Messages at School From T-Shirts to Serious HATS

29 08 2009

Do you have a serious hat-wearer in your circle of menfolk? Quite unexpectedly (to me) Young Son is such a fellow.

Although he does love literary and theatrical costumes, he also has a serious workaday hat, a medium-brown fedora, that became part of his real-life persona before the Mad Men craze brought serious hats back to serious television.

Young son as Richard III at Summer of Shakespeare camp, Tallahassee Democrat, July 28, 2009

Young Son rehearsing as Richard III, SAIL Summer of Shakespeare

Essay: In Praise of Serious Hats:

The serious hat is not a masquerade, not a goof . . .The serious hat is the opposite of a disguise. It is a working piece of clothes and an adjunct of character. . . a hat does have psychological power.

A man places the thing just on top of his brain, and the one takes emanations from the other.

Now, as a general rule schools do not like hats. I know this not merely from my own school administrator background but more colorfully because when Favorite Daughter took elementary/middle classes at the school system’s gifted resource center here, the female Captain Queeg of a principal reportedly roamed the halls and sidewalks obsessively snatching off any headgear in reach with the memorable message, “Gimme that hat!”

FavD and her friends would tell me these stories chortling over the punchline, and vowing that when they reached the end of their eligibility and were leaving campus for the last time, they would use her own words to send HER a message, presenting her as a group with, yes, a customized T-SHIRT! — emblazoned with her own three word, all-purpose principal-principle message for school.

Gimme that hat, hahahahhahaha. . . . (girls fall in a heap laughing helplessly)

I thought then and still do, that for these smart and culturally savvy girls, this absurdly irrelevant authoritarian message had extra entertainment value due to its temporal context, IOW its real-world incongruity. Consider that their years as students under “Gimme that hat” as prime learning directive, spanned September 11, 2001, when for any Thinking Parent or Principal, deadly serious school security concerns surely would have topped a priority list that if addressed in proper order, could never reach all the way down to hats serious or otherwise.

So let us review what we’ve learned. T-shirt messages at school are powerful enough to disrupt the learning environment. Hats at school are even more powerful; a serious hat can send a disruptive message with no words at all!

But don’t stop there. Let’s put on our serious thinking caps and take it beyond hats and t-shirts to all the serious message wars at school.

What about disruptive, even dehumanizing messages sent to students *by* school faculty and staff, not outside the rules but in service of the rules, indeed with enforcement of such rules? Do we have some serious thinking to do about disruption of the learning environment by the messages of School itself? And if school accountability is more than a t-shirt slogan, how can we hold schooling accountable for the real-world effects of those messages on us all?

As you can see in the newspaper photo of Young Son rehearsing Shakespeare above, his unique unschooled persona integrates serious hat message with fun t-shirt message. Even at school. But this is rare, possible here only because this was a summer alternative program he really wanted to plunge into, rather than “real” school, where real messages are artificially circumscribed and artificial messages are treated as dead-serious, for seriously high stakes.
Think I could fit that on a t-shirt?

If not, I have a three-word t-shirt message for School: Gimme that kid!

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48 responses

29 08 2009
JJ

Before Snook I found and posted at Culture Kitchen a message exploring the real messages underneath “Gimme that hat!” messages at School:

Sometimes I want to scream.
I’d like to say, “From now on, hats can be left on in the building, and food is welcome in all classrooms. Now, can we just move on, for Pete’s sake?”
But I don’t. . .

We’re arguing about power. About consistency. About priorities. We’re trying to discuss the Big Issues, but we’re afraid to name them.
So we bicker about minutiae.

We fall into the safe arguments that no one will ever win but that will surely fill the time allotted, ensuring that we can return to our classrooms, departments, and homes. . .

If we’re actually going to talk about why kids need to eat in class, then we may have to break the silence surrounding the issues of poverty and inequity.

We don’t really want to do that. We prefer to stay safely ensconced in our ignorance, putting mountains of energy into talking about nothing at all. . .

(So) kids stay hungry, continue to lack basic supplies, and, most important, fail to get a sense of what it is to recognize and be able to use their power as citizens. They don’t learn how it feels to exercise power wisely because we refuse to show them.

They learn to pour their energies into petty battles rather than real civic engagement.

In this era of increasing political partisanship, isn’t it time for us to teach our students that looking deeply into the well of our own shortcomings is the way to solve them? How long will we maintain the charade of infallibility, our blameless collective personae?

