March 2008 Archives

Dear Diane, I think we took the same message from the NYC pizza event. If I called it an example of out of control bureaucracy it’s because Klein and company seem to acknowledge no limits! Which leads nicely into our discussion of limits! Yes, I think you are partly right about behavior and authority—and partly wrong. Where you and I so often end up! Reread those classics by Laura Ingalls Wilder, as well as her autobiographical account of teaching school in the late 1800s. Many of the older kids were completely "out of control," angrily waiting until the ...


Dear Debbie, Since I don’t imagine that any state or school district plans to roll back its school attendance requirements—no more than you intended your bored student to leave school and go home—I am not going to debate whether school is or is not a scary place for most kids. These days, it seems to be more a scary place for the grown-ups, because they have so little “control” over the kids, especially the adolescent ones. I do not use the word “control” to refer to corporal punishment, which has rightly been prohibited almost everywhere in this ...


Dear Diane, Sometimes an outrageous sentence does get attention. But there is, I contend, merit to thinking about the ways in which schools are a form of “incarceration.” Nonattendance is crime called truancy. Kids are indeed “locked up” or “in” for 5-6 hours for 180 or more days a year, whether they or their families like it or not. Is it a good idea? Yes! A closer reading than some readers engaged in would have noted that I was crystal clear on one point: I approve of compulsory schooling. At least in the world we live in. I recognize that ...


Dear Debbie, I must say that I do not see mandatory schooling as incarceration, and I suspect that you really don’t see it that way either. We surely know of many nations in the world where the availability of schooling is very limited, and there is no surer guarantee of inequality and social stagnation than not gaining access to education. I sometimes have libertarian sympathies, but I have never felt that compulsory schooling was akin to prison for children. Not long ago I was invited by a Pakistani government agency to do a paper about “standards” in that nation. ...


Dear Diane, By the time you read this we’ll have spent an hour at the Channel 13 event (mostly agreeing) about the risks involved in treating schooling like “a business"; and I’ll have spent a few days at a board meeting of the Coalition of Essential Schools; visited my son, Nick, who teaches at California State University at Monterey Bay; looked at schools in Oakland and San Jose; and had the pleasure of being accompanied by my granddaughter, Sarah. I’m hoping I’ll find a few great early-childhood classrooms—however unlikely. And that I’ll come back...


Dear Deborah, So we took our show on the road for the first time! For our readers' benefit, let me explain. On March 7, Deborah and I blogged live—I guess that's what you would call it—at Channel 13's "Celebration of Teaching and Learning" in New York City. Before an audience of about 250, mostly teachers and principals, we talked about whether the business/corporate model would "save" our schools. (Some of those in the audience were not New Yorkers, as educators were sent to the event by their local public television stations, and I know we had people...


Dear Diane, To pursue the theme: Words are indeed elusive—I might even dare to claim that we are constantly “constructing” new meanings for old words, while also digging around to recover old meanings. Of course, some aspects of our occasional rants are the result of use of language that borders on misuse, even on occasional abuse—plain lies. But at the heart of our conversation is our conscious effort to avoid placing each other into neat boxes, thus parodying each other’s ideas, while doing a little rethinking about our own language as we go along. Example. I don’t...


Dear Deb, I am happy to join with you in adopting a bridging motto of “Neither guide on the side nor sage on the stage.” One of the things that brought me to admire you was your obvious passion about teaching, learning, and children. I said at the outset of our conversation that I would gladly entrust my children (who are now too old to entrust to anyone but their spouses!) and my grandchildren to your classroom. Somehow, though, I think that teachers you admire could work within the context of a common curriculum that described the parameters of what ...


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