Sunday, October 10, 2010

How we educate our children

I was reading the Cooperative Catalyst, a group of educators (including me) who blog about progressive education, when I came across Zoe Weil's post titled What will Future Generations Condemn us For? How we Educate our Children.

Here's an excerpt I particularly enjoyed:

I think our descendants will also condemn us for how we chose to educate children and teens in our school systems. I believe that future generations will decry the rote memorization approaches (practiced long after facts were readily available on hand-held computers) and which failed to address a changing world in need of innovative approaches to solving systemic problems. They will wonder why it took so long to transform schooling so that it was relevant to a changed and changing world and marvel that we suppressed our children’s creativity when it was so crucial to cultivate it. They will wonder how we made “competing in a global economy” our educational goal rather than educating a generation of solutionaries who could create systems that were humane, sustainable and just, and how we justified making children sit in chairs all day while we poured often outdated knowledge into their minds and tested them repeatedly in multiple choice formats rather than engaging their minds, hands, and hearts toward learning that helped them become engaged citizens and changemakers through whatever careers they pursued.

I was equally struck by Kirsten Olsen's comment:

Zoe, Yesterday my husband was observing an elementary classroom in a nearby state. The children in this room, aged 7-8, were sitting in desks lined up in rows, and the teacher had used her own money to buy cardboard shields that the children had to place around themselves at their desks. The shields were high enough so that you couldn’t see anything around you, or anyone around you, and you couldn’t interact at all with anyone. Behind their shields, the children were completing worksheets on blending “gr” sounds and “tr” sounds. The children were to sit behind their shields for their entire “literacy block,” and they use these shields for all seat work (math, social studies), every day. They would be graded on their worksheets.
The teacher calls the children’s desks “offices.”
Both Zoe and Kirsten inspired this comment from me:
I often think about how the students who have been oppressed by today’s test and punish accountability. Sometimes I think about how these kids will grow up and become our future teachers, superintendents and Secretary of Education and devote themselves to never doing to their own children what was done to them.
But then I think of how victims tend to become victimizers and how the pedagogy of poverty tends to make evangelical converts of its pupils. “It was good enough for me…”
I really do fear that getting out of education hell will take even more effort than it took to get here.
When educational historians look back upon this accountability era, I believe this will be labelled some of the darkest days of education - if not only because we should have known better.


  1. Thanks Joe for this! What are we doing! Seriously how can we keep this up! it is just so wrong.... I think it time to get children fired up to throw their test to the ground and ENOUGH! this is just plain silly and a waste of our time! Enough, of this mindless work, I got better things to do! We need to say Enough, I will not teach this! Fire me, Demonize me! But I will not be part of continuing this nonsense!

    We Need to be willing to Stand up for the Right Kind of Education! The story that Kirsten shared is just too much! Robots would not even put up with it, yet we are asking our children to....

    I have had ENOUGH!


  2. Mr. Joe Bower. I have enjoyed reading your posts. No, that's an understatement. I have been gratified. I am not an experienced teacher. At least, not in the eyes of the government. But I have experienced the ineffective teaching of today. I have been put into cubicles to do busy work and failed miserably. The reson why I am inspired to teach is because it is fun to learn. I know that it is fun to learn mostly because of how I learned at home. My parents would try several different agles at getting through to me. They would never stick to one method and they loved to watch me learn. I would have a few teachers at school who were like this but I fear they were opressed by the whole system. I want to be effective. I want to be informed. I think that your thoughts are very well organized and I thank you for sharing them. Oh yeah, I am in Dr. John Strange's EDM 310 at the University of South Alabama. I have been commenting on your blog as part of an assignment. However, I plan to visit you often.

  3. Joe ,
    in an age where traditional education should becoming irrelevant ,since we don't need to learn facts anymore - we have computers I find it diffult to comprehend why we are going backwards. There are good books ,information, teacher blogs on the value of constructivist education in helping kids acquire 21st centuary skills. With parenting there has been a revival of more contingent type of parenting as a reaction to permissive parenting , could what is happening today be some type of reaction ? How do you explain the trend ?


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