Today, I had lunch in Riverhead, Long Island with parent activist Al Wicklund. Our meeting symbolized the new alliances being forged in the anti-testing movement — the Cop and the Professor; the Marine Corps Veteran and former anti-war protester — united in an effort and to prevent Common Core and uncontrolled testing from demoralizing students and driving out our best teachers.
The lunch was illuminating in many respects, but none was more dramatic than learning how many skills Al possessed that I have no aptitude for at all. Al, who told me he struggled in high school academically, not only can fix any car, he can build a car from scratch and has designed and built his home in the North Fork of Long Island without any help from contractors!
Now I am proud of my ability to write articles and books, both for scholarly and popular consumption, but the skills Al has are just as valuable and important as any I have. And it struck me. Shouldn’t those skills be nurtured in our public schools? Shouldn’t children who have those aptitudes for mechanics and design have their talents recognized? And should children who have these kind of talents, but struggle with reading and math, be made to feel school is one big exercise in humiliation because what they have difficult with is all that takes place there?
The Al Wicklunds of today deserve more than the one-size-fits all curriculum that is being forced into our public schools to the exclusion of all else. Maybe if they are given real opportunity to develop their talents, they can do what Al did, graduate from high school, practice a trade, and go to college in their 30s and 40s when they are ready to handle more academic pursuits.
If we don’t change course fast, we are going to lose a generation of people of incredible talents whose aptitudes are being negated and rendered invisible in a curriculum that follows the narrowest definition of “College and Career Ready.”
With A Brooklyn Accent