Education must become a new way of doing business. The kids need to become the best they can be. Let's encourage them to be this.
Monday, May 29, 2017
The education system is broken. Everywhere we look there are complaints about it: from parents, educators, employers and especially students. The most common complaint is that the skills being taught do not meet the needs of society. Society has matured past the idea that education has to come from one source. Formal schools provide a source that is rooted in the past. It cannot improve its service as it is currently configured. The problem with it is that we have kids who are moving at a faster pace than in the past. The knowledge they seek is at their fingertips yet schools insist on controlling the environments in which they learn, the curriculum the schools want to be taught and meet the needs of no one. No one in the world of education wants to fix it. Oh yes they talk about it but really what they are doing is tweaking a dinosaur that wants to evolve but cannot.
Education in a school setting is much like a Die Hard movie. The protagonist realizes there is a problem and informs the proper authorities who respond in a low key way. He then has one true believer who trusts his instincts and judgement. It is someone from within the system who knows and feels what is happening. The protagonist then takes on the bad guys one by one, meanwhile fending off authority who want to deny the problem is as big as it is. So the protagonist fights on bravely until the end when the people in power claim victory and take credit for solving the problem. The real problem, not dealing with the issue and solving it, is still in place until the next crisis where it repeats.
This is true in education. Education needs recreating for the new age yet the government are happy with the way it is because they have no children in the system. Their children go to private schools. Their supporters and influential people are not public school supporters. Education becomes a low priority to them. Therefore education never changes. Also education, while it appears to be in the hands of governments around the world is heavily influenced by big business. Publishing companies help set up curriculum and provide research information that favours their companies. This takes the learning out of the hands of the students.
In order to change the educational system it must come from outside the system. The change needed is to convince the people whose children who are in the system that there is an alternative, that the cost is low and that their children will benefit from it. Parents need to realize that successful people are independent, self-reliant, confident, and individualistic. In other words they are Smart Creative. They see problems and seek solutions. This is what society needs, people who are capable of making informed decisions based on the information they have.
Education must become a new way of doing business. The kids need to become the best they can be. Let's encourage them to be this.
Saturday, April 29, 2017
We keep hearing about all the issues in classrooms these days. Students unruly behaviour. Teachers and EAs wearing Kevlar vests. Students, teachers, parents all upset.
Students are being given absurd labels like ADD, ODD, ADHD. All of this so we can treat them like something is wrong. But what if nothing is wrong with them but in the way we are looking at the situation. What if the kids are correct and, the adults and experts, have it wrong?
Every person has their own learning style. Every person has their own rate of learning as well. Some people learn to read and write at an earlier age than others do. Some may not fully be ready until they are older, say 7 to 11 years old. The same with math and other subjects. Are we forcing them to learn things outside their own learning cycle? If we are then we are promoting the child’s resistance to learning, creating the label that we have given them. But if we allow a child to learn at their own pace, the behaviour problem disappears, the child is content.
Most schools do not respect the individual learning of students. The minute we mark something we are telling students what we see them as capable of achieving. We compare them against each other and set expectations for success. But as adults we have our own idea of what success is. Children need to develop their own idea of what success is. They do that when they discover the world around them, not by the guidelines adults set for them. They do this through play, communication, exploration.
How does a school do this? Set up a group that promotes play and self learning. Allow those students to learn at their own pace. Do we need everything in the curriculum? No, studies demonstrate that when kids learn at their own pace they become stronger, more motivated learners. They learn because they want to, not because we make them.
So the question is: do we trust children’s capacities?
The quick answer is yes. That is because we see children through our eyes, not through their eyes. We see ourselves trusting their capabilities, until we tell them no, or feel frightened or afraid for them. Them we adopt the stance that the adult knows best. And in some cases this may be true but without good communication skills the children will never see it.
Life is about learning. We, the adults, have learned far more than school could ever teach us. It is time to allow kids to have the same all through their lives. Encouraging them to learn about what they wish will give them a sense of control over their lives. Isn’t that what every kid with ADHD, ADD, and ODD wants?
