I think of the many lessons that children learn in and out of school.
I think about how policy makers seem to often assume that schooling happens in a vacuum, that with enough focus on whatever academic achievement is captured on standardized tests, children will simply ignore what is happening to them outside of school.
The policy makers who insist that we can test our way into opportunity pretend that we haven’t created regions of poverty and low-wage work, where even those who have gotten college degrees struggle to make ends meet. The child of a mother who goes directly from her night shift job to the long line at a local charity so that she can pay the heating bill learns about the tenuous connections between hard work and success.
Children watching grandparents and community elders struggling with their health, or grieving when grandparents die too soon may not appreciate that other children’s grandparents live more comfortably in old age, but will bring stress and sadness to school.
What if, instead of just prodding teachers to make these children to believe that comfort and security are theirs for the taking, just on the other side of high test scores, these children instead saw the adults in their lives living the rewards of hard work and long lifetimes of struggle?
Would that not be inherently more motivating than expecting children to believe that their parents and grandparents could have lived other lives had they only worked even harder and done better in school themselves?