Looking to history can shape Utah’s education future

By: Lynn Stoddard.

During the last week of May of this year, 30,250 students graduated from 78 Utah public high schools for an average of 388 students per graduating class. In 1945, I graduated from Ogden High School in a graduating class of approximately 400 students. During the 74 years since my graduation has anything changed in our system of public education?

Except for one big thing, nearly everything has stayed the same. All six of my grandchildren who graduated this year were required to abide by the same school system and curriculum that I did 74 years ago — the one that was installed in 1892 by a “Committee of Ten” scholars. This committee recommended eight years of elementary school followed by four years of high school and a “call to teach English, mathematics, and history or civics to every student every academic year in high school. The recommendations also formed the basis of the practice of teaching chemistry, and physics, respectively, in ascending high school academic years.”

My six graduating grandchildren each attended a different high school and were all subject to the same graduation requirements: 24 credits in English, mathematics, science, social studies, arts and computer, health and physical education and five electives.

What’s wrong with this picture? The “Committee of Ten” inaugurated a system of education to standardize students with a predetermined outline of subject matter courses. Each of my graduating grandchildren achieved what was required of them and has a diploma to show it. They were all exposed to the same knowledge and skills as the other 30,244 Utah graduates.

The one huge difference between education as it was 74 years ago and today is not really a difference at all, but a window to a revolution: computers and electronic communication have shined a spotlight on human differences. Back in my day, we obtained our information about the required curriculum from books and teacher lectures. Now, with the worldwide internet, television and hand-held interactive devices, we have suddenly found new ways to learn and discovered that it is impossible to standardize students in knowledge and skills.

Technology now offers a bridge to unlimited student learning and accomplishment. The present required curriculum allows for only a small percentage to become extraordinary, “sterling” scholars. On the other hand, using computers to access the whole world of events and information makes it possible for every student to attain phenomenal knowledge and accomplishment. Each student will now be able to prove that he or she can become a genius in some area of knowledge.

What needs to be done to have this utopia of education become a reality? Before the federal government imposed subject matter standardization on the system, some schools were starting to use human standards rather than subject standards to help learners grow as powerful individuals. Teachers and parents united to help students grow in human powers such as inquiry, interaction, imagination, initiative, identity, intuition and integrity.

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By using this approach, hundreds of students in several schools discovered their genius and reason to exist as important contributors to society. With “identity” as a top priority, teachers united with parents to help students magnify their unique talents and strengths. Teachers and parents were starting to learn how to find and develop student-oriented curriculum based on the important questions and needs of students. They were starting to learn how to develop a much better student-oriented education.

We now have a choice: go back and get on the right path or continue on the subject-dominated, assembly-line path of student standardization.

Source of the article: https://www.deseretnews.com/article/900075359/guest-opinion-looking-to-history-can-shape-utahs-education-future.html

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Lynn Stoddard

Lynn Stoddard

Has many years of experience as a teacher, principal, author and conference speaker.

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