Sunday, April 23, 2017
A question for you. What is the purpose of education? What, in your opinion, is the ideal learning experience for children?
The world has such a wide variety of learning systems in place. I would like to see the things people propose as being essential for learning.
I look forward to hearing your responses.
The world has such a wide variety of learning systems in place. I would like to see the things people propose as being essential for learning.
I look forward to hearing your responses.
Wednesday, April 5, 2017
Nuthall discovered that teachers are largely unaware of what their students are learning and base their practice on the cultural ideal of a busy active classroom. However, Nuthall found no evidence of a direct link between teaching and learning.
The evidence showed that differences in student learning were the result of individual student motivation and to what extent the individual student shared the values and culture of the teacher/tester/school.
What he discovered, unsurprisingly, is that teaching is an enormously complex process not easily studied due to the hundreds of variables involved
When researching he could not find any scientifically sound teaching methods that could be relied upon to produce similar results.
Nuthall reasoned that because teaching/learning is such a personal and individual process valid research must include the subjective and personal elements of what goes on between the teachers and their students.
In order to manage a class of 25 to 35 students, all of whom have different knowledge, skills, interests and motivations, teachers have to focus on the performance of the class as a whole. It is impossible to focus on the individual learning of any one student for more than very brief periods.
Within these standard patterns of whole-class management, students learn how to manage and carry out their own private and social agendas. They learn how and when the teacher will notice them and how to give the appearance of active involvement. They get upset and anxious if they notice that a teacher is keeping more than a passing eye on them.
If teaching is like conducting an orchestra, then it must be primarily about group management and must follow predictable patterns, so that both teacher and students know how to interact with each other.
Learning is usually a progressive change in what we know or can do. What creates or shapes learning is a sequence of events or experiences, each one building on the effects of the previous one. An event at one point in the sequence will have a different effect from the effect the same event would have had if it had occurred at another point in the sequence.
It is less important what that student is doing, or what resources the student is using, or what are any of the other contextual aspects of the experience. What matters is the sense the student is making of the experience.
“that a large proportion of each student’s significant learning experiences were either self-selected or self-generated, even in quite traditional classrooms.”
The more able students talked more amongst themselves about relevant content. They asked more questions and persisted with problems for a longer time. They seemed to be more interested, more persistent, and less likely to be distracted. There was no evidence that they found the tasks easier, or had fewer difficulties. There was no evidence that their minds processed the experience differently. The difference was in the way they managed their involvement in classroom activities, and in the advantage they gained from having more relevant background knowledge.
So those students whose backgrounds provide them with the cultural knowledge and skills to use the classroom and its activities for their own purposes, learn more than those who dutifully do what they are told but do not want, or know how, to create their own opportunities. Differences in ability are more likely to be the product of differences in classroom experiences than the other way around.
“Knowledge is more like a continuous landscape rather than a set of discrete countable objects. It cannot be sensibly represented by numbers. This lead to the conclusion that the scores that students get on standard paper and pencil tests are primarily the result of the students’ motivations and cultural background, and only secondarily about what the student knows or can do.”
Teachers consistently said they knew their teaching was going well based on the appearance of student engagement.
It was the look in the students’ eyes, the questions they asked, the fact that they didn’t stop talking about the topic or problem when they left the classroom. In short, by the feel and sounds of interest and focused busyness.
Below is an article by Graham Nuthall as well as a brief bio of him. His research demonstrates the reasons why Sudbury Schools work.
Professor Emeritus Graham Nuthall
Graham Nuthall is credited with the longest series of studies of teaching and learning in the classroom that has ever been carried out and it has been recognised by the educational research community as one of the most significant. A pioneer in his field, his research focused on the intimate relationship amongst students and the teachers within the classroom, resulting in a deeper understanding of the significant and often very subtle classroom interactions which influence learning.
After completing his PhD at the Univeristy of Illinois he returned to the University of Canterbury and was made a professor at the age of 37.
