6.4. Serving the Other

A great deal depends on an environment that supports, believes in, and encourages individual gifts and individual development. K nig describes the "College Meetings" at Camphills for children, where every week the staff of a house or entire facility come together to discuss a particular child:

The child's case history is read, and then the teachers, helpers and nurses give their reports and impressions of the child in question. Many symptoms, signs and features are collected until usually under the guidance of one of the doctors the image of the child arises. His habits, achievements, faults and failures are laid out in such a way that gradually a complete picture of his individuality appears.

In this picture the staff find guidance that enables them to clear a path for the child's continued growth.

All this echoes the way children are assessed in Waldorf schools, where the College of Teachers will often hold meetings to discuss the problems and opportunities facing a particular student. The contrast with the mentality behind standardized testing could hardly be greater. Certainly teachers must assess student performance and in the most profound and intimate way possible. The problem with standardized testing is that it avoids any such rigorous assessment. It is a hopelessly crude tool, a means of studied ignorance rather than deep understanding. And, as a side effect, it removes all flexibility, the living qualities, from classroom engagement. When you know in advance exactly what knowledge the student-container is supposed to hold, there's not much incentive to attend to the particular gifts and developmental needs, or the consuming interests, of the individual learner. Standardized testing is not student assessment; it is the refusal to assess.

No student's needs and timing and achievement and potential can be assessed in exactly the same terms as another student's. I suspect that, where teachers willingly acquiesce in the demand for standardized testing, two factors at work are laziness and fear. It can be both difficult and disturbing to confront what lives deeply in another human being. This, of course, is exactly the burden that Camphill workers take upon themselves. But the principle of the distinctive character of the individual is hardly less important in mainline schools.

Devices of the Soul. Battling for Our Selves in an Age of Machines
Devices of the Soul: Battling for Our Selves in an Age of Machines
ISBN: 0596526806
EAN: 2147483647
Year: 2007
Pages: 122
Authors: Steve Talbott

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