Critical Thinking (October 14, 2007, p. E3).

My morning class discussion involved the notion that critical thinking involves problem-solving and making connections between concepts and real life. If you are a parent, you are well aware that this skill is not the focus in elementary environments. Students are taught to fit the mold, follow directions, keep their opinions to themselves, and accept the facts. Do you remember our elementary hero? Christopher Columbus. We were not taught to analyze the facts nor its sources. Years later…..oops we, the educators/authorities made a mistake. Critical Thinking allows the individual take any situation, familiar or unfamiliar, and analyze how it came about and its possibilities. I’ve notice that students, especially from third grade onward, tend to remember more information from their kindergarten and first grade years when the concept was connected to something meaningful. For example, they could remember the steps of how to make ice cream from first grade. They remembered details such as to make sure to stir fast enough to achieve a better quality of ice cream. THIS is critical thinking because real life (adult life) requires that one follow steps to ensure better results, and that what one does will effect what one will get.  It forces the individual to think.  It allows for personal interpretation of things and how they work.  Compare this skill to a simple “what is ice cream made of?”

No Child Left Behind has inadvertently produced a generation of children who do not read at grade level, do not possess the adequate skills to function in society without the use of a calculator, are not able to problem solve, and do not critically analyze situations and their potentials. In short this group walks along the mainstreamed classes of America with a post it on each of their backs that states: “A Child Left Behind”.

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