Tags: AERO, AERO Conference, Democratic Education, democratic schools, IDEA, Institute for Democratic Education in America, Isaac Graves
I recently read through Education Week’s “Revisiting the Most Popular Stories of 2010” list and was generally disenchanted. This is not to say it’s a bad list, rather it didn’t represent my work and passions in democratic and alternative education. After a few days of jogging my memory, looking through a few ‘cheat sheets,’ and asking around I now present to you my ‘Best of Democratic Education’ list for 2010. I’ve organized the links into a few categories with no ranking system (I wouldn’t want Alfie Kohn to get mad).
Visit http://www.democraticeducation.com/2011/01/03/bestof2010/ for the list.
Tags: AERO, AERO Conference, Alternative Education, Alternative Education Resource Organization, don glines, Education Revolution, irene mchenry, Jerry Mintz, kirk cunningham, Ron Miller, rona zolinger
Genuine Learning Can’t Be Standardized! The new issue of Education Revolution magazine is here. In this issue: public school alternatives, quaker education, reflections by veteran activists, and more!
Read the latest issue for free at: http://issuu.com/alternativeeducation/docs/educationrevolutionwinter
Tags: Education Revolution, Freedom to Learn, Peter Gray, Psychology Today
by Peter Gray, Psychology Today
Peter Gray is a research professor of psychology at Boston College, is a specialist in developmental and evolutionary psychology and author of an introductory textbook, Psychology.
Below is a summarization found in the latest issue of Education Revolution of Peter Gray’s post on a Psychology Today blog. To view the full post, visit http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/freedom-learn/200909/why-don-t-students-school-well-duhhhh
In a new book, Why Don’t Students Like School?, cognitive scientist Daniel T. Willingham argues that students don’t like school because their teachers don’t have a full understanding of certain cognitive principles and therefore don’t teach as well as they could. They don’t present material in ways that appeal best to students’ minds. Presumably, if teachers followed Willingham’s advice and used the latest information cognitive science has to offer about how the mind works, students would love school. Talk about avoiding the elephant in the room! Ask any schoolchild why they don’t like school and they’ll tell you: “School is prison.” They may not use those words, because they’re too polite, or maybe they’ve already been brainwashed to believe that school is for their own good and therefore it can’t be prison. But decipher their words and the translation generally is, “School is prison.” Willingham surely knows that school is prison. He can’t help but know it; everyone knows it. But here he writes a whole book entitled “Why Don’t Students Like School,” and not once does he suggest that just possibly they don’t like school because they like freedom, and in school they are not free.
Everyone who has ever been to school knows that school is prison, but almost nobody says it. It’s not polite to say it. We all tiptoe around this truth, that school is prison, because telling the truth makes us all seem so mean. How could all these nice people be sending their children to prison for a good share of the first 18 years of their lives? How could our democratic government, which is founded on principles of freedom and self-determination, make laws requiring children and adolescents to spend a good portion of their days in prison? It’s unthinkable, and so we try hard to avoid thinking it. Or, if we think it, we at least don’t say it. At some level of their consciousness, everyone who has ever been to school knows that it is prison. How could they not know? But people rationalize it by saying (not usually in these words) that children need this particular kind of prison and may even like it if the prison is run well. If children don’t like school, according to this rationalization, it’s not because school is prison, but is because the wardens are not kind enough, or amusing enough, or smart enough to keep the children’s minds occupied appropriately.
But anyone who knows anything about children and who allows himself or herself to think honestly should be able to see through this rationalization. Children, like all human beings, crave freedom. They hate to have their freedom restricted. To a large extent they use their freedom precisely to educate themselves. They are biologically prepared to do that. Children explore and play, freely, in ways designed to learn about the physical and social world in which they are developing. In school they are told they must stop following their interests and, instead, do just what the teacher is telling them they must do. That is why they don’t like school.
Children who are provided the tools for learning, including access to a wide range of other people from whom to learn, learn what they need to know–and much more–through their own self-directed play and exploration. There is no evidence at all that children who are sent to prison come out better than those who are provided the tools and allowed to use them freely. How, then, can we continue to rationalize sending children to prison? I think the educational establishment deliberately avoids looking honestly at the experiences of unschoolers and Sudbury Valley because they are afraid of what they will find. If school as prison isn’t necessary, then what becomes of this whole huge enterprise, which employs so many and is so fully embedded in the culture?