His work was published in many international journals including the Harvard Educational Review. He won many awards including the New Zealand Science and Technology Medal from the Royal Society. In 2003 he was made a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to education.
Friday, March 31, 2017
The Black Hole Of Ordinary Life
I read this sentence fragment the other day and became fascinated by it. To me I see it as the sameness that life predictably falls into when we go about our days and nothing really changes. Next day. Same Shit is what I have heard some people say. Yes, the daily drudgery of living. We are all there. We have all had this experience. Feeling the same things repeat themselves. Feeling that we are trapped.
I believe this is the place where depression lives. It is the feeling of doing the same mind numbing thing day after day. The feeling that we are in the middle of something we cannot find our way out of. Often to get out it means a change must occur. We must do something differently. Some people flee. Others drink. Still others discover they have an interest in something that provokes that desire to do something different.
The black hole of ordinary life. Indeed.
Why are we training every high school student to go to college or university? Why are we not encouraging apprenticeship programs at earlier levels so that students can easily transfer into a job environment which they are interested in? If they need more school they can return to school to obtain it. Their is a strong need in our society for people who have acquired business experience. There is a need for entrepreneurs. Both of these can be started at an early age and developed to give them the strength to understand what they are going to do with the rest of their lives.
School as it exists is only to foster the needs of an unspecified job market, putting workers into their businesses without creating a common factor for the growth of the business and the individuals. Successful small business have employers and employees who communicate effectively with each other so that all make work towards the better good of the business. Unsuccessful businesses have lone wolves who are the answer to everything, in their own eyes.
Effective businesses have competent people working for them. They have people with passion and creativity. These people often leave them because they are destined for projects larger than one small store can handle but an ethical employer will have no problem hiring more competent people.
Building a better relationship between business and schools makes sense in so many ways. Students, at an earlier age gain insights into what it takes to be in the business world. If they are entrepreneurial minded they can easily see where their lives could lead.
It is time for us to rethink the school - job market approach. Sending everyone off to post secondary learning is not helping everyone.
Thursday, March 30, 2017
In order to have a happy life we must have goals that are achievable. These goals cannot be set up by anyone but us as an individual. They must be realistic. They must be exciting. They must stir our imagination and invest our creativity. Can we achieve these goals alone? In the our purest sense yes, but we all need a social network to bounce our theories around with. We must be able to communicate clearly that which we want and envision a path towards achieving it. We must have friends who will guide us, challenge us, make us think about what we want from life. They can suggest avenues to explore.
The setting of these goals is a part of our lifelong drama. It starts early in our lives when we first start challenging the tenets of our parents, our education and our government. They must be beneficial to us. It is an ongoing part of our lifelong learning and must be adaptable to the changes that are necessary for us to grow.
The education of us takes place outside the classroom. It takes place wherever we are as we explore the world around us, everyday. It takes place in our homes, our offices, our cars, our social and athletic events. It takes place in our communications with each other and with unknown individuals we meet along the way.
With this in mind why we do we subject students to lengthy periods of inactivity where what they are learning has no relevance or meaning to them? How do they find meaning for their lives when mired in meaningless homework assignments? How do they fulfill themselves with information they cannot use? Would it not be better to have students more engaged in thoughts and ideas that are important to them?
It is time to shift education in another direction, one where the students are in control of their learning. But that may be for another blog.
Saturday, March 25, 2017
When you ask children about their favourite part of the school day 3 things pop up immediately. The first is recess where they get to run around and explore with their friends. The second is gym where again they get to run around and be with friends in a less structured environment. The third is art where creativity reigns.
These three times in the day or week come to mind because they are free to explore more of their own ideas
I am sure there are as many reasons that people have developed about this attitude from kids. The reality is that most of school doesn’t meet the needs of the students. People will argue that students don’t know what they need. That is not true. Students are always aware of what they need at that point in time, and school rarely delivers it. How can they? Things are taught out of a natural order that confuses kids. Combine that with they are taught things that they feel they don’t need in their lives so they end up frustrated and bored. Schools rely on marks to make the students lives meaningful. They talk about the importance of learning but the end result is either you have the marks or you don’t. Marks are for comparison. Teachers rank kids based on marks. Schools base entrance on marks. The emotional stability of the students is to be honed because of good marks or poor marks. It undermines who they are and what they can accomplish.
