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The Wounds of Schooling


School can serve as a great source of joy and achievement, but it can also leave students vulnerable, sad, diminished, and wounded, writes Kirsten Olson in her Education Week Commentary.

While education has long-served as a route to achieving full personhood, Olson says this notion is being threatened as learning is increasingly viewed as a testable product, intelligence as an innate quality, and failure as fault of the pupil rather than the education system. By dispelling the myths that educators know what's at the core of making children learn and that they are adequately trained to judge every child's performance, Olson maintains we can navigate the shoals of schooling without becoming shipwrecked.

What do you think? Does modern schooling send toxic messages to some students? Can that be remedied?


What do you think? Does modern schooling send toxic messages to some students? Can that be remedied?


My youngest son from birth was an active high energy child. He did well in preschool where his creativity and energy levels were allowed to be expressed. Half way through kindergarten he asked me "why am I the bad boy". He was being reprimanded for moving too much, talking too much, and not cooperating by taking a nap. So of course I was advised to get him evaluated for ADHD, which I did, and started him on ritalin. He had several serious side effects, so we stopped it. He continued to have problems at school. By sixth grade he started to become sarcastic, and rebellious. I removed him and home schooled him for three years. In which I saw improvement in his personality. I cant help but feel he has received the message starting in kindergarden that he is the "bad kid". He is bad for being himself, high energy, talkative, extremely social, comical. He has difficulties in school, but is extremely charming and likable in society outside of school. He has returned to highschool this year, through maturity and education is trying to manage with great effort. I know how intelligent he is, after working with him for three years, but his best assets are muffled in school. I can certainly understand why, the system and teachers are doing their best in an overcrowded falling apart building. They are responsible for the education of multiple students with different learning abilties and styles. But I dont like how school makes me feel about my own son. I have noticed a slow change in his personality again. I would of perferred to continue to homeschool him but he missed the socialazation with the other students.

This is certainly not a new idea. when i graduated from high school in 1967, i was so eager to get out that i asked my brother to return my cap and gown.

Schools then looked at students as parts -- hoping to fit them into a vast industrial machine. times have changed, but schools have not -- at least not enough. They are still mind-numbing prisons for many kids. what can we do about that? I'm not sure, but starting over is certainly appealing.

It's an old saying that "Education is the only industry that, when it turns out an inferior product, blames the product." Schools have long been toxic for some students, especially those seen as "different." Too often, it seems that the goal of schools has been conformity, not excellence. So the issue is not new.

There is hope. Differentiated instruction and universal design for learning can help many more students succeed. In the United States, we have "Special Education." It's interesting to note that special ed students are the only ones who have the right, by law, to an appropriate education.

According to my friend/colleague from Scotland, their equivalent is called "Additional Supports for Learning." What a great concept! All students, with or without disabilities, should have the supports they need to succeed. My friend directed me to the following website: www.aslstirling.smallmajority.co.uk/


If you're too slow, you have to speed up. If you're too fast, you have to slow down. One size WILL fit all, and we'll mold you until you fit. And by the way, math, science, history, and language have nothing to do with each other, they're SEPARATE subjects.

I will stop being sarcastic for my final, and most important point. I will start by borrowing some "sage advice" from Edutopia:
{"Why can't you be motivated by the love of learning?" we moan, as we carefully organize them into a childhood structured around passing tests}. When we teach our children to dutifully ANSWER questions that we pose to them, we're teaching them NOT to think. If we teach them instead to ***ASK*** questions, they become engaged and self-directed learners. Einstein changed the face of physics by ASKING a question - in fact a rather childish question. That's what we should be nurturing in our kids.

It is interesting that several of the first responders have had experience with students with disabilities. I can recall the scars of my own education, but they are minor, and in fact school did more to rescue me from a not always supportive home life than my brothers--who were just as smart--but not as compliant.

But the experience that I have had through my son has been horrendous. I feel the exclusion on parent night when all of the regular ed teachers are introduced and the special ed teachers overlooked. And the shocking thing is that the administrators who did this year after year just didn't understand what was wrong with it.

It seemed to be OK--even helpful in intention--when he was moved out of one school after another (never at the beginning of the school year and almost universally accompanied by punishment for some state of being) to go where they could "help students like him." And the underlying lie that has always been there ("see--that's why you're in SED!") that if he only acted like the other kids he could come back and get an education just like they do.

In high school now he looks pretty much like any other kid. But he has year long gaps in his learning from the shifting and the lack of resources to educate anyone in those "special classes," where the kids with the most problems are concentrated across multiple grade levels, lots of work sheets and no art, no music, no field trips. What he has learned is he doesn't read as well as the other kids, can't do math as well, and he belongs to a category of kids that it is OK to exclude.

About the only thing keeping him in school this year is the drama club. Guess what--the state says that the school has to test kids for giftedness. He is gifted in drama--and last year they cut the theater department in half!

I am so saddened by what I have read here. And it adds to my apprehension in studying to become a teacher.

I was a home school mom for 6 years and miss it terribly since my daughter has gone to the local public school. Unlike a previous post, we had many opportunities for socializing with science groups, chess club and sports at the middle school level and up. She actually socialized more at that time than she does now due to homework requirements. We found out there is a magnet program with a journalism focus that my daughter very much wanted to participate in, so I let her go. It has turned out well for her and sealed the idea that she wants to be a journalist and writer. She is above average intelligence and very good at blending in, which I guess is of value in the public school setting.

This idea that school is some factory where we put in children and put out productive members of society is hard to take. The idea that I am going to be forced to break some child's spirit to mold him/her into what the district requires is also hard to take. Everything I am studying goes against independent/critical thinking, it all "I talk/teach you listen/learn". They tell us about learning styles and multiple intelligences and how important it is to teach to them, yet the classroom environment and the required curriculum go completely against these ideas. How can one teach a classroom of 30 or more students, each an individual with varying learning styles and reach them all? How can a teacher do their job, a job many, including myself, feel driven to do, with so many obstacles?

So I ask myself, am I doing the right thing going in to the teaching profession? I watch my observation teacher spend 30 minutes or more, every day, teaching the children how to most effectively choose the right answer on a multiple choice test. How to do it quickly, and when to guess. All so they can pass the state mandated test that's coming up. She is shackled by the system, yet, I see the amount of effort and affection she gives to each child. She is a wonder, but she is also exhausted. At some point she may breakdown, give up or retire. Her lessons that are not how to pass the state test are thoughtful, informative and have enough activities that all learning styles are challenged. She allows for and encourages questions and thought about topics.

I know the school system needs reworking, I know that efforts are being made, I know I'll be a good teacher...But, is it enough?

