Reading and Museums

Once I graduate from UNC, I plan on attending graduate school. Then, I hopefully will get a job in a museum. Although I know that I want a career working in a museum, I am not entirely sure what department I am interested in. However, this class has really made me consider attempting to get a job in the Education department of a museum. This class, The Politics of Reading, has really opened my eyes to many issues in the public education system in the United States, and I feel that I might be able to help combat these issues I have seen in this course with my future career goals.

When I was in school, I was really interested in paleontology and archaeology. Most of my teachers understood this curiosity and encouraged me to pursue my interests and learn more about these topics. They often suggested books or articles for me to read. In this class, we also discussed how we believed that schools should really help to foster curiosity in students so they enjoy learning and reading. Whenever we had guest speakers in this course, we tended to ask them how they got unmotivated students to read. They often replied that students will read if they are given materials that they are interested in. However, I do not feel that the current public school system allows for this exploration of interests anymore.

In 2001, George W. Bush implemented a federal literacy policy called “No Child Left Behind.” This policy was supposed to help increase schools’ performances across the country. Although the policy had noble intentions, it has led to some major issues in today’s education system. One of the stipulations of No Child Left Behind is that the students are required to take standardized tests to demonstrate the performance quality of the school. Also, if a school is receiving Title I funding, they are required to meet their AYP goals as well. An example of some of these AYP goals from a school in Chicago, Illinois were things like “95% of all students meet the minimum annual target for meeting or exceeding standards for reading and mathematics.” And many of these goals are difficult or even impossible for some schools to meet. If these schools do not met their AYP goals for multiple years in a row, they may have to fire a lot of the staff, change to a charter school or even close the school. Because of these repercussions and pressure for students to do well on these tests, many schools are focusing too much on these standardized tests. They tend to mainly focus on the subjects that the students will be tested on: reading and mathematics. Only focusing on these subjects hinders children from pursing their interests in science or history or other topics that are not covered in a test and can make them not interested in reading.

In addition to schools attempting to follow the literacy policy No Child Left Behind, some schools are adopting what are called scripted curriculums. Scripted Curriculums are commercial reading programs, such as Open Court and Success for All, that often contain highly structured lessons and some even had word for word scripts that teachers are supposed to follow. Again these scripted curriculums are hindering children from exploring other topics that they are interested during school. Students need to be able to foster their curiosity and interests while they are at school, yet policies and programs like No Child Left Behind and scripted curriculums hinder this curiosity.

I believe that when I am hopefully working in a museum setting that I am able to help foster this curiosity. I want to be able to help make fun and interactive exhibits and programs for students of all ages to learn more about subjects that they are interested in. I would love to also create reading lists for each of the exhibits in the museum that we could give to students of reading materials that are connected with an exhibit that they really liked. For example, if a young elementary school boy was fascinated by the dinosaur exhibit, I would like to be able to provide him with a list of books like, “The Magic Treehouse: Dinosaurs before Dark” and National Geographic’s “Dino-pedia” to encourage him to learn more about the exhibit that sparked his interest at the museum. I believe that this will help foster curiosity as well as encourage students to read.

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