November 2nd, 2012
Theodore R. Sizer
The Dilemma of the America High School
Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1984
Hard Cover, 231 pp. $14.00
Theodore R. Sizer has contributed a fine critique of the educational system with Horace’s Compromise. When the dynamic figure of the educational reform passed away, Margalit Fox wrote “Theodore R. Sizer, one of the country’s most prominent education-reform advocates, whose pluralistic vision of the American high school helped shape the national discourse on education and revise decades-old ideas of what a school should be.” In Horace’s Compromise he sets out to study what is worth knowing and how the process of teaching can be improved. While searching for these answers Sizer recognizes a bigger problem regarding teaching methods, which are being repressed from the standardization of the curriculum. This in turn manifests a multitude of issues between the students and the system. He discovers a disconnection between students regarding what and how they learn within the American educational school system. He seeks to find the contributing factors, which create the assembly-line style of educating adolescents in order to reform the system. The contents involve researching, first hand, the students and teachers routines, which contribute to the educational format. He investigates the students, the program, the teachers, the overall structure of the entire system and how it can be improved. Sizer immediately recognizes an issue within the educational system regarding the process of standardization and the affect upon teachers and students. Sizer visits various schools across America recognizes that standardization is creating an industrial style process of educating. The time slots are too compact for the teachers to pay detailed attention to every individual, in turn the students may not receive as much attention. “He will compromise by spending no more than ten minutes’ preparation time, on average, per class.” (“Horace is uneasy with this compromise but feels he can live with it.) Sizer exemplifies his concern with standardization of education. In order to follow the curriculum and make sure every student meets the requirements and receive their credit, there needs to be a trade off somewhere, the result is cutting out the element of personalization. Standardized curriculums manifest other issues regarding the student’s attention. Steven Stecklow acknowledged Dr. Sizer in the Wall Street Journal and his contribution to the 800 plus network of schools, since 1984, that have implemented his effort to reform the educational system with “his "Common Principles" of education, stressing deeper, more self-directed learning to get students to think critically.” It is difficult for the students to piece together random and different information which they receive every hour. Perhaps there should be more flow in the educational system so that it becomes less of a regurgitation of knowledge and more of a critical analysis while connecting information. Sizer notices the students listening to the lectures, looking bored, obtain parts of it and cease to connect the facts or apply critical thinking from one subject upon another. Sizer identifies the American high school students as “often docile, compliant, and without initiative.” A lack of critical thinking is a result of the standardized curriculum, this in turn creates for another problem: a passive mind. The American school system as Sizer identifies “value strictly orderly thinking.” The systematic structure of education, from a day-to-day basis to the end goal, has become a process of getting from point A to point B without being over-challenged. Standardized curriculums result in the teachers focusing on the student getting the correct answer, rather than the reasoning of how the student arrived to that...