A Pawn, a Guinea Pig, or an Acorn

Differing perspectives on students.
Unsplash, Juliet Sarmiento

As a parent, how do you want those in charge of your child’s education to view them? I have concluded that there are three prevailing perspectives among educators and policymakers. I believe they will either view them as a pawn, a guinea pig, or an acorn, and their perspective will shape their actions and decisions. 

Those who view your child as a pawn know parents can be easily swayed when it comes to the welfare and success of the people they care about most in the world. They might use fear as a way of convincing parents to incorporate certain programs into the school day. One such program is Social Emotional Learning that is promoted as a way to help students “control their emotions,” but is actually a Trojan Horse for ushering in social justice initiatives. Of course parents want their children to be socially and emotionally healthy, so they acquiesce to the “experts” and unknowingly subject them to group therapy sessions led by unlicensed therapists. The motive behind the actions of the “chess players” can vary, but are often connected to financial incentives. Others may be motivated by political gain. Whatever the impetus, your child is the means to the end.

Another unfortunate view of your child among those who have the power to make decisions affecting them is that of a guinea pig. Guinea pigs often come to mind when we think of animals used in experimental science labs. Those who think of your child in this way are more than happy to test the latest and greatest trend in education on students, regardless of its proven effectiveness or lack of evidence demonstrating success. Initiatives such as Whole Language, Anti-Racist math, or Action Civics are just a few of the trends that have come on the scene in recent decades. They sound innocuous enough when they are first presented, but prove to be ineffective ways of adequately teaching students literacy, math, or genuine civic virtue. If your child is unfortunate enough to be involved in one of these “experiments”, there will be gaps in their learning.

The perspective some have but more educators and policymakers need to have when it comes to your child is that of an acorn. It is just a tiny seed but contains the potential to grow into a beautiful, strong, giant oak tree. Those who hold this view will be much more likely to ensure the proper conditions are in place for strong roots to be established. They will tend to the weeds that might choke out tender growth. And, they will intentionally provide the nourishment necessary for future growth. What that looks like in a classroom is an environment that is quiet, calm, and orderly. Every student feels supported and no student is allowed to disrupt learning for others. Proven methods of literacy and math instruction (directly taught by the teacher) are used to provide the necessary foundation for future learning, and any obstacles to learning are detected and dealt with early on. The curriculum would be rooted in liberal arts and sciences and would cultivate an appreciation for civic responsibility. 

The scenario described above is not a utopian dream. It is happening in schools across the country that have embraced the classical model of education. While many of these are private institutions, there is an opportunity to offer this model to students of all income levels if policymakers choose to. Every student has the potential to grow into a beautiful strong adult. Will those charged with the responsibility rise to the challenge?  

Beanie Geoghegan
Beanie Geoghegan is the Chapter Lead for No Left Turn in Education KY. She is a former teacher and reading interventionist and is the mother of four grown readers, writers, and independent thinkers.