Friday, June 17, 2011


Educators are repeatedly told that raising their expectations is the key element in successful teaching. Students will learn more when they expect more.

At best this is political theater. At worst it is advise from nincompoops. More often than not, school failures are a consequence of bad school management, parental incompetence and economic injustice. If a school is persistently dangerous, for instance, how will higher teacher expectations remedy the educational consequences? And will higher teacher expectations cancel out the negative impact of cruel, uncaring or incompetent parents?

What about the fifth of all U.S. children who live in poverty? Will higher teacher expectations overcome its deleterious impact? Consider, for instance, that hundreds of thousands of U.S. youngsters literally don’t have a home to do homework in. On an average night in D.C., for example, 1,300 youngsters are in shelters for the homeless. If a teacher expects them to do their homework anyway, will that suffice?

No matter how elevated teacher expectations might be, learning still is stifled when children are scared, hungry, malnourished, abused, neglected, homeless, sick or enraged. In fact this "just raise you expectations" nonsense trivializes the misery that many children suffer in America. It also insults every teacher who already expects, or at least hopes for, as much as they dare.

Even if every teacher in America becomes a pollyanna, kids living in misery will still rarely see the point of learning to do algebra, appreciate Shakespeare, conjugate verbs, or balance chemical equations. In fact, some are too busy surviving to even learn to read.

Only numskulls expect quality schoolwork from desperate children. So let’s stop urging teachers to be stupid.

To further examine these and similar issues, see

--- GKC