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If I were to write a list of things that I think are awful and that I don’t like very much, scripted classrooms would be in the top five. I was reading the magazine Wired (read the article here) the other day and I came upon on article about Bridge Academies. I always try and read articles about schools abroad, specifically schools in rural, developing countries because I look at them like golden, gleaming job opportunities. Well, Bridge Academies fits the bill for schools in rural, developing areas. They are a new group of schools in Kenya. They are referred to as “schools in a box.” These schools seem to pop up overnight and seem to have amazing success.
Bridge Academies were developed by a man who got his degree from Harvard in computer science and electrical engineering. He has designed these schools as a response to illiteracy in areas that are being developed by larger cities and organizations. These people are too illiterate to express themselves and whether they think this development is a good or bad idea. So, he designed Bridge Academies. I like the premise of the schools thus far, but then I read that the entire program is scripted. To the noun, to the minute, to quote the article. But, then I wonder about the schools’ success. The children have higher reading scores and math abilities than their public school counterparts. (It costs $5/student/year for the Bridge Academies.) Why is this? Why, when I know that scripted classes kill thinking. The article even talks about education feeling like a military drill in these schools, but it still works. Why does it work!?
Watch a video on Bridge Academies here.
The Bridge Academies makes sure that teachers are present, that they show up to their job every day. Public schools don’t. Is this part of the issue? They also have a curriculum team that designs the scripts that they use in the classroom. Anyone can read the script. Is this part of the issue as well? Africa is lacking qualified educators in rural schools and so a script takes away the need to have more than a high school education to teach? What does this mean for scripted programs in the United States? Why am I spending thousands of dollars on a degree that I obviously don’t need if I have a good script.
Recently, I met with a young thirteen year old boy that I will be tutoring in English and science. I asked him about his English class. He told me it’s scripted. I asked him what the last thing he had to read was. He said it was “The Ugly Duckling.” Maybe scripted classes work to get a group of students who can’t read to read at a basic level, but then I think it kills the joy of reading. No thirteen year old boy wants to read about “The Ugly Duckling.” So, why are we toting this scripted system as a great and perfect way to get kids to read? It’s not.
I am in support of an unscripted classroom. I don’t want Houghton-Mifllin to tell me what to say, to the minute, to the noun. Let’s quit taking the human out of education. We are not robots. We do not have to act like robots. We do not learn like robots. We learn like humans. So, let’s start acting like it and give teachers the freedom to teach. Let’s give teachers in Africa education to become teachers. Maybe that’s what I’ll do. I’ll move to Africa and open a teaching school so that I can help them move to the next level of education, not business. Because schools are not Starbucks. They are not McDonald’s. They are places to foster a love of learning and to build the skills to be able to continue learn.
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Brian Marggraf, Author of Dream Brother: A Novel, Independent publishing advocate, New York City dweller
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