Part III: So, Why Curiosity In the Middle?
When the time came to take my curiosity back to the public sector, I chose the biggest school district in Texas. I was excited to play a role in serving a diverse student body. I confess to underestimating the depth and breadth of bureaucracy and the obstacles in place to thwart curiosity. While I am comfortable with the idea that the original intent of standardization of curriculum and instruction may have been born of a desire to ensure that all students are engaged in a worthy education, this is not what we see in practice. Sadly, I saw so many young people adversely affected by the utter lack of curiosity about what makes them tick and how to support them to leverage their strengths to grow and reach for their dreams. The focus was on accountability, and rigid consistency across classrooms and campuses.
My time in this huge public school district brought into sharp relief just how important curiosity about learners is if our goal is to support their learning and equitably educate all members of our society to reach their potential. The 21st Century is a new and dynamic world, but our public school frameworks were set in the 19th Century and have barely changed since then. If anything, the emphasis on standardized test scores has resulted in the misuse of noteworthy technology that could support and fuel previously unimaginable deep dives into that about which we are curious to instead make various versions of “worksheets” and one-size-fits -all educational tasks accessible in a variety of ways at all hours, all in service of the performance on standardized tests. It is not hard to “do the math” and realize that standardized tests are big business and easily monetized, whereas spurring and supporting authentic, creative inquiry and collaborative problem-solving following a design cycle is not as simply profitable.