Tags: AERO, Arne Duncan, Education Revolution, Herb Kohl, Herbert Kohl, Rethinking Schools, Turning Points
This appeared in the Summer 2009 issue of Rethinking Schools (AERO’s ad is on page 53). Please visit their website at www.rethinkingschools.org for more information and to subscribe to their wonderful magazine! Please also see their ad in the upcoming issue of our magazine Education Revolution. Herbert Kohl is a contributor in AERO’s new book, Turning Points.
From Herbert Kohl
Dear Arne Duncan,
In a recent interview with NEA Today you said of my book 36 Children, “I read [it] in high school … [and] … wrote about his book in one of my college essays, and I talked about the tremendous hope that I feel [and] the challenges that teachers in tough communities face. The book had a big impact on me.”
When I wrote 36 Children in 1965 it was commonly believed that African American students, with a few exceptions, simply could not function on a high academic level. The book was motivated by my desire to provide a counter-example, one I had created in my classroom, to this cynical and racist view, and to let the students’ creativity and intelligence speak for itself. It was also intended to show how important it was to provide interesting and complex curriculum that integrated the arts and sciences, and utilized the students’ own culture and experiences to inspire learning. I discovered then, in my early teaching career, that learning is best driven by ideas, challenges, experiences, and activities that engage students. My experience over the past 45 years has confirmed this.
We have come far from that time in the ’60s. Now the mantra is high expectations and high standards. Yet, with all that zeal to produce measurable learning outcomes we have lost sight of the essential motivations to learn that moved my students. Recently I asked a number of elementary school students what they were learning about and the reactions were consistently, “We are learning how to do good on the tests.” They did not say they were learning to read.
It is hard for me to understand how educators can claim that they are creating high standards when the substance and content of learning is reduced to the mechanical task of getting a correct answer on a manufactured test. In the panic over teaching students to perform well on reading tests, educators seem to have lost sight of the fact that reading is a tool, an instrument that is used for pleasure and for the acquisition of knowledge and information about the way the world works. The mastery of complex reading skills develops as students grapple with ideas, learn to understand plot and character, and develop and articulate opinions on literature. They also develop through learning history, science, and technology.
Reading is not a series of isolated skills acquired in a sanitized rote-learning environment utilizing “teacher-proof” materials. It develops through interaction with a knowledgeable, active teacher—through dialogue, and critical analysis. It also develops through imaginative writing and research.
It is no wonder that the struggle to coerce all students into mastering high-stakes testing is hardest at the upper grades. The impoverishment of learning taking place in the early grades naturally leads to boredom and alienation from school-based learning. This disengagement is often stigmatized as “attention deficit disorder.” The very capacities that No Child Left Behind is trying to achieve are undermined by the way in which the law is implemented.
This impoverishment of learning is reinforced by cutting programs in the arts. The free play of the imagination, which is so crucial for problem-solving and even for entrepreneurship, is discouraged in a basics curriculum lacking in substantial artistic and human content.
Add to this the elimination of physical education in order to clear more time to torture students with mechanical drilling and shallow questioning and it is no wonder that many American students are lethargic when it comes to ideas and actions. I’m sure that NCLB has, in many cases, a direct hand in the development of childhood obesity.
It is possible to maintain high standards for all children, to help students learn how to speak thoughtfully, think through problems, and create imaginative representations of the world as it is and as it could be, without forcing them through a regime of high-stakes testing. Attention has to be paid to the richness of the curriculum itself and time has to be allocated to thoughtful exploration and experimentation. It is easy to ignore content when the sole focus is on test scores.
Your administration has the opportunity, when NCLB comes up for reauthorization, to set the tone, aspirations, and philosophical and moral grounds for reform that develops the intelligence, creativity, and social and personal sensitivity of students. I still hold to the hope you mentioned you took away from 36 Children but I sometimes despair about how we are wasting the current opportunity to create truly effective schools where students welcome the wonderful learning that we as adults should feel privileged to provide them.
