Saturday, September 10, 2011

Compliance vs Engagement

Here is an excerpt from an interview with Susan Ohanian and Home Education Magazine
What is your view of compulsory attendance? Has that view changed since the Standardista-movement took hold?
Ohanian: Throughout my career, I was a teacher who sought out every student listed on my rolls. Since I always taught 'difficult' students, there were always several who didn't show up. I pestered truant officers into tracking them down, because I wanted to prove to kids that school could be a positive place. I like to think I did prove this. 
The current abusive curriculum mandates have caused me to make a 180-degree turn. Philadelphia psychiatrist Robert Kay, who is opposed to compulsory attendance, and I have reached a compromise position: compel kids to come to the schoolyard. Then it's up to the teachers to offer an enticing enough experience that will get the kids through the door. I am a staunch supporter of public schools and the good they do; but with aching heart, there's no way I would compel kids to subject themselves to the test prep mania and the standards driven curricula that currently infect our schools.
If educators resign themselves to being nothing more than agents of the state for delivering top-down mandated, prefabricated, content-bloated, scripted curriculums then it makes sense to do whatever it takes to manipulate, bribe, threaten, bully, harass kids into doing whatever it is we want them to do. If this is our perspective, then as long as the kids do what we want, even begrudgingly, we consider compliance our mandate.


...if educators see their responsibility as engaging every learner in a personalized journey in discovering and constructing their passion, we come to see authentic engagement as infinitely more important than compliance.

Ultimately the best educators come to see school not as something done to kids, but something done by them and with them.


  1. Joe, some might call this a utopian vision. Just a few days ago, I was told by a colleague that the way I think "is not where the rest of the world is."

    When I see the many comments on my blog and retweets of posts like yours, I believe like you do, that it's just a matter of time.

    Thanks for sharing Ohanian's comments and for your insights.

  2. Even though the National Education Policy of the U.S. is all about increasing standardized test scores, more and more classroom teachers are beginning to recognize this holdover from the Industrial Model of Education is not preparing students for their unpredictable future in the Digital World.

    It takes a brave classroom teacher to actually put their job on the line for their students, but that is exactly what many of us are doing to make education relevant to our students needs!

    Even though the billionaires have their wrong-headed pet projects and politicians are influenced by the textbook/testing company lobby, teachers STILL have ultimate control of what happens in their classroom.

    The politicians and corporate reformers are doing everything they can to force experienced classroom teachers out of the profession because they know our only agenda will always be doing what is right for our students!

  3. A teacher once said to me - what you say is good in theory - get in front of a classroom With big classes of kids who don't want to be there , kids are not going to jump for joy at the opporunity to now become engaged in learning. This is a recipe for chaos. Alfie Kohn said something similar about discipline and values. We need a program how to move slowly and respectfully to a new order collaborating with kids. For sure, there are teachers who do manage to make a change and inspire kids.


Follow by Email