To Mom/Student -
See if you can take classes in teaching the Montessori method. You may find that more to your liking. I'm looking into a Montessori school for my kids, and I really like what I see.

I retired in [email protected] the earliest possible moment because as an educator locked into Urban Reading First school I could no longer stand to look into the bored, sad faces of my 7 year old students.
I was always considered by all to be a caring, considerate, highly creative teacher. I was very good at presenting and guiding my students through the curriculum with consideration for their individual needs and learning styles in age-appropriate ways. In short, my kids learned, enjoyed coming to our class and were actively engaged in their own education. Beginning in 2002 that was no longer was true. We are forced to teach under the flawed "research" of the National Reading Panel. This as you may know involves strictly scheduled reading periods of 2 1/2 hrs,
no creative personal writing, mandated materials that are not interesting to the kids, weekly testing in fluency( as tested- speed reading.)
The tension many of the kids exhibit as they hear names being called is palpable. Some kids are"slow talkers"(thanx to Jerry Seinfeld)and they simply cannot read 90 wpm at the age of 7.
Their comprehension is fine but it doesn't matter,
no questions were tested. They have not made the cut. They are defeated. They ask questions about the world they live in but I cannot teach them about it or answer their questions because it isn't in the schedule. The people with the clipboards who "check" on the teachers to be sure they are on task come in often,every, day to be sure. We have been told NOT to read literature of our choice to children anymore because it is not a research based practice. We have NO say in what we teach, when we teach it, or how we teach it.
School has become a highly stressful, robotic exercise for both teachers AND students. We are actually not teachers in the classic sense that we were. We are the program delivery component
of systematized, scripted, canned lessons.
We are now making widgets not educated, engaged children who will someday be expected to function
successfully in an increasingly complicated world.
When,for the first time in my career, kids were saying to me "I'm bored", "this is boring", " Ion't like this" Why can't we learn about______?
I knew it was time to go. I was so sad to leave in such a negative way. I always thought my last year would be my best year. There are many things that need to be changed in our profession but this absolutely not the way.
The Republican money laundering scheme that is Reading First is a travesty for children. It now extends into the pre-k's. Many districts AND the Charter schools are following the program basics without the grant out of fear of not providing the same skewed scores and being unable to make AYP as defined by NCLB. In all this bureaucracy,
and political correctness, the natural light of learning within our children is being lost and in others it is never even being lit.

As an aside, I now volunteer in a Waldorf school to reaffirm my belief in education. There are happy challenged children there.

Education is a messy business. It can't be scripted. Children are not widgets. When the light in the teacher is extinguished, there is no hope of lighting up the student's soul.

These days, you have to either become resigned or
resign or retire...the new 3 R's.

I think the toxicity of the problem comes from outside the school and the school environment has to change in order to deal with it. Schools of today are still operating as schools did 20 or more years ago. After all the research is done we still set up the school day in the same way, teach the same core subjects in the same way (just adding the newest technology to the mix) and we never deal with the social and emotional issues that underlie the problems in the environment. We want kids to be able to compete with kids from other countries but we never teach them how to deal with the pressures involved in competition. We leave kids behind who can't meet the ideal of competing on a high academic level and heading off to college. We are so afraid of tracking kids, of pidgeon-holing them to a vocation that we stress them to the point of breaking and then ask why school violence is on the rise. It really doesn't take a genius to figure out that as the times change the schools need to change and adjust, and not in just the technological tools that we bring in. We need to understand the kids who are sitting in the classrooms and the administrators of districts need to leave their offices and find out who they are serving. Just my opinion.

I have been an educator for almost 40 years and observed that schooling was wounding children long before the current waves of accountability. I do agree that the pressures have increased, and I believe the author makes a good point that we don't really know how to do a better job, given our current resources and limitations. I now work in alternative education, where 100% of our students come to us because the system doesn't work for them. We don't have the magic bullets either, but it is amazing what individualized programs and lots of individual help can do to change attitudes. Unfortunately, many students are too deeply wounded before they get to us. We do what we can.

Coming across this is a Godsend. I just had a confrontation with my 8 year old daughter's teacher because of this same issue. Every child is expected to sit and listen and not ask questions because there's no time.....They're expected to memorize "vocabulary" but there's no explanation behind it, no pictures, no thought. It's a bunch of words that go in one ear and out the other. What's the sense of memorizing something that you have no idea what it means and then forget it 2 days later? They preach the idea of working to each child's level and it turns out they're all doing the same work. It's either they're bored from the same repetitive nonsense, or they're sinking from trying to keep up with the competition be it other students, or local schools. On a different note, I have a child who has received special ed. services for years. He has gotten the best education of all. He was fully mainstreamed from the beginning into a regular school. He's gotten to ask questions (and had them answered,) he's gotten clarification and just took the SHSAT and did great. How sad for our other kids that there's only 20 minutes for recess, too much homework, then time for dinner, a bath and then bed. What's worse is that music and art are cut to keep computers. They are becoming programmed robots. How sad.

I read the essay with great interest, as a former student, current mother and teacher. I am so saddened by RetroEd's comments, because they are becoming common in schools across the country. I am sickened to think that schools are allowing the "clipboards" to dictate how and when and what we are "allowed" to teach. My school was told to implement Reading First without any agreement from the teachers. We are a small school and are attempting to be creative with how we can break the rules. But It is heart-breaking to me to even consider that I am causing the wounds of school because some guy in Washington DC thinks he can tell me how to teach. I want to be that teacher they never forget, not the one who tested them all the time and showed them how "below benchmark" they were!

Unfortunately, First-Second Teacher, they check everything. You will have visitors from State Ed-"walk-throughs"-to check everything; your plans,groups, scores.centers(all activities must align to the core-no cross subjects or extensions
or heaven forbid,science,socialstudies or math extensions.) The principal and the coach will be in your room regularly. Some of us tried to sabotage as much as possible but little by little, they eliminated all our "faux pas".

So can we schedule a hearing with the Department of Ed to discuss these issues? They ought to understand the consequences of their decisions, perhaps that will enable them to make better ones.

I agree that our students are completely stressed - especially if they can't fit in to the "mold" of the ideal learner. I am out of the classroom now and very happy. I wanted to work with all students in an "ungraded" area. But, guess what? We are now told that we have to have ECO's (essential course outcomes) that are aligned with our state and national standards, AND provide a method to collect DATA (which means a form of evaluation). So much for our students enjoying library time for the joy of reading or becoming information savvy in our technological world! I am now forced to evaluate them and collect data on where they are now and how they can improve. This is out of control. I doubt that any parent is looking for data from their child's librarian!

To Librarian. I just looked up my state's library standards (they call them guidelines here) and they certainly do include things that would fall under the category of reading for pleasure. As far as collecting data is concerned--I recall the star chart that my class kept in 3rd grade showing the books that we read for pleasure. I also recall the local library doing something similar in the summer.

