Everywhere I look, in every conversation I have ever had, people speak in extremes.
Perhaps that is an overstatement. But, the reality is that extreme points of view are fairly common in education. From topics as varied as discipline, dress code, and homework there are advocates willing to plant their flag upon a predetermined hill and stake their claim. They will fight off all attackers from their predetermined claims, even logic and reason.
While we can often see the most overt examples of this extremism in education, their ideas often push us in a desired direction. We may never truly venture into their outlandish territory, the push from one extreme to the next exists.
Recently I was talking with a educator friend. He has strong beliefs about what kids should be doing, but an open mind. Like most of us, he has been pushed by the extreme that lies furthest from his beliefs to question his practice. I think this is a positive outcome derived from the brink. When he asked me if all of the things he had been doing were really what is best for kids, it reminded me of the pendulum effect in education.
At any moment education swings from one direction to the next. Despite my belief that we are starting to slowly change the clock in education all together, the effect is still present. My response to him was simply this:
If you believe what you are doing is best for kids, then by all means yes. Remember that there will be times that people push from one extreme to the next. No matter what, kids need to be exposed to the full range of working educational knowledge. By having teachers that vary in their place along the path between extremes, kids are exposed to, and more likely to find specific teachers and styles that work for them.
Ultimately I recognize the value the extremist serves. They push us to develop our own ideas, strengthen our positions towards making things better for kids, and become better at what we do. Learning and growing from the ways they challenge us is valuable, however frustrating it may be. So, while you may see the extreme views in the educational world as outrageous, don’t be afraid to test their resolve. You will learn more about where your own weaknesses lie, and you can start using that to improve. Just be cautious not to plant your own flag and forget that the real world, especially in education (with kids) is rarely determined in absolutes.