(Click "Read More" to continue)
While I freely admit that one of the reasons I was interested in teaching was because I liked the idea of still having summer break, I can also acknowledge that having a two month break causes students to forget a fair amount of what they learned the year before, forcing the teachers the following year to spend more time reteaching old content. Maybe by altering the schedule, even while retaining the same amount of time for break, student retention of information can be increased and more time can be spent on new content.
The bell system was useful for training students to be used to shift changes in industrial jobs, but the American economy has turned more and more toward services instead of industrial production, making this adjustment of limited utility. What’s more, this gives students the mindset that learning is to be compartmentalized, hampering their ability to develop critical thinking skills across subject boundaries and instilling in many a lack of interest in lifelong learning.
I think that this issue in particular is addressed by the approach High Tech High takes. While I don’t like most aspects of charter school operation, I did like HTH’s practice of eschewing textbooks in favor of projects, especially the heavy emphasis on interdisciplinary work and the lack of discrete “classes” like world history or english 9. Belief in interdisciplinary study is a big part of why I am working towards credentials in both social science and english.
I was also reminded of the notion of “Big History”, a school of thought based around approaching all of the various academic fields (mainly mathematics, the sciences, and the humanities) as different aspects of the same unifying narrative- the history of the universe. Big history starts with the Big Bang, and continues through the formation of the Earth, the first emergence of life, evolution, and the emergence of humanity, all the way through the present. A good example of this kind of thinking can be found in either version of the television show Cosmos, which combines scientific information with historical fact and at times literature as well, especially moving into discussions of modernity. I think that, if more schools adopted a similar approach, we would find that students were more engaged, because it would be easier to see how different content areas were related to each other and why any of this matters.