Iowa Learning Council

The DE has released yet another report making recommendations for education reform in Iowa–this time from the Iowa Learning Council.  The report is available for download from the Iowa DE website here.

The recommendations are similar to ones previously made by the DE: better teachers, Smarter Balanced Assessments (although not end-of-course exams), relevant curriculum, service learning, competency-based education, STEM programs, online learning options, and opportunities to explore careers.

The report also includes this statement on page 14:

In almost all human activities, STEM is involved. Throughout history, the nation with more advanced weapons created by STEM professionals won wars. In the past, that meant hand-to-hand combat weapons. It now means economic wars on the national and regional level as products and innovations created by STEM fields boost GDP and the quality of life in the region.

Apparently we have moved from global competition to economic war.  So it isn’t surprising that the report seemed focused on relevance and usefulness and job training and how am I going to use this later, but I do find that focus dispiriting.

While it is certainly true that I have never been called upon to paint a picture, discuss literature, or balance a chemical equation in a job interview, on the job, or in the ordinary course of my daily life, I do not regret spending years of my childhood and young adulthood reading, studying, and learning all kinds of “useless” things.

The study of history, government, economics, cultural and physical geography, music, art, literature, math, science, and more are relevant and useful to us because we are human and these subjects encompass what we know about our world, our universe, and ourselves.

It is no trouble to find adults who do not use algebra at work or in their daily lives.  Almost every subject and every book could be excluded from the school program if that were the test.  While there is certainly a conversation to be had about the compulsory nature of school, I hope that we won’t let the school curriculum be limited by such a narrow focus on economic utility.