THAT'S DATA. Not only that, but it is helpful data to have the next time someone is questioning the value of having a librarian in your school!

For the last four years I have submitted lesson plans referenced to the standards that each lesson was designed to meet. If the department of Education has the time to read those lesson plans, they are welcome to. A walk through the classroom may show a more flexible plan at work. One is just paperwork, not altogether useless paperwork because it does help me to ogranize my thinking (mind you, I never had a big problem with this before, but what the heck).
I teach to each individual student's level. The better students help the slower students. There is little competition, more cooperation. Competition belongs on the ball field or court, not in the classroom.
It IS sad that test scores have taken such a priority in education. It is called accountability, but I do not see how test scores really account for anything, other than individual test-taking ability at any given time. Exchanging letter grades for terms like proficient and basic don't really change anything. Proficient is merely the new "C" grade. It sounds nice to some parents, sort of trendy and a bit elite, but it doesn't really have anymore meaning than the good old fashioned "C". A parent asked about the term proficient during a conference. She said she didn't understand the terms being used in the assessments her child was given. I explained that assessment is another word for test and that proficient really means about average. A light came on in her eyes and she said, "Thank you".
Maybe I'm an idealist, maybe a dinosaur. I don't care. If it works, I do it. If it doesn't, I don't.

The Wounds of Schooling scar the practioners as well. I just left a major urban school district in JUne and will probably never return to the school system ( after 23 years). If you have alot of passion along with vision, schools rarely have ways of accomodating those kinds of individuals.

I have always been appalled at the lack of real intellectual thinking and professionalism that characterizes the teaching profession. We are driven by belief systems, and rarely allow ourselves to confront personal beliefs that
may in fact hinder child development.

The "conversation" around math instruction typifies the culture within schools.
Even though we have 30 years of strong cognitive scientific research that shows children learn best in context, must confront prior understandings in order to learn "conceptually",
need to become aware of their own thinking, these ideas are dismissed in public forums and board of education meetings by idealogical educators or petty politicians and their misinformed community members as fuzzy ( fuzzy math) or "new age."

Even though there are committed educators who are truly risk takers and deeply introspective about their practice, they rarely speak up ( or fear repercussions.

Why would any young person, who might fit into the category of best and brightest, ever want to go into the educational system?

So true! My three children have been scarred for life and I feel responsible for it. I moved here when they were in grade school. Because of their different accent, they were teased and harassed constantly until they shut down completely and hated school with a passion. Had I known what I know now, I would never have subjected them to the ridicule they endured. The school experience in this system can more often than not be a nightmare for minorities.

So true! My three children have been scarred for life and I feel responsible for it. I moved here when they were in grade school. Because of their different accent, they were teased and harassed constantly until they shut down completely and hated school with a passion. Had I known what I know now, I would never have subjected them to the ridicule they endured. The school experience in this system can more often than not be a nightmare for minorities.

Re:Don's post
I concur with your point of view expressed. As one who was considered "the radical" by the staff,
I was the proverbial square peg throughout my career. I can truly say that no suggestion or POV I ever gave in a group mtg with the administrator
present was ever accepted or considered seriously
considered. They were dismissed in uncomfortable silence. Some would stop in my room and say "atta girl" or "I wish I had said that" but they never would, not in public. The culture of fear in our schools is firmly entrenched. Teachers do what they are told even when they know it's wrong. I could be wrong but my feeling is that this becomes more and more of an issue
the further down. There is still the gender issue of female subservience operating and that's where you will find mostly all female teachers.
I spent the first 1/2 of my career being told I was not performing as they would like me to and because I was rather insecure my vision of myself as an educator was negative and skewed. It took 19 years before a visiting group of administrators came to observe and told the principal that I was the only one in the building "doing it right". This was relayed to me second hand by the asst. principal on the side but it changed my view of who I was so I no longer cared what anyone said, closed my door and did it my way - until "Reading First" came.
The real change in education will come when it is understood that Teaching IS an art,a calling - not a job. It is a complex, subtle and nuanced profession requiring a person with an intuitive heart for children and passion and mastery of the subjects they teach. The best and the brightest will only show up en masse when education becomes a true profession ie; candidates highly screened and selective in the colleges,considerably longer and IN DEPTH preparation in subject matter , pedagogy and specific ongoing intense self inquiry into ones personal educational values and belief system. Simultaneously, that developing belief system should be honored and nurtured by the college so that the candidate will truly develop and teach from their own core authentically. Young teachers would only step into their own classrooms if they are fully prepared to function at a high level. Salary compensation would be raised to reflect these highly prepared individuals . A culture of respect and collegiality would be the norm in schools. Pie in the sky?...probably but doable and completely necessary.
Teacher training in the colleges was poor 35 years ago when I went through and it is no better today. Almost anybody can become a teacher, only the really appallingly bad student teachers don't make it. The rest go into their classrooms highly underprepared, unsupported and swim, quit or worse-
sink, and stay for 30 years anyway.

Perhaps more than any other recently-adopted program, Reading First is guilty of exactly the problems this essay describes.

Although educators have had differentiated intstruction drilled into them at all levels, Reading First programs refuse to allow gifted students to attend the very programs for which they qualify and require them to lock-step their way through the non-challenging instruction and daily assessment of skills they mastered long ago.

Please, someone, tell us how to undo this Nazi control of our young students' education! Schools are desperate for the funding and are willing to accept this dreadful program because it is the only source of federal funds that are needed just to keep public schools afloat.

I see the wounds of schooling from my own experience and through my son's, and I see the alternative to wounding (engaging learning, feeling of support and acknowledgement of individual strengths) though my experience in 3rd grade.

My wounds were largely the results of schooling didn't help me understand and build upon my own strengths. I have often wondered what I might have done if all my teachers had acknowledged and tapped my strengths, learn to the point of understanding rather than rote recall, and had helped me accelerate my learning. With a few exceptions, I recall my 1st through 12th grade schooling as a compliant fulfillment of unengaging assignments. I have almost no memory of second grade--it's a lost year of deadening boredom, a phrase I certainlly wouldn't have known at the time, but can assign to the experience as an adult. (And it's not because I can't remember back that far. I have vivid memories of first grade from the very first day.) Luckily, my 3rd grade experience was a positive, stark contrast to the year before and illustrates the power a teacher has to help individual students grow as learners and human beings. This was a long time ago, in the late 50s, and yet I can recall specifics of that year with great detail: how we formed groups to investigate different aspects of middle eastern countries and how through that I learned about climate and the need to irrigate (we built a scale model), how the ocean is filled with different plant and animal life which we displayed for the school on a large bulletin board in the hall that was made by students, that materials can be man made or natural (I remember the acitivitites vividly!), and on and on. I remember getting lost in reading a book of my choice in the afternoon after recess, so absorbed that I wanted to keep reading when the bell rang for the end of the school day. The memories of that year go on and on. That was a year of growth in my learning and understanding of myself as a learner and unique individual, an example of how school does not wound the learner, but rather helps them flourish.