The greatest gift we can give our students, and ourselves, is the acknowledgment that things aren’t OK — and won’t be OK, even if we build a school in which no one wears a hat indoors, everyone has a pencil, and neither Snickers bars nor apple cores can be found outside the cafeteria.

LAURA THOMAS, Antioch University Center for School Renewal, August 2005 as published by Education Week

I also want to quote this part of her message because it’s my message to you Thinking Parents right here, right now too. It’s a real learning message for us doing meaningful knowledge work together as responsible adults here in the real, serious world, without Government setting the agenda and grading us on how we dress much less how we answer the call:

What will it take for us to engage in the real discussions of the Big Issues? What are we waiting for? Whose permission do we need? What, exactly, are we afraid of?

I think we’re afraid because, as Marianne Williamson writes, “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.” We’re safe if our conversations stay small. We hide in the notion of powerlessness. We spend our time and energy on things that are seemingly simple (to eat or not to eat?), leaving the bigger issues for later. We assume that our circles of influence, our energies, are most appropriately focused on these small issues — that they are the purview of Someone Else.

“What if?” is a scary question to ask ourselves. What if as Nancy Mohr used to say, “The wisdom is in this room?” What if we have the answers in us and are just too afraid to look for them? What if we really are powerful beyond measure? What if we’re letting our fear keep us from doing that which we absolutely must do- should have done years ago?

. . .We have all of the components for powerful learning communities, now we must build them through real, meaningful work. We must dig into these real issues with all of the energy we currently invest in the “fork” [or “hat”] issues in our schools. We must recognize that we hold more power than we recognize.

We must ask the difficult questions over and over again. We must begin to build learning communities marked by democracy, respectful disagreement and assumption of positive intent. We must model for our students what it is to be a member of a community, what it is to be a citizen. We must shine a light in the corners of the box, pull all of the messy issues out, sort them, discuss them, wrangle with them, and ultimately, find a way around, over or through them.

29 08 2009
Mrs. C

WOW. That’s so deep, JJ. Just thinking on it is a bit … overwhelming. Your thoughts, friend, don’t fit on a T-shirt. Even one my size.

You are so right about the culture of school itself. And yet, even across a very great political divide, you and I are both recognizing the brainwashing that often goes on in these institutions. :]

29 08 2009
JJ

So our blogging about learning issues as family (instead of just as School) is a little part of that beginning. We have a learning community right here, that we don’t need anyone’s permission much less funding for.

And if all that blows your mind, Mrs. C, think about THIS — what if the “very great political divide” you perceive between us, is mostly a manifestation of that brainwashing??

(Give you chills and hair standing up on the back of your neck? It does me!)
😀

29 08 2009
Mrs. C

YES! This may well be a good deal of divide. Instead of seeing things as they are (and we don’t, really completely, having limited experiences and all), we have been taught by schools and other institutions to see things very much as “us” and “them.”

So.

We get our news from “this” place, and trust the word of “this” group of people. And we want to be with people who think “clearly” just as we do, perhaps you with more “rational” folks and me with people who aren’t “of the world.” LOL

We are FREELY CHOOSING our own selective peer group, which reinforces our own ideas. Having a thought outside that peer group can lose you your entire family if the peer group is tight enough. My best friend’s teen daughter was called a liar FROM THE PULPIT after she went to the police to accuse attempted molestation. All her friends and her entire family went to that church. She had no one to rely on because even though she was a SAHM with no money of her own, she felt she needed to leave her husband (of course! but think how hard this was), and no family at all who would help her but her “unbelieving” mother.

GOD I think (really!) helped her mom to resist this church after her entire extended family converted for 15 years for “such a time as this.” I know, I am using Biblical language to describe unbelief. But so be it. My friend was literally homeless for several months. That “Christian” church was a cult. I want to scream and cry when I hear of friends starting to check out the fiery preaching out there. Yeah. They preach well. They make you feel like family. BUT it’s a dysfunctional family if you’re afraid to walk down the street after you’ve been “disfellowshipped” because of all the talk.

Do you think that a 15-year-old would want her dad to try to have sex with her? And THEN go to the cops about it? I mean, we have to get strumpets like that out of the fellowship.

So mad… but in relation to the post… I imagine that most people who start to detect “untruth” keep it very much to themselves either until they have the means to break free, or they stifle their own inner realizations because it’s too much to bear. Not just in church, but in ed. establishments and business and politics, too.

