Why So Many Schools Remain Penitentiaries of Boredom
by Elizabeth English Head of School at The Archer School for Girls in Los Angeles."It's harder to change a school than it is to move a graveyard." Or, as it's also been said, "It's harder to change a history course than it is to change history." I think we can all agree that our schools should be among our most dynamic and innovative institutions; but despite the endless talk about school reform, they remain among our most ossified.
Take a look at the typical American classroom, public or independent, urban or suburban, and what you will see looks very much like the classrooms of the 19th century. Yes, slates have been replaced (in most places) with digital tools, but the structure signals the musty past: teacher as authoritative source of knowledge, student as tabula rasa. Or take the structure of the school day itself, typically divided into seven 45 minute classes. Believe it or not, that schedule derives from Victorian factories where industrialist Frederick Taylor concluded that workers were most productive when they changed stations every 45 minutes.
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