My son was not so lucky. As a preschooler, he asked many questions displaying curiosity and intelligence. In his first preschool, the director told me that he was too aware of what everyone else was doing, as if his awareness was a sad deficit. Luckily, this was only a few weeks into the beginning of the year and an opening existed in a different school in which he blossomed, recognized as the individual that he is. Two years later in first grade, I was told by a very sober faced first grade teacher that she did not know how he would go on because he didn't seem to be able to finish all the worksheets he was assigned. Already he was absorbing the message that he wasn't good enough. I met with the principal to express my incredulity and distress that learning would be measured in the sheer volume of worksheets. He agreed with me but that did nothing to change the teacher's view. Worse yet, the school was already sorting children! My son was in the "top group" but the strange notion the teachers had about what that meant did little to promote the development of a healthy self-image of himself as a learner. I recall little creativity, only an emphasis on compliance. (If alternatives existed at that time, I would have put him into a different school.) By fourth grade, he was suffering and I still feel deep sadness about that year in particular. Only 9 years old, students were placed in a departmentalized situation. These children had five different teachers--what a horror. My son felt such defeat when teachers expressed displeasure that he couldn't always remember all the books to take for classes as he moved from room to room. He became so defeated and sad that he told me once that even God didn't love him--I can still cry at that memory. Nothing my husband and I did seemed to be able to counteract the strong message that school was communicating to him. I spoke with teachers and the principals, not just about my son's reaction, but what was happening to all children because of the way the school was organized. The principal's response: "Don't you want you son to learn responsibility?" I was outraged, and told him that, yes, that was something important to learn but expecting that 9 year olds should be expected to have the organizational skills of older children was inappropriate and that moving from class to class was detrimental to all students. I got nowhere. I also took him to a psychologist to help us help him. We read together and talked about his strengths. He went into a summer program for gifted and talented, which he loved, so that he had the opportunity to explore different activities (archeology, rocketry, chess) and to learn more about his own interests. In the summer he read a stack of books that was about two feet high. We did all that we could, but the wounding effects of schools persisted. I still feel anger after all this time--my son is now 28--that this wonderful human being had to endure hurt and little school-based opportunity to learn to appreciate his own unique strengths and abilities. And I am angry at myself after all this time that I wasn't able to find a way to counter-act what was happening.

Perhaps another topic of exploration is how parents are wounded by their feelings of powerlessness when their children have to endure hurtful and negative schooling experience, when these experiences cut to the core of their child's self-image of themselves as learners and wonderful human beings.

Your closing comment about parental powerlessness hits home, hard.

I didn't teach long enough to feel the disillusionment that I'm reading here from career teachers, but your essays are affecting me powerfully. We put our kids in private school because we were displeased with our local K - 2 school, but our original intention was to send our kids to the public school in third grade. After what I'm reading here, NO WAY. How is this allowed to continue???


"Perhaps another topic of exploration is how parents are wounded by their feelings of powerlessness when their children have to endure hurtful and negative schooling experience, when these experiences cut to the core of their child's self-image of themselves as learners and wonderful human beings."

Well said! My 9 year old son was diagnosed with major depression and anxiety 3 weeks ago. In counseling, hurtful, shameful and painful school experiences have been coming out. These are school experiences that have wounded him deeply. He has kept them secret resulting in a severe and dangerous depression.

Does school wound? You bet it does when the PE teacher routinely calls kids stupid. School wounds when kids are made to crawl around on the floor scrubbing black marks off as punishment for not paying attention in class. School wounds when teachers make kids stay in from recess because they had to use the restroom at the "wrong time." School wounds when highly intelligent kids are told they ask too many questions. School wounds when math timed tests are given on a daily basis starting in first grade. School wounds when kids are forced to miss the class party because they didn't follow directions exactly as requested.

As adults, we wouldn't allow ourselves to be treated in these ways. Why are schools allowed to treat children as less than human?

I agree that schools can be fragmented confusing places. In my school, we came up with a whole-school project called eARTh to promote greater co-operation and inclusion. I believe that it really made a difference to the lives of our students. The eARTh project essentially promotes environmental education through art. In many ways, it taught us to care more about what we are learning. You can read more about it at www.earthlearn.ie

The true research into whta really works and what does not is going on in classrooms throughout the world. Teahers and other educators are learning from experience what makes them most effective. That is not to say that a comprehensive education is not necessary for teacher training, but the art of teaching comes to light in the classroom, on a daily, hourly, minute-byminutte basis.
Many aspects of education today are harmful. The not so recent anymore "No Child Left Behind Act" has reinstated an Anglo-American culture in U.S. schools. The bilingual, multi-cultural education that was affirmed by the "Elementary and Secondary Education Act" in 1968 has been replaced with the cultural and linquistic genocide that held so many children down in the educational system. NCLB called for impossible standards and a one language, one culture view of learning. Instead of promoting and extending what was and still is working in many areas, NCLB returned to the failed programs of the past, the use of standardized tests and one-size-fits-all programs. Students are herded from one dull class to another, fed trivia to be regurgitated on tests, and sustained on bland so-called free breakfasts and lunches. Schools are threatened with the loss of already meager funding if their students do not perform as requested and teachers are threatened with loss of income and employment when their students fail.
Yes it is a harmful and often toxic atmosphere. Yet, somehow teachers and students survive. The question is are we satisfied with mere survival?

One sad commentary on education is that when a studen blurts out an answer, right or wrong, they are punished for not following the proper procedure, i.e. raising a hand and waiting to be called upon. What this says to the student is that the procedure is as or possibly more important than the answer itself. It is similar with standardized tests. There is only one right answer and only one way to correctly mark that answer. There is little room for interpretation.

Yes, of course modern schooling sends toxic messages to some students; and yes, it can be remedied if we apply what we know about how children learn.

I'd like to respond as a mother and then as a teacher.

I have been blessed with two talented sons. One graduated from Harvard and one from Stanford. However, they had completely different experiences at the same schools. My older son (now a Stanford trained scientist) did not enjoy school until he started college. His kindergarten teacher remarked, "Perhaps he's not as bright as we thought." (These words are engraved on my soul.) His other teachers used words and phrases like "out of it," dyslexic, apathetic, etc. Like one of the other mothers who wrote on this subject, I took this son to lots of "summer science workshops" where he studied geology, computers, rocketry and physics. Strangely, as soon as he got to community college (only place that would have him), his professors instantly recognized his talent. Is it because they were mainly men and the subjects were math and physics? Did my son suddenly mature? When I asked him, he explained, "Elementary school was mainly rote and that's not what I'm good at." (Turns out, he was good at thinking.)

