Sunday, October 31, 2010

Try not. Do... or do not. There is no try.

There are two underlying philosophies that come into conflict in our education system.

One of them is the Disneyland philosophy - that a good heart is what matters: if you mean well, and wish hard enough on your lucky star, your dreams will come true. The good guys will always win, even against impossible odds. It's not what you do, but how hard you try that counts.

Pinocchio - When you wish upon a star ♫ (original)… - MyVideo

The other is the Yoda philosophy captured in the quote at the top of this post: A pure heart may be a prerequisite, but it is not enough. It's not about how hard you think the task is, whether or not you have to extend yourself to achieve it, or how many reasons you can find for it being an unreasonable expectation: it's whether or not you achieve the result that matters.

We in the education sector have not yet managed to reconcile these perspectives - and we need to.

This  underlying dispute is very evident in today's education headlines - with some saying "We try really hard to make your kids try really hard - so you should be satisfied with that," and others saying "How hard you think you're trying is not the point. Whether you understand and meet my child's needs is the point."

Our education system requires both: to keep trying, and to look past "try" to "do".

As a parent, I don't care if "85% of our students do well." I want to know that my child is getting the professional attention and support he needs to get to achieve at the level he needs to in order to have the best possible quality of life he can. Yes, I care that if you are teaching him, your heart is pure and that you really care about him as a person and that you will not stop trying. But that in itself is not enough. It is no consolation to me if every other child in the class - or the school - is validated, challenged, and experiences success, if mine doesn't.

Where my child's education and future is concerned, I'm with Yoda: "Try" not. Do... or do not. There is no "try".