Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Am I in the wrong field?

Traditional schooling is a formidable institution to challenge - and with such challenges, it can often be demoralizing to see change defined, over and over again, as an exercise in rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.

A lot of school reform is about improving school without changing anything.

Being an outspoken critic of homework, grading, rewards, punishment, desks, multiple-choice tests, late marks, worksheets, Smartboards, awards assemblies, honor rolls, detailed lesson plans, scripted curriculums, and hand raising is often not a popular stance. While some see these as the solutions, others see them as the problem.

I would imagine that some might see such an unconventional stance as being overly disgruntled.  I can imagine that some might ask if I've ever considered the idea that I may be in the wrong field. Some might wonder why I bother working in a field fraught with such injustices.

It's a good question and a thoughtful challenge to which I can only respond with: It's because of these injustices that I know I'm in the right field.


  1. I'm glad you ended with that conclusion. I was going to say we need people who see these problems if we're going to improve the way we do education (and step away from the chaos we currently label as education).

  2. Be the change, brother. Be the change.

  3. I am glad to see someone who not only complains but also takes action to make a difference.I believe that you are doing a good job!

  4. We are not meant to be sheep. We are hear to raise our voices and bring about change. I decided in 5th grade to be a teacher because school was the worst place in the world. Keep at Joe we are all there with you.

  5. glad you ended with YES. I will soon be in the thick of it, and need you for a partner.

  6. Thanks for all the support. It is very much appreciated.

  7. Interesting post! I'm an Activites Director at a high school and I would like to read more about what's wrong with awards assemblies and such as those are things in my job description. Cn you make any recommendations?

  8. @ G. R. Poirer - I am opposed to reward ceremonies for a couple important reason. The first is that we need to make an important distinction between intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. Secondly, I believe that public education is for all, yet award ceremonies tend to be exclusionary. In other words, like all rewards, it is built on a zero sum game where the winners are defined by the losers.

    Here are some posts of mine that might be of interest:

    Here's how I abolished award ceremonies so we could value and recognize all students: http://www.joebower.org/2010/06/unconditional-recognition.html

    Here's a brilliant post by Alfie Kohn on the inherently destructive qualities of all rewards: http://www.joebower.org/2011/03/should-students-be-paid-to-learn.html

    I have more. If you search motivation on my blog, you'll find a ton of posts.


  9. Great post, Joe. It's good for teachers in the field for the right reasons to have a voice like you speaking on their behalf. Keep it up. These are the types of conversations that need to be taking place in order for the current reform movemement to shift towards the best interists of kids and learning.


Follow by Email