My other son, now an attorney, was very verbal (read early and so on) so he got along great with his mainly female, and verbal, teachers. Many of these teachers were the same people my older son had.

There's nothing more painful than watching an unhappy child go off to school, especially when you suspect bad things are happening to him. I switched schools a couple of times for both boys but I can't really say that the teachers were at fault. My older son just didn't fit. If I had motherhood to do over again I would look for a small progressive public or private school to put him in. In fact this is what I just recommended for my granddaughter who is being forced to read in kindergarten even though she shows little interest (just like Daddy).

My experiences as a teacher might explain "modern schooling" somewhat. I've been a reading specialist and first grade teacher for many years. It took me a long time to hone my skills so that I was able to do my very best for every child in my class. I learned from experience and motherhood that the most important thing for me to keep in mind was the child's enthusiasm for learning. If that is kept alive, the child will probably succeed in school, but once it dies... So for a long time I had a relaxed but enriched classroom environment where the children had plenty of time for exploration. Keeping in mind the many talents of human beings, I made sure there were centers to keep every child excited about school. While they were engaged in these activities I would teach them to read and write at appropriate levels. Some would be reading chapter books while others would learn the alphabet and a few sight words. These immature children (like my own son) would become fluent in second or third grade. No need to worry.

Well, as several writers have pointed out, times have changed. All teachers are now under extreme pressure to teach the same thing at the same time to every child in the class. In my classroom that means introducing nonsense text ("The gulls strut on the strip.") to children who don't speak a word of English!!! Advanced children look dazed with boredom while the immature or non-English-speaking students look perpetually befuddled. Sadly, children are having so many "accidents" that I now have to take the whole class to the restroom three times a day. For the first time in my career I had to suspend a child when he tried to choke another. Are children in my class being "wounded?" Ironically, I am the highest paid teacher at my school, but the district is not allowing me to use my best professional judgment. However, after reading these posts, I'm going to go back to what I know is best. Instead of the scripted lessons I was planning for next week, I'm going to get the children ready for a Thanksgiving play complete with costumes and feast! I already know this will be a very joyful and memorable time for the children and shouldn't that be what learning is all about? (I doubt if the principal will really lose her job and I'll be retiring within a year or two.)

By the way, I attribute the educational mess we're in to the administration of George W. Bush. Historians will undoubtedly look back on this time as "the stupid period" in American history. The stupidity has reached every corner of our country (and beyond) and has even affected little children.

I hope every parent and teacher who has expressed concerns about the miseducation of our children will write letters to their legislators.

A great deal of the problem is attributable to the wasteful "educational" policies of the current administration. Much of it goes back further, however to the Reagan years. It was this "enlightened" era that began cutting expenses that were benefitting education. This "Isn't Catsup a vegetable" administration declared that schools were no longer segregated and bilingual, bicultural education was wastful because it did not concentrate on American values. I think the values referred to were a kind of throw back to "Death Valley Days"..
Sadly we are back to a cookie cutter educational system that is supposed to turn out perfect children, all above average, all transformed from whatever background they began in to the docile, smilling masses, suited/skirted for success. The other jobs, well we have immigrants for those.

In reading my post (11-11-06) I can see that I left out a crucial bit of information. In order to put pressure on teachers to conform to the present educational fad, administrators use different tactics. Some have "reading coaches" who serve as Textbook Police. Others threaten with poor evaluations. My principal, who likes me (and I her) told me that she would lose her job if "anyone" caught my students building with blocks. Not wanting her to lose her job, I quickly got rid of all the materials that make learning so much fun for very young children. However, now I regret it and will go back to want I think is best for my students. As I stated in my previous post, I don't really believe she will lose her job and neither will I.

So sorry, but in my experience of 30 years teaching, I must say that parents have a greater influence in the well being of their children. Why do they have to blame the school? They most always agree with their children and tend to don't put end or lines which can not be crossed. The teacher has normally around 30 students and if they are going to be judged by each parent, the only one unconfident and unhappy is the teacher. Unfortunetely many parents these days don't even care to ask how their child is really in class, many times the children come to the school with very rude and bad manners which create a harder reaction from the teacher.
Children are not a product of the school only.
Society can get better if house runnings get better organized and with clear rules.
An old TESOL teacher from Ecuador full of love as well as good moral and ethical examples from their parents.
Genoveva Mayer, PH DE

Yes, parents definitely have much more influence over the education of their childen than teachers do. However, we are discussing schooling right now - the time children spend away from parents. Surely every teacher would agree that we have a tremendous influence on our students: good or bad. I believe that most children who come from supportive homes also find support at school; however, we cannot deny that some of these children are indeed "wounded" at school.

RE: Retro Ed , Bob Frangione and others:

I posted the message on Nov 9th regarding the wounding of the practioners. First I am impressed by the thoughtfulness and the intensity, and the passion reflected in your comments. IN these moments I can proudly say I am in the midst of professionals.

As referenced by many others in this conversation, No Child Left Behind and politicians who heralded its emergence has severly damaged and sabotaged the important work around standards and addressing the real question, of "what is the most important thing that we want our children to know and be able to do after forcing them to be in our schools for l2 years?" IN my opinion, that has always been a key question that has been underminded by high stakes testing and medicore administrators and school boards for over 6 years.

I urge my colleagues, in this " window of political change," to insist that the issue is not full funding of NO Child Left Behind, but for the first time, insuring a full conversation with all key players about educational direction in this country.

This memory just popped into my head: When my son was accepted into the Ph.D. program at Stanford, an educational researcher asked him how he got interested in engineering. This was his response: "My mom bought me this great construction toy called Capsula."

Toys R Us, here I come!

As a parent I just want to thank those who have acknowledged the painful helplessness of parents who know their children are receiving something other than their need but cannot accomplish the needed changes.

Linda/Parent/Teacher also brought in some good points, but I have to offer some disagreement as well. I personally champion an enriched classroom and shrink from scripted approaches. But it is not true that those who aren't making it in k/1 will catch on to reading in a year or two. The research I am hearing is that what takes 20 minutes a day to work on at the K level takes an additional 2 hours per day to remedy by 3rd grade. And many of those who are not caught early never catch up.