I would welcome any opportunity to discuss these and other educational issues with you.
Sincerely, Herbert Kohl
Tags: Education Revolution, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, MIT
Carol Morley, who edits a section of Education Revolution magazine just sent this to us:
The Massachusetts Institute of Technology has begun the most revolutionary experiment in the history of education, stretching all the way back to the pharaohs. It now gives away its curriculum to anyone smart enough to learn it. It has posted its curriculum online for free. These days, this means a staggering 1900 courses. This number will grow.
This has sparked an interesting discussion on our member listserve. Feel free to post comments below or become a member and join the discussion! http://www.educationrevolution.org/membership.html
Tags: AERO, Arne Duncan, Jerry Mintz, John Merrow, NCLB
I am in Washington, DC, at the Education Writers Conference. I decided to come down here on the chance that I could somehow communicate to Arne Duncan, Obama’s new Secretary of Education something about the need to get rid of No Child Left Behind. He talked for about 25 minutes to the large audience of education writers from all over the country. I stood in the line at the audience microphone but almost got stopped. The secretary of the organization came over to tell me that the line was just for reporters. Obviously she knew who I was and thought I might be a loose cannon. I told her that I was a reporter, for Education Revolution Magazine! She backed off, reluctantly.
Duncan seems to be an affable man, confident in himself but not too arrogant. He’s tall, and, in an answer to one question, sometimes plays basketball with Obama. For a while he talked about when he felt he had accomplished in Chicago, but a lot of it sounded to me like it was supporting No Child Left Behind.
Finally it was my turn. I said, “I’m Jerry Mintz from Education Revolution Magazine. Our audience is public and private alternative schools. We have a database of over 12,000 of them. In your talk you said that President Obama supports innovative charter schools. But those schools and others in our network find that No Child Left Behind makes innovation and change very difficult. We don’t feel that it measures the things we feel are most important. We want it scrapped. Will your administration do that?”
He replied that there were some things he didn’t like in the law and some things he liked, that he would have to look at it in detail.
I repeated, “We want it scrapped. Will it be scrapped?”
He replied,”I don’t know. But the name No Child Left Behind is toxic. We will at least change the name!” Afterward I said to John Merrow who does the Merrow documentaries on PBS. “So he will keep it but change its name?” He nodded knowingly.
I gave our latest Education Revolution Magazine and a copy of my book to Dunncan’s nearby PR man who was pointed out by Merrow, and the PR man gave me an e mail address through which I could contact him to follow up. I then came up and shook Duncan’s hand, reiterating our position. He acknowledged it. Surprisingly, I had accomplished what I set out to do when I got on the train this morning at Penn Station in New York. I hope it helped a little.
by Michael Alison Chandler, Washington Post
Also featured in the latest issue of Education Revolution
As Net-generation teachers reach out to gamers, classrooms across the country are becoming portals to elaborate virtual worlds. The Software and Information Industry Association estimates that instructional games make up only a tiny portion of the $2 billion-a year educational software industry. But lately, researchers and educators say sentiment toward gaming is changing. Advocates argue that games teach vital skills overlooked in the age of high-stakes tests, such as teamwork, decision-making and digital literacy. And they admire the way good games challenge players just enough to keep them engaged and pushing to reach the next level. A new generation of game designers is borrowing from the sophisticated platforms and stunning graphics that captivate students for hours after school. They hope to channel the kind of feverish determination students exhibit when stealing a car in Grand Theft Auto and redirect it toward more wholesome pursuits, such as algebra. Compelling games can help schools compete for students’ attention, advocates say, even as many teenagers are tackling complex projects on the Internet in their free time. Private foundations and the National Science Foundation have contributed millions of dollars to developing or studying games. The U.S. Education Department awarded a $9 million grant in September to a New York-based education firm to develop games for the hand-held Nintendo DS to weave into middle school science lessons. Some research has shown that games such as Quest Atlantis and Tabula Digita can boost the time that students spend on problems, depth of responses, even test scores. Larger-scale studies are still under way. A revision to the Higher Education Act approved last summer authorizes the creation of a research center for assessing and developing educational technologies such as simulations and video games.