It would look like all who would call themselves educators taking the Socratic Oath.
Adults who care about children need to give to the system what is the system’s and to the child what is the child’s. School systems are bound by their systemness. Devotion to standards, measurable outcomes, public accountability and so on are necessary cornerstones of a public system committed to serving all the people. Arguments about the shape of those cornerstones are distractions from conversations by parents and teachers in the business of taking back schools to serve the needs of each individual child.
In my Children’s Bill of Rights children have a right to be treated as if they are already—by age 5—experienced authors, storytellers, researchers, problem-solvers, inventors, scientists, artists, athletes, friends and collaborators. This is what it means to respect their humanity.
Education is creating the conditions that will bring out, develop, discipline, and focus these natural tendencies to learn, so that young people will be equipped to engage in the never-ending job of making something of themselves in the world. The essence of the Socratic Oath of an educator, therefore, is to notice the genius in each child and to lead it out to confront ever-increasing complexity creatively and gracefully.
A child has a right to have one or more adults take this oath. If more than one adult, then they absolutely must work together.
Adults who love children know this, and are naturally inclined to be educators. However, in America today many are caught up in an archaic educational system (public private parochial), which is still serving a pyramid model of society that is no longer functional in the emerging world culture. Under these conditions most of the current conversation among adults is pretty distracting.
For instance, here’s an obsolete question that is still alive: teaching academics vs creativity? Which side are you on?
What a silly dichotomy. Both are important and the best way to teach academics Is to do it in such a way that the creativity of the human organism is engaged. Academic disciplines are built-in necessities—not only for the school system, but also for leading a productive life. However, they must be taught in the context of a community of learners with the core assumption that we are all engaged in naturally meaningful and joyful activity.
Here’s another: For or against standardized tests? Standardized tests seem to be a systemic necessity, but this reality need not destroy education. Education can still go on. Research shows that students who have an educator for a teacher perform better on standardized tests than those who are stuck with a mere pedant, or worse a teacher who teaches to the test, or worst one who just goes through the motions. What is malpractice, is mistaking the test for education. There is nothing whatsoever educational about a standardized test. A test score is just a marker and not a very good one.
We actually know all this and have for along time. The fear of falling behind in the race to the top is keeping us from being educators for our children.
Adults, unite. Stop talking about the needs of the system, and empower parents and teachers to do what their integrity requires: doing whatever it takes to bring out the best in each individual child. Make sure that the humans working with individual children are working for them, and not following some systemic mandate. Our Socratic oath requires it.