The thing is children learn what they live. They develop skills based on what they need in their lives rather than on what someone else says they need. They work to discover meaning for themselves as well as discovering the purpose of their lives. While life has right and wrong answers it also teaches us about the decisions we make. Kids need to make these discoveries, not be told about them. Self respect and self esteem grow because of the trial and error method they employ. Kids will keep searching for meaning because they need to understand their world and what they do. This requires time and energy that school is not prepared to give them.
So what are students really learning in school? Not just about the subjects they are introduced to but about how they can discover this themselves. And most of that happens outside of school. This is where they learn the most and strengthen their skills. This is where they receive their best education.
Friday, March 24, 2017
Education is a lifetime of work. Schooling lasts for 13 years.
Education is filled with your own ideas that have developed with much thought and practice, Schooling is filled up with thoughts and ideas that you are suppose to learn but most of which you have either forgotten or never learned.
Education is about the freedom to explore and develop your own theories about ideas. Schooling tells you what is important but not why you need to learn it.
Education requires time and practice. Schooling has timelines and deadlines with too much information and little practice
Education is learning as you go through life. Schooling has time limits that stop learning until the next appointed time.
Education has a flow and ebb to it as you gather the information that you need.
In Education you may be bored at times but you find your way out of it. In schooling you may be bored and there is no way out of it.
Education develops sound relationships. Schooling develops networks that don’t last.
Education does not require money. Schooling requires a lot of money.
Education is independent thinking as you develop your own thoughts and ideas. Schooling is the memorization of facts and the accumulation of others thoughts on topics.
Education is about your success. Failure is a learning experience. Schooling is about marks, position in the classroom, and social structure, with failure seen as a negative.
Education is about developing a set of rules you can live by. Schooling is you being forced to follow someone else’s rules.
Education is about learning how to be adaptable in a changing world. Schooling is about following strict structures.
Education is about conversing about things you care about. Schooling is about being forced to discuss things you won’t talk about again.
Education is individual and to your needs. Schooling is about the middle ground of everyone in the room.
Thursday, March 23, 2017
This article was written in 1991. We can see how slowly the earth moves in education circles. 36 years later and it is truer than ever.
Fall '91 issue of Whole Earth Review
The Six-Lesson Schoolteacher
by John Taylor Gatto, New York State Teacher of the Year, 1991
Call me Mr. Gatto, please. Twenty-six years ago, having nothing better to do, I tried my hand at schoolteaching. My license certifies me as an instructor of English language and literature, but that isn't what I do at all. What I teach is school, and I win awards doing it.
Teaching means many different things, but six lessons are common to schoolteaching from Harlem to Hollywood. You pay for these lessons in more ways than you can imagine, so you might as well know what they are:
The first lesson I teach is: "Stay in the class where you belong." I don't know who decides that my kids belong there but that's not my business. The children are numbered so that if any get away they can be returned to the right class. Over the years the variety of ways children are numbered has increased dramatically, until it is hard to see the human being under the burden of the numbers each carries. Numbering children is a big and very profitable business, though what the business is designed to accomplish is elusive.
In any case, again, that's not my business. My job is to make the kids like it -- being locked in together, I mean -- or at the minimum, endure it. If things go well, the kids can't imagine themselves anywhere else; they envy and fear the better classes and have contempt for the dumber classes. So the class mostly keeps itself in good marching order. That's the real lesson of any rigged competition like school. You come to know your place.
Nevertheless, in spite of the overall blueprint, I make an effort to urge children to higher levels of test success, promising eventual transfer from the lower-level class as a reward. I insinuate that the day will come when an employer will hire them on the basis of test scores, even though my own experience is that employers are (rightly) indifferent to such things. I never lie outright, but I've come to see that truth and [school]teaching are incompatible.
