Education reform today focuses on quantifiable measures of student learning, which are then used to rate teacher and school quality. Reform of pedagogy concentrates on its technical aspects, and attempts to enumerate and catalogue the most minute features of teaching behaviors. Test results are used to punish and threaten educators, and to obscure the humanity of both teachers and students, ignoring local contexts, as well as the powerful social and economic factors that affect our students’ lives and shape their futures. One of the most pernicious myths of curricular reform is the notion that we can create students who are critical and creative thinkers by positioning their teachers, the intellectual models with whom they are in contact every day, as passive executors of a curriculum of someone else’s design.
This talk will present an alternate vision of education reform, a vision of how education can be local, integrated, critical, and at the same time, joyful. This alternate vision is founded in respect for teachers and students as intellectuals, idea creators, social beings, writers and thinkers.
Meg Petersen is the Director of the National Writing Project in New Hampshire, a site of the National Writing Project, a network of teachers dedicated to improving writing instruction in our schools. She is a Professor of English at Plymouth State University, Coordinator of the English education program, and Graduate Program Coordinator in literacy and the teaching of writing. As a Fulbright Scholar in the Dominican Republic in 2008-2009, she worked with teachers to found a Dominican writing project. She has been honored with both the undergraduate and graduate Distinguished Teaching Awards, and is now the Stevens-Bristow Distinguished Professor at Plymouth State University. Currently, she is working on a book with her colleague Megan Birch, related to the topic of this talk.