When powerful Democrats join President Obama in advocating school choice and accountability in education, educators must be prepared to turn this policy change into an opportunity. Most politicians and citizens do not understand that teachers are typically told which teaching methods to use in the classroom and are evaluated on how successfully they execute those teaching method. Now that the academic success of students is becoming the focus, teachers have a chance to define their standing as professionals. Teachers must begin by demanding the right to choose the teaching methods used in their classrooms.
Administrators and legislators expect to deal with union leaders, so we must be well organized and prepared and ready to provide concrete examples of teaching methods that have impacted student academic success. While many examples exist, cooperative grouping of students is an example of a technique that has limited value although many college professors continue to prepare new teachers to use cooperative grouping as a main method of instruction.
If the public and legislators are going to get a true picture of the challenges facing the classroom, teachers must reveal that many teaching methods implemented in American classrooms discourage academic success. Cooperative grouping of students, for example, teaches children to surrender individual educational goals and support collectivism. Sixty years of failure have not deterred college professors from encouraging teachers to use cooperative grouping in classrooms. The educational goals of those college professors are not academic. Their goals are political.
Cooperative grouping requires the teacher to organize students into small groups each representing a microcosm of society by including a student from every socio-economic group and every ability group. The teacher provides a task for each group to complete. Students receive a group grade because the success of each student is the responsibility of the group.
This method requires children who enjoy academics to relinquish personal educational goals and encourage, motivate, and educate less academically talented students. Students with high potential learn to devalue their skill and replace it with community service. When top students are not encouraged to develop their true potential, personal expectations of all students drop.
Cooperative grouping teaches children with little interest in academics that their success is dependent upon the level and quality of sacrifice made by more academically capable students. It promotes fear of failure rather than recognition of failure as a part of any learning process. No longer are children taught that success means overcoming challenges and developing skills to deal with failures. Instead, failure seems to occur because a fellow citizen does too little to bring success to others. That fellow citizen becomes anyone who accomplishes more than others. Political and social implications are obvious.
This teaching method has helped create a society that accepts pitting one group of citizens against another in the name of “social reciprocity” or equity. American children are being taught that some have the right to take from others.
Cooperative grouping of children demonstrates what history has repeatedly proven: collectivism is a policy of destruction. The method discourages creativity, ambition, productivity, independence, and happiness. Politically, anyone who does reach his potential is seen as a power-hungry oppressor who must be taxed into dependence, his creativity regulated into subservience, and his individuality forced into conformity.
Instructors must reclaim our professional responsibility as teachers of academics and refuse to spend classroom time shaping social or political policies.
Karen Schroeder is the President of Advocates for Academic Freedom (AAF) which is a proponent for a return to fact-based curricula, accountability, and academic excellent in public education. Karen was appointed to the Governor’s Educational Communications Board on May 1, 2012. With a BA degree in education and a Master’s Degree in Special Education, Ms. Schroeder has taught in suburban public schools for thirty-six years. During her teaching career, she became a free-lance writer to provide citizens with information revealing the impact of social and political policies on the educational system. Her works are published in the Eau Claire Journal and numerous other newspapers across Wisconsin. As an education consultant, Ms. Schroeder provides seminars for the public and campaign training programs to political candidates.