I have to go back to Linda's description of herself as a beginning teacher--we know that the learning curve in those first five years are steep. Yet we have structured education as if a teacher is a teacher is a teacher. Every kid gets one and all are the same. I think that the scripted approaches bring in an attempted short-cut to teaching proficiency within a system that does not offer much in the way of scaffolding to beginning teachers (or for retraining either, as newer methods are identified), and little in the way of professional critique of actual classroom practice for ongoing improvement.

I don't know where the misconception comes from that because we apply standardized measures of achievement that classroom instruction must become rote/lock-step/boring etc. In fact most districts have been using standardized testing internally for year. The difference now is that I as a parent can see results beyond those of my own child, and because all the schools/districts are using the same one, comparisons are possible. And because the scores are disaggregated we know that we face some real problems in teaching certain identifiable groups as well as others.

Drill and kill is not a research-based best practice, as far as I can tell. Methods that are inquiry based, support higher order thinking, high levels of student engagement, link to student experiences--these seem to be the practices that are racking up support in terms of evidence. I think that some of the toxicity in schools today comes as a reaction to new expectations of progress/success for every child--and sometimes that means self-examination and change.

Because most teachers care deeply about their success and that of their students, it has been easy in the past to fall into scapegoating (I could teach them if their parents were better), or redefining success (he's reading better, there will be time later to get into science or social studies, or he won't need to know that) for students that they don't yet know how to reach, or other means of denial.

Of course learning is testable; what's problematic (both politically and philosophically) is which aspects are worth testing for, and why. It is also, of course, a product: one that many Americans feel entitled to receive "for free" (read that as: at the expense of our most productive citizens, too often with little real benefit to our least potentially productive learners). The scientific is overwhelming that intelligence is indeed an innate quality, although learners of every innate intelligence level can be imbued by charismatic educators with the drive to make the most of what their genes have provided. Failure in younger learners, sadly, is often the fault of the failure of parents/caregivers as well as educators to instill that drive to succeed in education as a necessary condition of succeeding int he adult world...ideally although not necessarily accompanied by the joy of learning for its own sake. Finally, even more sadly, the public education system in America demonstrably, indisputably, IS a failure of epic proportions. Its intentions are good (or at least once were) but Bastiat's Law of Unseen Consequences cannot be avoided, by this or any other centrally-planned, "publicly"-funded endeavor.

Money, facilities, and pedagogical practices will not fix this broken machine. Let's not forget that some of American history's greatest men and women were products of "primitive" one-room schoolhouses, simply because the Significant Adult Others in their early lives took the time and care to imbue them with intellectual passion. We as educators cannot honorably commit to less!

Providing the OPPORTUNITY for an education tends to create a one-size-fits-all assembly line approach where we plug in "programs" like little black boxes. My wife had a teacher who long ago told her that "kids enter school as a question mark and leave as a period." Conversly, public schools cannot be all things to all people. It is a trade off that limited resources requires.

It strikes me as ironic that many teachers place the desire for parents to be more involved in their childrens' education at the top of their wish list, yet those of us who want to do so are shut out (more so by administrators or policy than by teachers). I would like to see a discussion of parental powerlessness on this forum.

Parents can help their children a great deal by paying attention to their children's physical, mental and spiritual health, by not denying or feeling guilty but getting help when there is a problem in the family, by taking care of their own health, by show their children how they also learn new things, by helping their children organize their homework, papers to be returned etc., by joining, volunteering for or supporting a parent group and by taking on a leadership role in a parent group.

I think parents are involved when they do these things. Also this is where they can be personally effective in their own child's education.

Yet as a parent and PTA volunteer I have also felt that shut out feeling. You feel like their saying "Please raise money but don't tell us what to do here". I remember trying to get a second security guard for our 1800 student elementary school. Parent volunteers covered for the security guard's lunch break. I collected hundreds of signatures on a petition but got the usual answer - no money for a second guard.

There are two other problems with parental involvement. They are the opposite ends of the spectrum. One is apathy and the other is obsessed parents.

Basically I think the reason is accountability.
It is the administration and the teachers who are held accountable for how well a school functions. The parents are not held accountable except in cases of extreme neglect or abuse.

Let's see how this cell phone debate works out.
I side with parents who want their children to carry a cell phone. But now we need ideas about how to handle the potential disruptions cell phones cause in the school.

The K-12 educational system (especially grade 9-12) has to be updated to meet the needs of the modern student. The modern high school student is more savvy about their responsibilities in the system. They know that they must attend school, but they also realize that they do not have to perform up to any preconceived standard. If they choose to underperform and pay the consequences, then they can and will do just that.

The present system will matriculate 80% of the students, but it does not necessarily meet their educational needs. Those 80% may be getting short-changed as to their educational potential because of the system. The other 20% do not buy into the present system, so if you keep it the same you are by definition not serving that population. Now, one may say that they are choosing to fail, but it won't change anything, and it is totally unacceptable.

The system must become more flexible in its structure of presenting and evaluating the subject matter. The students need to have some input into what they are taught and more importantly they need to have options which might lead to their success.

Yes, there is no doubt that it will be more logistically difficult, but that is not a sufficient reason to refuse to make changes

Fellow colleagues, a small practical consideration is missing from this discussion. The schools have become service providers for a large group of disabled students who are now included in all measurements of scholastic success. Comparisons and expectations based on past models are incomplete and it seems the new models are also lacking. Blaming apparent failures on everyone from the child to the parents to politicians is unhelpful. If you favor central control(read State or National funding) then you have before you the results of such ideology. Just because your favorite group would of course do the job better doesn't address the basic problem of central control. If you are happy now someone else will not be, and you are bound to be disappointed in the future. I sympathize with those frustrated by the failures and painfully bad experiences. However, demanding central state control of education and inclusion of every student, able or otherwise, and then complaining about the poor outcome is mere political wrangling. The underlying notion is that your guys would do it better. So a caucophany of "Our Guys! Our Guys!" is the predictable conclusion.
For the curious, I am a product of the much demonized 60's & 70's Los Angeles School District. The abject failures of which are legendary to this day. Somehow I managed to get and education there and make it through college. Perhaps all this talk of the system leaves the desire for learning of the students themselves out of the picture. A discussion of the lack of respect of children for adults in our society might be productive as well. You know, children looking up to a good adult role model and wanting to be like them.

I am tremendously moved by the passion and power of the responses here, and am sorry I am joining the conversation a little late. I have received dozens and dozens of emails from individuals around the country in response to the wounds piece, and have been busy answering them and making contact with people so that I might include parts of their stories in my book. This is a potent topic for many of us.