I went through a time… I am ashamed to tell you… where I thought the school was doing the right thing for Elf because the school must contain experts who know all about these things. I am embarrassed and ashamed that I bought into that and let my son be harmed for a time for “his own good.” BUT… could I suddenly leave my husband after I realized this fully, and D still wanted Elf in school? Yeah, right, I would get a divorce because I want to homeschool the boy… but then have to go to work. LOL that would be perfect. As it turns out though, D allowed him to come home. But HIS moment of realization came after mine, after a planning for IEP meeting went horribly wrong. He realized they weren’t looking out for his best interests when it became about labels only with no services attached.

Now, I’ve been mulling some things in my mind. I want to just link to this blog post. It’s not DIRECTLY related as far as I can tell… but… then I keep thinking about it in relation to people truly being free. It’s from my blog friend Eileen who has been exchanging emails with me for some time.

She’s *hardly* a fundamentalist Christian. Her husband and daughter are Muslim. But… she links to a CBN video and has some thoughts on religion and culture I want to share with you:

http://elementaryteacher.wordpress.com/2009/08/29/sharia-law-is-it-spreading/

She comes to the conclusion that it is in fact Western-style democracy that fuels fundamentalist Islam’s rise in the Middle East! And I have to wonder whether she is right. I really wonder what Jefferson would say, mostly because he just strikes me as such an interestingly loose cannon everyone likes to quote when it suits their purposes. And he’s all into freedom and all that.

I am very curious as to what you think of all this.

:]

30 08 2009
JJ

Salute When You Call My Son A Cross-Dresser:

So far the general public seems more enlightened than the public’s schools, and maybe there’s a good lesson in that for all of us?

30 08 2009
JJ

Mrs C, re your friend’s sharia law link —

Her thoughts as far as she’s been able to take them here are interesting and reasonable enough, just incomplete. It’s certainly true that healthy western style democracies tolerate more dissent and deviation! And more open borders, less domestic spying, indoctrination of children, etc. And that we do pay a high price indeed for our freedoms. Ask the Kennedys or the Kings, the Oklahoma City or 9-11 families.

But we always need to follow that thought to the next question, and the next. So what then? As in, what if anything would be healthier and yet freer? Surely not becoming the very fundamentalist authoritarians we fear?

Your other friend, the one shunned by her church family, sounds like an object lesson in how NOT to govern ourselves, privately or publicly.

I think one thing we can do to make all our thinking more productive, is to get back to what is real in our own daily lives before we argue about changing the world! Set aside the constitution and the bible and the textbooks. Turn off all the voices in your head from teachers and preachers and your own family, and other people who bullied or shamed you in any way.

Now take a good long look at the real values you are living out in YOUR family day to day, what makes you happy and what you worry about, what and whom you’re willing to work hardest for and why, what makes you feel helpless or trapped, what makes you feel most human and loving and worthy, what you do best and how it feels when you get to do more of those things versus things that feel forced, coerced and floundering.

Rather than all the lofty debate over the Founders as brilliant world leaders, I like to think of them this way too, as family men and local fellows with their own business interests and community ties, writing letters to each other and trying to figure all this out. If you start from that point, real human-scaled daily life in that society, it’s pretty easy to relate to them and feel that our lives now are much the same and can “use” their examples freely, without having to change the world to do it.

Benjamin Franklin put into practice many wonderful ideas for private citizens coming together in a secular, free learning and thinking community for adults, no church OR state governance controlling it. If we read the principles and procedures they drew up and used so effectively, it’s easy to see why they work and how well they still work. To me THIS is the “free education” ideal that is the engine of democracy, that best defends liberty, what the Founders had in mind for everyone as healthy participatory citizenship (not theocratic tribal warfare among ourselves!) —

The rules that I drew up required that every member, in his turn, should produce one or more queries on any point of Morals, Politics, or Natural Philosophy, to be discuss’d by the company; and once in three months produce and read an essay of his own writing, on any subject he pleased. Our debates were to be under the direction of a president, and to be conducted in the sincere spirit of inquiry after truth, without fondness for dispute or desire of victory; and to prevent warmth, all expressions of positiveness in opinions, or direct contradiction, were after some time made contraband, and prohibited under small pecuniary penalties.

Conducted in the sincere spirit of inquiry after truth!
Without fondness for dispute of desire of victory!
To prevent warmth. . .by banning all positiveness in opinions or direct contradiction . . .

30 08 2009
JJ

Based on the above, the riot-and-rebellion, armed and dangerous exhortation of conservative radio against the rest of us, our culture and institutions, our family life, our schools and universities and libraries and deepest human motivations, against our sons and daughters living and loving and learning freely, against our duly constituted democratic republic itself, is literally anti-American. It is the opposite of everything the Founders studied and believed and practiced and came to represent, thus imo deserves to claim neither the Founders nor the Christ who I’ve studied and pondered as power of story my whole life.

