Monday, July 4, 2011

Thoughts on Achievement in School

Question: What are your thoughts on achievement in school?

Response: You may be surprised by the editors’ views of achievement in school:

Quote: “This issue of Language Arts presents stories of the different ways we have thought about how students achieve in our schools. In the American ethos, achievement has been characterized by a Puritan work ethic, rugged individualism, and economic success. These definitions of achievement present some individuals as representative of success, while others are dismissed or marginalized. This notion becomes evident as we consider how we talk about children, schools and literacy. The myth of the achieving child circulates as one who works hard, pays attention, and complies—behaviors that create the dichotomy between ‘good’ student and ‘bad’ student. Curriculum standards, test scores, and restrictive pedagogies, in turn, both reflect this ethos and reinforce the underlying implied view of achievement that creates disparities in the first place.” P. 355.

Comment: What is success in school? And do our expectations of children’s achievement affect their achievement? I’ve thought a good deal about these questions ever since I had a young woman in one of my classes a number of years ago. She was from a poor family. She dressed in unfashionable clothes. She was a poor student. She was quiet and contributed nothing to class discussions. In fact, I rarely even noticed her presence.

Then, one evening, I attended a country music concert in the community. There she was, in complete control of her audience, her voice, her gestures—she was the epitome of success in that setting. I’ve never forgotten her. It was late in the school year and I regretted not having known about her successful career in country music. I would have treated her much differently as a student. I’m sure my readers have had similar experiences. There’s more to a human being than success in school. RayS.

Title: “Defining Achievement in Language Arts Education.” P. Encisco, et al., Editors of Language Arts (May 2011), 335-336.

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