The lesson of numbered classes is that there is no way out of your class except by magic. Until that happens you must stay where you are put.
The second lesson I teach kids is to turn on and off like a light switch. I demand that they become totally involved in my lessons, jumping up and down in their seats with anticipation, competing vigorously with each other for my favor. But when the bell rings I insist that they drop the work at once and proceed quickly to the next work station. Nothing important is ever finished in my class, nor in any other class I know of.
The lesson of bells is that no work is worth finishing, so why care too deeply about anything? Bells are the secret logic of schooltime; their argument is inexorable; bells destroy past and future, converting every interval into a sameness, as an abstract map makes every living mountain and river the same even though they are not. Bells inoculate each undertaking with indifference.
The third lesson I teach you is to surrender your will to a predestined chain of command. Rights may be granted or withheld, by authority, without appeal. As a schoolteacher I intervene in many personal decisions, issuing a Pass for those I deem legitimate, or initiating a disciplinary confrontation for behavior that threatens my control. My judgments come thick and fast, because individuality is trying constantly to assert itself in my classroom. Individuality is a curse to all systems of classification, a contradiction of class theory.
Here are some common ways it shows up: children sneak away for a private moment in the toilet on the pretext of moving their bowels; they trick me out of a private instant in the hallway on the grounds that they need water. Sometimes free will appears right in front of me in children angry, depressed or exhilarated by things outside my ken. Rights in such things cannot exist for schoolteachers; only privileges, which can be withdrawn, exist.
The fourth lesson I teach is that only I determine what curriculum you will study. (Rather, I enforce decisions transmitted by the people who pay me). This power lets me separate good kids from bad kids instantly. Good kids do the tasks I appoint with a minimum of conflict and a decent show of enthusiasm. Of the millions of things of value to learn, I decide what few we have time for. The choices are mine. Curiosity has no important place in my work, only conformity.
Bad kids fight against this, of course, trying openly or covertly to make decisions for themselves about what they will learn. How can we allow that and survive as schoolteachers? Fortunately there are procedures to break the will of those who resist.
This is another way I teach the lesson of dependency. Good people wait for a teacher to tell them what to do. This is the most important lesson of all, that we must wait for other people, better trained than ourselves, to make the meanings of our lives. It is no exaggeration to say that our entire economy depends upon this lesson being learned. Think of what would fall apart if kids weren't trained in the dependency lesson: The social-service businesses could hardly survive, including the fast-growing counseling industry; commercial entertainment of all sorts, along with television, would wither if people remembered how to make their own fun; the food services, restaurants and prepared-food warehouses would shrink if people returned to making their own meals rather than depending on strangers to cook for them. Much of modern law, medicine, and engineering would go too -- the clothing business as well -- unless a guaranteed supply of helpless people poured out of our schools each year. We've built a way of life that depends on people doing what they are told because they don't know any other way. For God's sake, let's not rock that boat!
In lesson five I teach that your self-respect should depend on an observer's measure of your worth. My kids are constantly evaluated and judged. A monthly report, impressive in its precision, is sent into students' homes to spread approval or to mark exactly -- down to a single percentage point -- how dissatisfied with their children parents should be. Although some people might be surprised how little time or reflection goes into making up these records, the cumulative weight of the objective- seeming documents establishes a profile of defect which compels a child to arrive at a certain decisions about himself and his future based on the casual judgment of strangers.
Self-evaluation -- the staple of every major philosophical system that ever appeared on the planet -- is never a factor in these things. The lesson of report cards, grades, and tests is that children should not trust themselves or their parents, but must rely on the evaluation of certified officials. People need to be told what they are worth.
In lesson six I teach children that they are being watched. I keep each student under constant surveillance and so do my colleagues. There are no private spaces for children; there is no private time. Class change lasts 300 seconds to keep promiscuous fraternization at low levels. Students are encouraged to tattle on each other, even to tattle on their parents. Of course I encourage parents to file their own child's waywardness, too.
