Sunday, July 7, 2013

The Rigor Fad In Education

There is a new fad in public school education. This fad is being driven by No Child Left Behind, The Common Core, and standardized testing. Most often the term used to describe this new fad is "rigor". We, teachers and parents, are being told that our students NEED rigorous teaching in order to learn. We are being told that without rigor, students will never learn or keep up with other countries in the modern day work place. (Perhaps in another post I will have the patience to discuss the people and companies that are making money off of this fad as this has become a very lucrative business opportunity for many.)

I am here to tell you that none of this is true. Humans are wired to learn. From birth we learn to eat, sleep, move, and make noises that communicate our needs. As we live, we learn more and more about our world. Yes, even children who are living with special needs will learn. A child may need more modeling and practice in one subject than another. Also, some children will be better at one subject than others. This is normal. After all, if you are great at repairing cars you do not have to be great at gardening. We are each unique so that we, as a species, can survive.

When I looked up the word "rigor" on the Merriam-Webster Dictionary website, I found the following information.

1 a (1) : harsh inflexibility in opinion, temper, or judgment : severity (2) : the quality of being unyielding or inflexible : strictness (3) : severity of life : austerity
b : an act or instance of strictness, severity, or cruelty
2: a tremor caused by a chill
3: a condition that makes life difficult, challenging, or uncomfortable; especially : extremity of cold
4: strict precision : exactness <logical rigor>
5 a obsolete : rigidity, stiffness

b : rigidness or torpor of organs or tissue that prevents response to stimuli

Synonyms
adversity, asperity, hardness, hardship, difficult
I ask you, do you want your children to go to school and be faced with adversity and hardship in EVERYTHING they do? This is what is being suggested by "scholars". Well, let me be clear, some scholars who are not experts in developmentally appropriate practices will suggest rigor as a course of action in education. After all, we need to force children to learn, right?

I suggest a different approach. Talk with children, model for them, read in front of them, read with them, explore nature, cook together, build projects together, have fun together. If we pay attention, our children will lead us through their own developmentally appropriate learning pathways. They will stumble at times and we will help them. Again, this is normal human behavior. There is no need for rigor. There is a need for patience, modeling, compassion, opportunities and action.

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