Back in oh the eighties or so, maybe it was the nineties, we found out that chicken was really healthy. Not dark chicken but chicken breasts. So people started buying chicken breasts. Lots of chicken breast recipes came out. More people bought chicken breasts. The poultry industry sat up and took notice and started churning out chickens. The trucks passed me on the highway- and it was gross. The chickens were in little cages all smushed up and headed to the killing place to go on my plate. They looked nasty. I separated the idea that those things were what I was eating and continued to buy chicken breasts.
They were expensive at first so I had to buy dark meat sometimes. Until, overnight it seemed, there were these great big bags of chicken breasts, only breasts and they were cheap. Just $7 for around 5 pounds of meat- awesome! I bought those for years and was happy to get them. I never thought about what kind of chicken might have a huge breast like that or how no real chicken I ever saw walking around on a farm had boobies that big. I just bought them, ate them and fed them to my family. I’m kinda slow on the uptake a lot of times and this was one of them. I didn’t begin to consider the whole organic eating idea until this last year. Now I won’t buy those big ‘ol cheap breasts. Just seems like common sense. I wondered what kind of chemicals or hormones they might be given to create that result and I decided, I didn’t want to eat that on a weekly basis anymore. I pay more now for less meat.
I’m now gonna relate this to our education system. M‘kay? Here goes: The students are the chickens. The teachers are the poultry workers. The industry leaders are the feds. They want results. They want to see growth and see it big. They want to be able to test it. They want to turn the whole thing into a chicken factory. Just put this in and take that out and they tell us how to grow our students. They want to test them and reward us if we do it their way. Waddyathink? Does the extended metaphor work for you?
To take it even further, I think that this emphasis on testing and growth is bad for our kids. Shoot me, I do. I think we should be able to chase a rabbit in class and learn from our discussions of said rabbit. I think we should have time to think and time to write. I think you can’t measure all kinds of progress that takes place in a student. I know you can’t.
Now, now, now- don’t get all het up on me. I agree students should have basic skills in writing, reading and math. They should. But I don’t agree with the direction we are going. I don’t agree that testing is what it’s all about. I don’t agree that America is stupid. We are still innovating, yes so are others. Great! Competition is good.
Let me teach. Let me change my lesson plan at the last minute depending on what I saw on the newspaper sometimes. Let me extend a lesson when they aren’t getting it. Let me grow some smart chickens who have big brains.
Kim Blevins is a teacher-consultant with the Greater Kansas City Writing Project.
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