I assign "homework" so that this surveillance extends into the household, where students might otherwise use the time to learn something unauthorized, perhaps from a father or mother, or by apprenticing to some wiser person in the neighborhood.
The lesson of constant surveillance is that no one can be trusted, that privacy is not legitimate. Surveillance is an ancient urgency among certain influential thinkers; it was a central prescription set down by Calvin in the Institutes, by Plato in the Republic, by Hobbes, by Comte, by Francis Bacon. All these childless men discovered the same thing: Children must be closely watched if you want to keep a society under central control.
It is the great triumph of schooling that among even the best of my fellow teachers, and among even the best parents, there is only a small number who can imagine a different way to do things. Yet only a very few lifetimes ago things were different in the United States: originality and variety were common currency; our freedom from regimentation made us the miracle of the world; social class boundaries were relatively easy to cross; our citizenry was marvelously confident, inventive, and able to do many things independently, to think for themselves. We were something, all by ourselves, as individuals.
It only takes about 50 contact hours to transmit basic literacy and math skills well enough that kids can be self-teachers from then on. The cry for "basic skills" practice is a smokescreen behind which schools pre-empt the time of children for twelve years and teach them the six lessons I've just taught you.
We've had a society increasingly under central control in the United States since just before the Civil War: the lives we lead, the clothes we wear, the food we eat, and the green highway signs we drive by from coast to coast are the products of this central control. So, too, I think, are the epidemics of drugs, suicide, divorce, violence, cruelty, and the hardening of class into caste in the U.S., products of the dehumanization of our lives, the lessening of individual and family importance that central control imposes.
Without a fully active role in community life you cannot develop into a complete human being. Aristotle taught that. Surely he was right; look around you or look in the mirror: that is the demonstration.
"School" is an essential support system for a vision of social engineering that condemns most people to be subordinate stones in a pyramid that narrows to a control point as it ascends. "School" is an artifice which makes such a pyramidal social order seem inevitable (although such a premise is a fundamental betrayal of the American Revolution). In colonial days and through the period of the early Republic we had no schools to speak of. And yet the promise of democracy was beginning to be realized. We turned our backs on this promise by bringing to life the ancient dream of Egypt: compulsory training in subordination for everybody. Compulsory schooling was the secret Plato reluctantly transmitted in the Republic when he laid down the plans for total state control of human life.
The current debate about whether we should have a national curriculum is phony; we already have one, locked up in the six lessons I've told you about and a few more I've spared you. This curriculum produces moral and intellectual paralysis, and no curriculum of content will be sufficient to reverse its bad effects. What is under discussion is a great irrelevancy.
None of this is inevitable, you know. None of it is impregnable to change. We do have a choice in how we bring up young people; there is no right way. There is no "international competition" that compels our existence, difficult as it is to even think about in the face of a constant media barrage of myth to the contrary. In every important material respect our nation is self-sufficient. If we gained a non-material philosophy that found meaning where it is genuinely located -- in families, friends, the passage of seasons, in nature, in simple ceremonies and rituals, in curiosity, generosity, compassion, and service to others, in a decent independence and privacy -- then we would be truly self-sufficient.
How did these awful places, these "schools", come about? As we know them, they are a product of the two "Red Scares" of 1848 and 1919, when powerful interests feared a revolution among our industrial poor, and partly they are the result of the revulsion with which old-line families regarded the waves of Celtic, Slavic, and Latin immigration -- and the Catholic religion -- after 1845. And certainly a third contributing cause can be found in the revulsion with which these same families regarded the free movement of Africans through the society after the Civil War.
Look again at the six lessons of school. This is training for permanent underclasses, people who are to be deprived forever of finding the center of their own special genius. And it is training shaken loose from its original logic: to regulate the poor. Since the 1920s the growth of the well-articulated school bureaucracy, and the less visible growth of a horde of industries that profit from schooling exactly as it is, have enlarged schooling's original grasp to seize the sons and daughters of the middle class.
