We Need to Restore the Traditional Ways of Education: Marilyn Torley

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Northern Academy

America’s public education has shifted away much from its traditional form in the past two decades, said Marilyn Torley, co-principal of Northern Academy, a private 6–12 school in upstate New York.

Torley, an educator with 25 years of experience as a teacher and administrator in New Jersey, said in an interview with NTD’s “Focus Talk” program that she enjoyed a more flexible, need-oriented approach to teaching when she became a teacher in the 1990s.

“In the 90s, there was this traditional way of being within a classroom where the curriculum was based on the local needs of the community. And whatever the curriculum was, we, as classroom teachers, had the time to really go in-depth with the students in regards to all subject matters,” Torley told host Jenny Chang. “Students were inquisitive and they were creative, as they are now. But we, as teachers, had much more time within the classroom, to actually delve into things that they might be interested in.”

A “real education,” according to Torley, is meant to support the character development of each and every student.

“If they can have the opportunity to learn and discern through their choices and their decision making, and then get supported within the classroom, within the whole school environment, to create a culture of support of being resilient, and understanding compassion, they have an opportunity then to go into the world with a strong foundation,” she said. “If you’re a good person, and you have a strong moral compass, then whatever is happening in the world, you’re going to discern and make the right choices.”

Torley said things changed in classroom when the No Child Left Behind Act came into place in 2002, followed by Common Core State Standards in 2010. Subjects such as history, science, and foreign languages have to give way so that teachers have enough time to focus on math and reading in order to meet standardized testing requirements, which are tied to federal funding.


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