I just want to add a couple of things to the rich array of comments here. The sense that schools are wounding places, as many point out, is hardly new and is not simply a product of NCLB, although I do think that current accountability measures based on massive overuse of easy-to-adminster, cheap standardized tests further distorts the meaning of education for children and teachers in the system. (There is a palable new confusion afoot in some of the classrooms I observe among both children and teachers: is education about engagement in learning, or about testing?) My dissertation was on the radical critiques of schooling of John Holt, Jonathan Kozol, Herb Kohl, George Dennison and Ivan Illich--so the roots of my/our unease--and a belief in learning as something deeply transforming and profoundly spiritual--are not new in the discourse.

My book springs from a place similar to many of the responders here. In addition to being and educational researcher and college teacher, I am the mother of four teenage children. And as I wrote in one email to someone, nothing has been more gut-wrenching, passion provoking and interpersonally challenging as the feeling that I had to help my children find a way through schooling without their life spirits being compromised and crushed. What I hope to do in my book is to help "out" the fact that many teachers, although they may be working terribly hard and mean well, just aren't sufficiently well trained or supported to make judgments about childrens' cognitive development, learning proclivities, physical, mental, and spiritual styles--and kids are inadvertently punished for this. Most teachers don't work in environments that allow much range of expression of cognitive or intellectual style, even if they were trained for this. And having studied the history of education, I know that this may change, but at a glacially slow pace. So in the meantime, what are we to do about real, live children who are in school now? I think children and parents have to be authorized--have to authorize themselves--to look closely at what school can really offer, and what it cannot. This is of course different for every child and every family, but the sense that schools and teachers make seemingly immutable, profoundly shaping judgments about children and young adults, blithely and almost casually every day--and that these individuals remember these comments for the rest of their lives and that they have real impact--is completely unacknowledged in teacher training, contemporary professional development, or any mainstream policy discourse. So I believe parents, teachers, and most especially students themselves need to learn how to critically assess feedback from school, and be given tools to understand how to "rebalance" it, while also taking from it what is legitimately helpful and enriching.

In my book I identify types of wounds my research interviews most commonly unearth ("wounds of creativity," "wounds of compassion," "wounds of perfectionism," "wounds of rebellion" for instance). In my experience this helps put some shape around the experiences many have had or are having. I also believe that adults must acknowledge and try to heal some of their own wounds before they can be powerful healers of others. In my experience, becoming a parent often brings back, with shocking intensity, the pain and shame of our own childhood school wounding.

At my website I have a guestbook and just started a forum so that if people want to go on talking, they will have a place to do it. During my years of graduate school I often felt very alone in my interests, observations and philosophical inclinations, and often believed that John Holt and Ivan Illich were my best colleagues.

I am learning so much from everyone's posts.

With gratitude,


I started teaching in inner city Cleveland about the time Jonathan Kozol wrote Death at an Early Age so I have closely followed his career. He claimed that he was fired from his city job for introducing inappropriate poetry. This caused him to take a teaching job in a suburban school for a year or two before he was able to support himself as a writer. Every time I read one of his books, I want to ask him, "Why didn't you pursue another inner city job for at least a few years, so you could try out some of your ideas?" In the 1960s districts were absolutely desperate to fill those positions, so he wouldn't have had a problem getting a job in another city. And that was the case with John Holt and Herbert Kohl and many of our "best and brightest" scholars in education. They all gave up after a year or two (or, worse, used their inner city jobs to launch the careers they really wanted). The fact of the matter is that the vast majority of these people would "die" if they had to teach in the public schools. And that is why we are left with people who are "not sufficiently well-trained" to do the job. The reality is that the job of K-12 teaching is often not attractive to highly educated people because they are not willing to accept low salaries, low status, very hard work (little thinking time)and sometimes demeaning work environments. And when it is attractive to them, they are usually discouraged from entering the profession by ambitious parents or professors. Before I retire, I'd love to see at least one well-known education scholar try to do the job for at least a year and then write about it. Now THAT would make a very interesting book!

Perhaps market forces will not allow us to hire the quality of teacher that we all want for our own children. If this is true, then we need the support of other people in the community to help teachers do a better job. One reason suburban schools are so much more successful that rural and urban ones is the fact that most of them have several college-educated mothers helping in the classroom on a daily basis. Nothing affects the conduct of a teacher more than the presence of another adult in the room.

What I find truly sad is that we don't learn from our mistakes. My mother--who died in 2001 at the age of 104 1/2--taught first grade forever (seemingly). In her first school, in 1915, she was sent the curriculum by the state, told where she had to be at the end of each week, and at the end of 6 weeks, she was sent a test to give the kids and send back to the state to be graded. Does this sound familiar? State mandated tests, anyone? Later, she taught in another school that required nothing but reading in the first grade. "Reading First?" She sneaked in some art, music, story telling, math (Roman numerals that the kids loved) science etc. and was chastised for not following the curriculum. Nevertheless, she was asked to return the following year, but she chose not to, believing that their approach was stifling the kids. Eventually, she ended up in Wyoming and taught in a very small school district. She didn't have a degree, though she was constantly learning. When Wyoming began requiring teachers to have college degrees, her principal/superintendent called the state and asked whether he had to fire the two non degree teachers on the staff. The state superintendent asked, "Are they good teachers?" He replied, "You bet they are!" "Then keep 'em!" She lived through the since discarded programs supported by "research." Open classrooms? Modern math? ITA alphabet? (Her school didn't adopt that one based on her recommendation.) Transformational grammar? Holistic language? She kept her head down, taught phonics, accepted the mentally challenged kids into her classroom and kept them until they outgrew the desks, taught many of them to read and spell, gave poor kids jump ropes, lunch money, jackets etc. She would not be allowed to do any of this in today's climate, by by golly, she taught kids! I don't teach elementary school, but in our city, one district has begun evaluating those teachers on their students' CSAP scores. Small wonder the fun is disappearing from classrooms. I have reached the point in my career that will allow me to retire if the bureaucracy becomes too oppressive. I have been told that in Denver, high school teachers now are given scripted lessons for English classes with time tables for instruction. Our district is considering requiring all schools to use the same textbooks and to follow the same curricula. This isn't teaching, but it is superb organization. A few years ago, one of my students, who was considered to be at risk, bonded with me for whatever reason, and when I assigned a process paper, he wrote about how to rip off stereos out of cars. Today, I'd have to refer him to administration, but then I gave him an A. I could have entered a life of crime from his instructions. (As far as I know, he has abandoned the activity.) Also in my classes, sometimes we scrap the lesson plan and talk about world affairs or other subjects of interest and importance to the kids. For example, fraternity parties and sex scandals in colleges, fright about leaving home, managing a credit card, planning for a future that doesn't include college, religion, or whatever. I haven't noticed that the kids end up at all behind by the end of the year. Granted, I teach AP English now, but we have open enrollment, so kids with truly poor writing skills can take the classes if they are willing to do the work. I have hot chocolate and cappuccino for the kids, a classroom that my principal says should be "renormed" for discipline, and kids who come back and tell me proudly that they haven't earned any less than an A or a B on their college papers. That reward is better (almost) than my salary. But we all have classes of 27 to 30 most of the time. Teachers and parents know that small classes are beneficial to kids, especially for the ones who march to different drums, but we aren't getting them because of the budget. That's why I never tell a student s/he cannot be in one of my classes because they are full. Fifteen years ago, I thought I was a good teacher, but I'm no longer sure. I see kids whose reading skills are deteriorating because they don't read or write, not because they cannot. I try to hook them on contemporary books that appeal to them but that are also thought provoking. Then I cross my fingers and hope that a parent doesn't complain to my principal because the book has "bad" words in it. Only once has a parent actually read the book he/she is protesting. Schools have tremendous responsibility for educating children, but the students have to participate in their own educations, and parents have to stop protecting their children and blaming everything on the schools. We get what we deserve, and right now, NCLB is leading us to lock-step "one size fits all" teaching that will do nothing for students, but it may improve test scores. That will be nice for students who want to get jobs taking tests.

