Copyright © Louis Schmier and Atwood Publishing.

Tue, 20 Jul 1993

Lordy, it was hot and humid out there this morning. It also was like Grand Central Station on the streets. Maybe that's because I went out late to power-walk. Anyway, the diversity of people out there was amazing. There I was, in my early fifties--my very early fifties--chugging away on my four mile route at 8 1/2 minute/mile splits. I know. I'm bragging. With a polite "good morning," I rushed past a young lady, maybe in her thirties, who was doing a modest regular walk. A young man, in his twenties, later whizzed past me from the opposite direction running at a marathon clip. On the opposite side of the street, a fast-jogging, middle-age woman passed me. A young college girl was doing a slow jog on a cross-street. On another cross-street, two elderly women were leisurely walking as they talked to each other. Then, there was the pair of bicyclers who passed me in a blur, and a delightful octogenarian couple lazily peddling on a tricycle-for-two. As I walked I was struck by that diversity. I began thinking how inappropriate and difficult it would be to compare those of us on the street this morning. It would be silly to talk about the fastest, slowest, longest, shortest, worst, best. After all, we did not have the same starting place; we were not on the same route; we were not traveling the same distances; we did not have the same destination; we did not have the same capacities; we did not have the same purposes; we weren't engaged in the same form of exercise. I suppose someone could compare jogging, running, and walking, the distances we each traveled and each of our time splits, and relate them to ages and genders. I suppose that might serve some purpose, but it wouldn't say much about each of our distinctive features and personal idiosyncrasies. We were like those proverbial apples and oranges and tangerines and bananas.

Doesn't the same situation exist in our classrooms? We are wrong to assume that students are like one another in their potential, in their capacity for growth, and that each student should aspire to a single image of success and achievement. Students are not tin cans to be produced on some monotonous production line. They are not all square pegs to be jammed into round holes created by some depersonalizing and averaging psychological models. Our educational system supposedly values the dignity and worth of each student. Yet, we ignore the diversity of individuality and act as if the diversity in our classrooms is something brand new. Merely because some students do not have any distinctive age, physical feature, or measurable testing or performance distinction associated with the non-traditional student or the physically challenged students or the learning challenged students, we have wrongly assume they are all alike.

Yet, if we are supposed to modify our classes to accommodate these newly discovered students, why can't we use the same approach with all other students? One of the characteristics of a good teacher is that he/she pays equal attention to the "slow walkers, marathon runners, power walkers, bicyclers, and joggers" in the class. After all, isn't the purpose of education to help the individual become whatever he/she has the potential to be? Students are different, and education should lead to individualization, not collectivization. The diversity of potentials in a class means that there needs to be a diversity of ideas about what constitutes success and achievement for any one individual. If our goal is to educate students, then every student--every student--is worth educating.

Make it a good day.


Louis Schmier  (912-333-5947)
Department of History                      /~\    /\ /\
Valdosta State University          /^\    /   \  /  /~ \     /~\__/\
Valdosta, Georgia 31698           /   \__/     \/  /     /\ /~      \
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