Planning To Fail

Mussolini, we are told, micro-planned Italy’s schools to such a degree that, on any given day of the school calendar, he could tell you precisely which page in which textbook was being studied by every single student in any particular grade. What an astounding achievement!? Really?

To construct a plan is to presume several things. One, that every student is an identical cog in an assembly line. Two, that a specific detailed corpus of knowledge is optimal for each and every one of these anonymous cogs. Three, that the optimal way to transmit this corpus of knowledge is the same for each and every one of these students.

How well does this micro-planning method work? Hardly at all. Most graduates of most schools fall far short of proficiency in most subjects. Why? To begin with, the method ignores just about everything which is known about children and how they learn.

Children develop at different rates. Some walk early, some late. Some speak early, some late. Why should we presume that they all learn to read, to compute, to write at the exact same pace?

For any given instructional pace, unless it is so slow that all can adapt (and be bored, most likely), there will be “failures” who can’t keep up. A child-centric method would adapt to the child, presenting progressively more interesting challenges, matched to the child’s interests, abilities, and development. A fixed method expects the child to do all the adaptation, and sometimes is beyond their reach; it is a training ground for failure and despair.

College professors report that many or most high school graduates, even at prestigious universities, are math phobic to a debilitating degree. They have been trained to accept failure in a large and important realm of human thought.


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