I am a student at Anderson University. As an upcoming teacher this article was very disturbing. I can see both points of view, but from my gut level disagree that schools are toxic. Overall, I think there is a problem with the politics of education and how funding is managed. But you don't need a ton of money to be a great teacher. I know that I don't have forty years of experience and am just beginning, but I know that one good teacher can make that difference. Learning starts in the classroom and we as teachers hold that power. Everything else is just politics. Yes, these we have to abide by, but it is here that I feel the problem lies. Too, many big dogs are making decisions when they don't even have personal experience in the classroom.

The problem is school has little to do with the real world. School prepares students for ... more school.

One of the problems I see is that teachers themselves don't really know what they're talking about. They may mean well, but they aren't authentic models. How many science teachers are actual scientists? How many English teachers actually make a living as a journalist or writer? How many government teachers actually work in public policy?

Much of school is playing pretend, and it does a fairly poor job at that. Young people need real rigor, real responsibility, and real opportunities to learn about themselves.

We would do better to return to an apprenticeship model, where young people learn from actual experts making a living in the field. Imagine if we did away with traditional junior high and high school and replaced it with rotating apprenticeships and community service? Young people would actually have experience working in 10+ fields before going to college, they would be more knowledgeable about their own strengths and weaknesses, and would see real application to their learning.

(By the way, this type of education would cost pennies on the dollar.)

Joe's comments are perhaps the best on this blog because he gives us the reasons why we have a weak education system that wounds many students. In the first place, K-12 teachers are not respected (They are told repeatedly that they aren't that qualified.) Secondly, many people do not want to pay what is required to have a first-rate educational system (Why pay dollars when you can get something for pennies?) We DO know how to get mathematicians and scientists to teach; just look at the competition they face getting jobs at the college level. Here's the magic formula: pay competitive salaries, treat the teachers with respect and give them a fair amount of autonomy on the job.

I do agree, but there is also toxicity for the teachers, especially first year teachers. The educational system needs help! Advice I received from a 20 year teacher was to have a "crying closet" in my room. It amazes me that we are the lowest paid profession doing the same amount of work and as stressful as any CEO making 100's of 1000's of dollars. It's really rediculous when you think of what we are doing, creating the future of our nation.

It is there by nature the coomparison of the earnings.I do agree with gill.

Sure there exist such income level comparisons.I think kids need to go for online educations in such cases.Online math game would serve the purpose.

Thomas that is a great idea indeed.Here is a resource which help in the activity mantioned.


I'm a 47 year old disabeled vet with a 14 year old dauter that used to be in the top 10% in the U.S. Now I can't even get her to go to school.On top of that it looks like she ran away last night.Looks like she is tring to tell me something.

My son, Ethan, aged 6, has been sexually abused in a school in India. The Principal refuses to accept that anything matters at this age... that this is just a case of kids being kids! So, no parent has been reprimanded or counseled, no teachers have been sensitised...

I am moving the judicial system to get a little justice!

J, mom of 4 lovely boys, aged from 11 to 1.

The question really was whether modern schooling sends toxic messages to some students. I am certain it does but I am not so sure if the school - even the worst ones - are the ones most to blame. In the soup of influences that every child is immersed in I would hold many more influences to be far more culpable - the home, the media from which there is no getting away, other kids,... Perhaps the school figures somewhere but certainly not at the top.


Pamela, you made this statement:

"Money, facilities, and pedagogical practices will not fix this broken machine. Let's not forget that some of American history's greatest men and women were products of "primitive" one-room schoolhouses, simply because the Significant Adult Others in their early lives took the time and care to imbue them with intellectual passion."

These "one-room schoolhouses" were often, in fact, the actual homes of these men and women. They did what we now title "homeschooling", but it didn't have a fancy, special, exclusive name, then. It was simply a natural extention of parenting that parents are now told they have to jump through hoops to do. And, it's given the new, fancy title, as if it's a separate action- to educate one's own child. Parenting is parenting. Education is simply one part of the whole job, as far as I see. It is "modern schooling" that separated part of being a parent into an all-new type of "job". If parents could have less hoops to jump through, and schools could focus on their job- teaching non-homeschooled children- then that would likely help the schools. If they didn't have to be put into the position of being "big brother" to parents who DO want to be very "involved" in their children's "educations", and who resent and in fact are not at all helped in any way by that interference, then it would be better for everyone involved. Education needs to be back in the hands of parents and families, period. Parents, historically, had the choice to either have their children learn at home, or they would send them to private (often expensive) schools (public schools were often the very last choice). But they had that choice. They took it seriously. And, they did what they felt was best- just as with any other parental decision that is made. Now, compulsory schooling has taken the choice (unless you want to jump through hoops), and it has caused empathy in many cases. Why should parents be involved? They are shunned when they try- unless it's in the very exact, controlled way that the schools define as "helping". They are belittled, and they have no say. For me, I simply opted out of it completely- it took little consideration. Any parent, in fact, that DOES want TRUE involvement in their child's education, will either homeschool or choose a private school that knows that parents have value, and that WILL respond to parents' complaints and expectations about what education is. AS many of you say, yourselves, schools don't even value what you, the teachers, say or think about what education should be. The beaurocrats could care less, then, what parents say.

Every individual has a unique learning style and when it comes to classroom teaching I think that takes a back seat. Kids are not viewed as individuals rather a group.

Uniqueness of every individual can be appreciated if education/learning becomes one to one but that is like building wild castle in the air. However classroom learning can always be supplemented by tutoring and it is a good option for home scholars too.

One of the companies providing affordable online tutoring is http://www.tutorquick.com

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