I read James Cunningham’s treatise on the National Reading Panel Report from 1997, and I was astounded at the disparity of opinion between those who made the curriculum and those who had to implement it. These individuals were accomplished researchers in their fields, and many held doctorates. Why then does their doctrine hurt the classroom and the education of literacy so much? You would think that so-called experts in this field would know what is best.
Cunningham contends that they are going about the problem all wrong in how they are viewing illiteracy in children as a disease. He posits the argument that reading education should be like fostering growth and development of the child.
I agree with Cunningham, however, I believe his conclusions argue the loudest about the “one-size-fits-all” concepts given to reforming education, not in what practices in reform are best. He argues that the experimentalism spawned a standardization doctrine that creates more problems than it solves, especially when those who are considered “experts” are so far removed from the effects of their thought process.
For one of my education classes, I read a book that observes different preschools around the globe. The US preschool that was observed exemplified this conflict between those who prescribed and those who implemented the doctrine. The administrator wanted the teacher to include the No Child Left Behind curriculum in her teaching, whereas the teacher felt that a different style of teaching was better for the children. When education officials saw recordings of the teacher interacting with her students, – even though the children were coping fine with the style of teaching – they acted appalled at how the teacher deviated from their prescribed curriculum. They were so far removed that they did not realize that the teacher was teaching successfully.
It is here wherein the problem lies with education reform on a national and blanketing level. Higher ups in the system are so disconnected from the effects of their policies that they are frustrated when there is pushback from those who personally experience the educating themselves. There must be a voice for those involved in the education process. It’s like politics: when the representative of the people never sees the effects of his legislation and voting, he cannot represent his district well.