Is it any wonder Socrates was outraged at the accusation that he took money to teach? Even then, philosophers saw clearly the inevitable direction the professionalization of teaching would take, pre-empting the teaching function that belongs to all in a healthy community; belongs, indeed, most clearly to yourself, since nobody else cares as much about your destiny. Professional teaching tends to another serious error. It makes things that are inherently easy to learn, like reading, writing, and arithmetic, difficult -- by insisting they be taught by pedagogical procedures.
With lessons like the ones I teach day after day, is it any wonder we have the national crisis we face today? Young people indifferent to the adult world and to the future; indifferent to almost everything except the diversion of toys and violence? Rich or poor, schoolchildren cannot concentrate on anything for very long. They have a poor sense of time past and to come; they are mistrustful of intimacy (like the children of divorce they really are); they hate solitude, are cruel, materialistic, dependent, passive, violent, timid in the face of the unexpected, addicted to distraction.
All the peripheral tendencies of childhood are magnified to a grotesque extent by schooling, whose hidden curriculum prevents effective personality development. Indeed, without exploiting the fearfulness, selfishness, and inexperience of children our schools could not survive at all, nor could I as a certified schoolteacher.
"Critical thinking" is a term we hear frequently these days as a form of training which will herald a new day in mass schooling. It certainly will, if it ever happens. No common school that actually dared teach the use of dialectic, heuristic, and other tools of free minds could last a year without being torn to pieces.
Institutional schoolteachers are destructive to children's development. Nobody survives the Six-Lesson Curriculum unscathed, not even the instructors. The method is deeply and profoundly anti-educational. No tinkering will fix it. In one of the great ironies of human affairs, the massive rethinking that schools require would cost so much less than we are spending now that it is not likely to happen. First and foremost, the business I am in is a jobs project and a contract-letting agency. We cannot afford to save money, not even to help children.
At the pass we've come to historically, and after 26 years of teaching, I must conclude that one of the only alternatives on the horizon for most families is to teach their own children at home. Small, de- institutionalized schools are another. Some form of free-market system for public schooling is the likeliest place to look for answers. But the near impossibility of these things for the shattered families of the poor, and for too many on the fringes of the economic middle class, foretell that the disaster of Six-Lesson Schools is likely to continue.
After an adult lifetime spent in teaching school I believe the method of schooling is the only real content it has. Don't be fooled into thinking that good curricula or good equipment or good teachers are the critical determinants of your son and daughter's schooltime. All the pathologies we've considered come about in large measure because the lessons of school prevent children from keeping important appointments with themselves and their families, to learn lessons in self-motivation, perseverance, self-reliance, courage, dignity and love -- and, of course, lessons in service to others, which are among the key lessons of home life.
Thirty years ago these things could still be learned in the time left after school. But television has eaten most of that time, and a combination of television and the stresses peculiar to two-income or single-parent families have swallowed up most of what used to be family time. Our kids have no time left to grow up fully human, and only thin-soil wastelands to do it in.
A future is rushing down upon our culture which will insist that all of us learn the wisdom of non-material experience; this future will demand, as the price of survival, that we follow a pace of natural life economical in material cost. These lessons cannot be learned in schools as they are. School is like starting life with a 12-year jail sentence in which bad habits are the only curriculum truly learned. I teach school and win awards doing it. I should know.
Wednesday, March 22, 2017
I recently read the following article by John Taylor Gatto. It was written in 1990. It still is very appropriate for today. And no I don't have his permission to put it here but I still give him credit for it.
|© John Taylor Gatto. All rights reserved.|
This article is the text of a speech by John Taylor Gatto accepting the New York City Teacher of the Year Award on January 31, 1990. It is reprinted with permission of the author.
Tuesday, March 21, 2017
I found these words of advice to be true when teaching children in general but more importantly as a parent.
9) Encourage the whole family to go to the nature more often, and pursue green living.
Karen Chow, Hong Kong has these words of advices for alternative learnersThe full article can be found here.
1) Children are naturally curious and can be self-taught.
2) Teaching is given only when students request it
3) Children can learn by observations and interaction with people so parents are not the only role models.
