An experiment I would love to try
Last week, Darren, the Conservative Teacher, posted about an experiment he has joked about trying. There is an experiment I would like to try, but I'm not joking.
When I read Diane Ravitch's Left Back, I learned that way back in 1934 a leading educational scholar named Isaac Kandel said this: "There is one part of our educational system, secondary and higher, in which there is no compromise with standards, in which there is rigid selection both of instructors and students, in which there is no soft pedogogy, and in which training and sacrifice of the individual for common ends are accepted without question. I refer, of course, to the organization of athletics." He suggested that American education could reinvigorate itself by following the model of athletic programs. That made me think of something a wonderful female English teacher in our school said to me a number of years ago.
It was early in the hockey season, and that year we had so many kids out that we had to make some cuts. That is something every coach dreads more than anything else, and I was complaining to our English teacher about it. She said to me, "You know, I wish I could make cuts for my English class. I wish the students had to try out." And that leads to my proposed experiment.
On the first day of school, I would like to announce to my American History students that they are going to have to try out for my history class. At the end of three weeks, cuts will be made. Making the class will not be based on ability. It will be based on the willingness they demonstrate to do the things necessary to be successful in the class, and their willingness to behave appropriately in the classroom. At the end of three weeks a list will be posted on my classroom door with the names of students who have made "the team." Students who make the cut can still be dismissed from the team anytime during the year if their effort or behavior should fall below the standards expected in the class. Students who fail to make the cut can certainly try out again next year.
Do you think I might end up with a pretty good American History class if I did that?