Professor of Education Joanne Larson recently published a new book, titled “Radical Equality in Education: Starting Over in U.S. Schooling”, detailing her dismay over the current education system in the United States.
From Larson’s perspective, the current system starts from a fundamentally incorrect position.
“The way it currently works, we start with assumptions of inequality and intelligence, saying that teachers know stuff and students don’t know things,” Larson said. “They’re empty heads and it’s the teachers’ job to fill them. That assumption, whatever reforms you bring, as long as that assumption stays the same, they’re not going to work.”
In order to engage the students and create a more educated population, Larson believes we need to start over again with a different assumption.
The book outlines the failures of the U.S. education system and the crisis we have reached in public education.
Rather than focusing on the scores and grades of students, Larson believes we need to engage them as critical thinkers.
“There are schools that are doing remarkable work [such as] Schools Without Walls,” Larson said. “It’s a city high school that works from a more constructivist perspective where the students have a say in the curriculum, they have design courses, and they do projects instead of exams.”
Larson described her belief that teaching needs to become a sharing of intelligence rather than a display of information. In her book, she describes the new purpose of teaching to be facilitatory.
“Things are worse than they’ve ever been in schools, so we have to start somewhere,” Larson said. “So we start with K-12 schools. We’ve been good at starting with one school and not taking it to scale […] It should be both policy and practice at the same time.”
Larson suggests that we need to put more emphasis on the values of teachers and the education of teachers in order to improve the quality of education that students receive.
“We have a really different and highly diverse, highly racialized society that marginalizes people on multiple levels so we’re going to have to figure out how to include everybody in ways that everyone is included in multiple spaces,” Larson said.
Smith is a member of the class of 2014.