By Any Other Name
Today I was struck by just how entrenched people are in their own ideas and beliefs. I supposed this entrenchment exists in all areas of ones life, but I think it often becomes very apparent in education and among educators. I mentioned today to a few of my teaching colleagues that I thought the school where we work should eliminate the bottom track of courses offered and fold them into the academic level of courses. I cited several reasons for this belief, among them being that the students in the lowest track would benefit greatly from being exposed to academic-level work and classmates. Lets just say my opinion didn’t go over well. While I’m never one to back away from an argument or discussion, I actually couldn’t speak another word as everyone in the room attacked my opinion with their own, deeply personal opinions of why my suggestion would not work. Now, what I proposed is well supported with empirical research highlighting the downfalls of tracking and the benefits of challenging students academically. But, that research doesn’t matter to those who I presented my opinion to. They have their own opinions that were most likely formed about the time they entered kindergarten and they just aren’t changing what they believe. I’m sure if my school listened to my opinion and implemented such a change, each one of those teachers would be lined up to fight against it because, despite what anyone could show them or tell them about its benefits, they know it’s wrong.
This post really isn’t about tracking, but instead about the challenges of implementing real change in schools in environments where everyone has preconceived notions of what school is and how it should function. Anything that is proposed that goes beyond what everyone believes school to be is wrong, and most likely destined to fail because those who are dug in will never dig out. And because of this deep entrenchment and the clinging to old beliefs it may be time to just change the name of school altogether. If it’s not school, then it can be changed and nobody will be upset. I’ll work on some names later, but for now I will close with the belief that real change is possible but to achieve it, educational professionals dedicated to truly bringing it about must fight against forces that often seem insurmountable.