4) A person should be free to do what he/she wants as long as he/she is not harming others and the environment. Conformity to rules and social conventions before one feels the need to cooperate may not be good for children.
5) Don’t interrupt kids when they are concentrating on any tasks.
6) Expose children to things you are interested or unfamiliar with. Supply them with abundant opportunities to look at the world, and see the things that we don’t see, discover the things that we don’t know. Trust that they always choose what’s best for them and as long as we don’t restrict them, they will blossom into beautiful flowers.
7) Try to connect to the children’s emotions and feelings as much as you can.
8) Cultivate good virtues. Tell children how you feel, why you act in those ways and what you think, they will automatically possess the good virtues from us and people around.
9) Encourage the whole family to go to the nature more often, and pursue green living.
Perceptions. Everyone has them. We perceive thoughts and ideas from things we hear or say or see. These perceptions foster our thoughts and actions. And if we are not careful we fall into traps that our perceptions lead us to. We often have difficulty in overcoming our preconceived notions. We believe them strongly, sometimes forcefully.
The problem with perceptions is that often they allow us to cut off ideas and explain ideas away before we take the time to examine them. They limit our growth.
A school such as a Sudbury School or using SOLE, Self Organized Learning Environments, requires a new way of looking at issues. In education we build upon the premise that education is the way we have been brought up. It works because society says it works. It’s not perfect, there are some bad points but essentially it works. When we examine a different type of school where the kids are in charge people don’t believe the kids can do it. People believe the kids will wreck it, be lazy and do nothing or worse not learn. Our preconceived notions come into play. Social pressure looms. People do not want to try something different, don’t want to be seen as different, don’t want their kids to be seen as different and do not want to defend their choices.
The way of growing requires trust and faith. We need to learn to trust children to be the best they can be. They always are. It is our perception and handling of right and wrong that sends them in directions, searching for answers. If we believe our kids are good they will be good. Of course they will make mistakes but if we don’t treat it like the end of the world things will remain calmer and interesting.
The same thing applies to their education. If we can trust them to grow from birth to the age 4 or 5 on their own with some guidance from us we can trust them for the rest of their lives to do the same thing. It is the formal school setting that is the issue.
Doing something outside the norm takes tremendous courage. From tremendous courage comes great passion, and tremendous belief in a philosophy that not many are exposed to. Are you ready to take this step?
Monday, March 20, 2017
In order to take a look at alternative education models one needs to keep an open mind. This applies to both looking at the model and to teaching using the model.
As adults we only see the type of education we have grown up with. We take the stance “what was good enough for me…” but really what we are saying is this is the only way that kids obtain knowledge. And that is patently not true. Learning is an innate way of life for us. We learn new things everyday and have from the minute we are born. As children we learn so much in such a short time by exploring our world, developing ideas, mimicking adults, developing ideas and following them to their logical conclusion, even if we get hurt doing it.
What happens to us?
What happens is that first well intentioned and caring adults use the word no and say things to dissuade children from continuing their inborn curiosity. We are afraid that they will get hurt. We determine that we don’t have the time to answer their questions so we use language that limits their ideas and demonstrate , often unintentionally. Children read this the way we don’t intend and therefore feel shut out of communication and feel unworthy. Secondly we send children to school where rigid conformity is required, movement limited and mind numbing facts are introduced creating boredom. All this leads to a further distancing oneself from the joyous fun of learning on their own.
As adults we need a change of our mindset. We need to see children as young adults and treat them as such as they are growing up. We need to foster their innate curiosity. We need to communicate openly and clearly without recrimination or punishment. We need to discuss and explain but more so we need to be someone who asks the right questions rather than telling children what to do. We need to, through asking questions lead them to discover what we would like them to see. A child’s discovery teaches them far more than our words ever could.
Some educational structures, such as SOLE, Self Organized Learning Environments, and the Sudbury School model are built upon this idea , that children need exploring and guidance rather than be told what to do. Their results underscore this fact many times over. It is time for the rest of the world to stand up and take notice.