I started my weekend at ASCD listening to Yong Zhao tear down the idea of standards in American education in favor of fostering individual creativity and ended it listening to Robert Marzano build up the idea of standards in education to foster individual accountability. While it feels at first as though these two well-established voices in education are opposed, upon further processing, I started to develop a deeper understanding of how and where the two meet.
Marzano’s session focused on data that supported his research in systems-based education. The opposite of which is time-based education, not creativity. When I had just seen Zhao speak, it seemed to me that standards were clearly his enemy. Listening to Marzano made it clear his concept of standards included no intention of destroying creativity (whether they actually do or don’t can’t really be seen in a simple comparison of their sessions).
There are many of you who already have notions of each of these ideas, but I as new teacher, I am still trying to find all these walls in the dark. I like the idea expressed by Wayne Dyer (thanks to my colleague Olivia for pointing this out to me) that:
Another colleague ( a veteran science educator), through a comment conversation on Facebook, pointed out that the opposite may be true as well; we shouldn’t accept ideas which we know nothing about either.
This axiom gives great weight to the pursuit of personal truth. You cheat yourself if just listen to soundbites, quickly agree with emotional appeals, or deny unsavory responses to your thoughts. A good teacher is one who understands–what should be–the careful process of adopting new information.
I think in this age of information sharing at great speed, we need to continually be made aware that the ideas which we so emphatically deny and accept through our lunchroom chats, tweets and retweets, and other social media, were usually carefully crafted by someone.
I like to think that the only true absolute is: There Are No Absolutes, and I chuckle thinking about the paradox, but the point is there are always exceptions. There are “bad” researchers collecting seemingly meaningless data, sloppy bloggers espousing ideas loudly, teachers and principals who value their job over student learning, and corrupt politicians focusing only on reelection. These things are what make us angry, inspire us to be better at what we do, and help build awareness of ineffective practices.
When I think back to the differences between Zhao and Marzano, it’s hard for me to say they are opposed, and it gets harder the more I read about each of them and their ideas. They both care about pursuing education for all kids. They both care about discerning a system where best practices are shared and disseminated. They both make a living working for teachers and schools–ultimately–on behalf of students.
When I consider the nature of creativity and standards, the temporary conclusion I keep coming back to is that they have more in common than I previously thought.
Please leave a comment and some insight on these authors and their ideas!