Alfie Kohn asked on Twitter, are our students really spending less time in school and with instruction than other countries?
His tweet was timely as it came soon after my reading It’s Time to Rethink the Hours America Spends Educating originally published in 2005, which argues that are students can’t compete globally because we don’t spend enough time in school compared to other countries. (HT: Tami Brass)
“Our time-bound mentality has fooled us all into believing that schools can educate all the people all the time in a school year of 180 days of 6 hours each. The consequence of our self-deception has been to ask the impossible of our students: We expect them to learn as much as their counterparts abroad in only half the time” (Cross and Goldberg).
To be honest, it isn’t about whether we spend less time or not than our peers globally. This misses the point.
Amid the murky notion of global comparison and high standards, the article gets at what I think is the real point:
“Unyielding and relentless, the time available in a uniform 6-hour day and 180-day year is the unacknowledged design flaw in American education… Both learners and teachers need more time — not to do more of the same, but to use all time in new, different, and better ways. The key to liberating learning lies in unlocking time” (Cross and Goldberg).
The real issue is that it is a matter of quality not necessarily quantity. The issue is how we use and structure that time. The issue is letting time define learning. The issue is how we place everyone into the same uniformed structure. The issue is standardization via time. The issue is not seeing there are alternatives to the way things have always been done. The issue is that it is time to rethink the hours America spends learning NOT educating.