Note: I am sending the following part of a talk given by Mr. Jamie Vollmer at the annual meeting of the Illinois Council of Teachers of Mathematics in the Fall, 1996. There is much more to what Mr. Vollmer said, but what follows seems relevant to the situation of our schools now, and what teachers are expected to do in this reality. The full text of my notes of Mr. Vollmer's talk are available - just send a note to me <email@example.com>. *******************************************************
In communicating with people in the communities across the U.S., try to communicate why schools cannot do it alone by pointing out some of the history of the schools, as follows:
1. In about the mid 1600s, the Puritans created schools and it was assumed that families and churches had a major responsibility for raising a child, while the school focused on (i) teaching basic reading, writing, and arithmetic, and (ii) cultivating values that serve a democratic society, with some attention to history and civics too.
Schools maintained this focus for about 260 years. But from about 1900 onwards, additional responsibilities have been placed on the schools by politicians, business people, and policy makers - partly to assimilate immigrant arrivals and to also establish a place for social engineering of the first generation of the Industrial Age. Mr. Vollmer commented on how business interests forced the factory model of schools on education in the 1890s, while drawing a parallel to present conditions. The practice of increasing the responsibilities of the public schools has accelerated ever since.
2. From 1900 to 1920, nutrition, immunization and health were added.
3. From 1920 to 1950, vocational education, practical arts, physcial education, and school lunch programs were added (this is taken for granted now, but it was a significant step, at the time, to shift to the schools the job of feeding the country's children one - third of their daily meals).
4. During the 1950s, safety education and driver education were added, foreign language education was strengthened, and sex education was introduced (and has accelerated ever since).
5. During the 1960s, consumer education, career education, peace education, leisure education, and recreational education were added.
6. During the 1970s, the breakup of the family began to unfold and then accelerated, special education was mandated, drug and alcohol abuse education came to life, character education sprang up, school breakfast programs began to appear (and now some schools are providing two-thirds of a child's meals each day - in some cases the only decent meals they receive).
7, During the 1980s, the flood gates opened and keyboarding and computer education emerged, global education came up, emphasis was placed on ethnic education, multicultural/non-sexist education came to the fore, English-as-a-Second-Language and bilingual education became pronounced, early childhood programs emerged along with full-day kindergartens, pre-school programs for at-risk children came into existence, 'latch-key' programs were established, stranger/danger education was given, emphasis was placed on sexual abuse prevention education, and child abuse monitoring became a legal requirement for all teachers.
8. Now, finally, in the 1990s, HIV/AIDs education, death education, gang education in urban centers (and many centers not so urban), bus safety and bicycle safety programs were added. Beyond this, as we all know, teachers of mathematics and science are also expected to learn about and implement new curricula, teaching approaches and assessment that are consistent with the recommendations in NCTM's Standards.
AND IN NEARLY ALL STATES NOT A SINGLE MINUTE HAS BEEN ADDED TO THE SCHOOL YEAR IN DECADES! THE BOTTOM LINE IS THAT SCHOOLS CANNOT DO IT ALL, SCHOOLS CANNOT RAISE AMERICA'S CHILDREN, THE REALITY OF TEACHERS HAS TO BE CHANGED AND TEACHING HAS TO RE-EMERGE AS A PROFESSION, AND THE MOST IMPORTANT ONE OF THEM ALL!
Mr. Vollmer strongly recommends that 20-30 days be added to the school year, with no students present, in order for teachers to have an opportunity to communicate with each other, cooperatively plan their curricula, develop lesson plans, plan assessment, and, in general, to be professional and have time to do things that professional people do. Of course, they should be paid a salary for this.
Mr. Vollmer referenced the situations of U.S. teaching counterparts in other countries, where the teaching load is very different and considerably lighter in terms of student-contact hours. We need to, Mr. Vollmer says, change the cultural bias we have in the U.S. of all of teachers' time being fully occupied in meeting students. As an aside, I would add that we should work on reducing, firstly, teachers' loads by one period per day, and secondly, further reducing the load another period per day.
* Jerry P. Becker Dept. of Curriculum & Instruction Southern Illinois University Carbondale, IL 62901-4610 USA Fax: (618)453-4244 Phone: (618)453-4241 (office) E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org