30 08 2009
Nance Confer

Perhaps we need to amend Godwin’s Law.

If you can’t make your argument without mentioning Christ or the Founding Fathers, you lose.

Nance

30 08 2009
JJ

Confer’s Corollary!
😀

30 08 2009
Nance Confer

I’ll be famous! Can riches be far behind?! 🙂

Nance

30 08 2009
JJ

And when the riches show up, isn’t it nice to know *you* can manage that money wisely even though you’re, well, you know, handicapped with female parts?

30 08 2009
JJ

I never saw this movie and I just now saw this essay by Jamie Lee Curtis, daughter of Tony Curtis and Janet Leigh, granddaughter of Hungarian-Jewish immigrants, wife and mom herself now with a British title she declines to use.

Doesn’t it “say” almost exactly what I tried to “say” earlier, or is it just me?

. . .it was the song mixed with message that did me in. I sat in the theater for twenty minutes after the lights had come up, sobbing.

The song, perfect and true, reminds us that life is hard and triumphant and that it is the people we touch and feel and contact that matter. That who we are is based on what lessons we can learn and what lessons we can teach, what part of our family we are from, what part of ourselves exists outside that family, what fights we fought, and which ones we walked away from, and, most importantly, who we loved and who loved us.

Teddy Kennedy — a human man, so forceful and formidable and flawed, as he and his family described at his funeral — got to say what he needed to say to his children, wives, family and colleagues and strangers: what he did, why he did it, and what he hoped for in the future.

His brothers did not. Neither did the people from Massachusetts who died on September 11, and whose families Senator Kennedy called and cared for afterward. Nor did the soldiers in Iraq, or the children in the van with Diane Schuler, who died with their drunk mother.

It is crucial that that we all say what we need to say, and say it now. Say it daily. Tell your truths, your hard truths. Shower the people you love with love, show them the way that you feel. Say what you need to say. It is the gift of a very public death, long in coming, that we can learn from… that we all, from every corner of the globe, are in contact and intertwined in the lives of each other. . .
Pass health care. For everyone. Let all who are sick and dying get the same care that he got in his last year. And if you are not satisfied with what you are hearing or seeing on the news…..then be Americans and say what you need to say to your elected officials, who say what they need to say on your behalf.

That’s what I have to say.
“Say,” by John Mayer

Take out of your wasted honor
Every little past frustration
Take all your so called problems
Better put them in quotations

Say what you need to say
Say what you need to say
Say what you need to say
Say what you need to say

Walkin’ like a one man army
Fightin’ with the shadows in your head
Livin’ up the same old moment
Knowin’ you’d be better off instead
If you could only

Say what you need to say
Say what you need to say
Say what you need to say
Say what you need to say

Have no fear for givin’ in
Have no fear for givin’ over
You better know that in the end
It’s better to say too much
Than to never to say what you need to say again

Even if your hands are shakin’
And your faith is broken
Even as the eyes are closin’
Do it with a heart wide open
A wide heart

Say what you need to say
Say what you need to say
Say what you need to say
Say what you need to say

I looked back over her other blog essays and this one from last year’s very divisive campaign rhetoric as everything seemed to collapse around us at once, struck me as fitting in here, too:

. . .Gandhi said, “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.” Be it. Don’t talk about it, don’t pontificate about it. Be It. Action word. Demonstrative. . .

Jung said “Only that which changes, remains true.”
Truth — unvarnished, well-vetted and precise.

My favorite quote is from The Princess Bride by William Goldman. In it, a street savvy young man hardened by the realities of the world, tells the princess…” Life is pain and anyone who tells you different is selling something.”

Life is pain, hard, unfair and yet also achingly beautiful and transformative when we are walking toward truth.

When the Republicans had their convention and there were signs held high with the monikers….”G.I. John and Superwoman” I knew we were in trouble. They were selling a fantasy!

See, we are not stupid, we are humans, we can think and listen and learn. But if what we are taught is corrupt lies and if we are fed the “family truth” then we are not stupid, we are brainwashed.

. . .We are not stupid, but we are gullible, to fear, lies, misinformation and calculated deceit, and that is what we are now up against and where we need to demonstrate the real change.

30 08 2009
JJ

And one lie is that either School or Church needs to pick your reading and thinking material for you to be “educated” — which is why I’m posting this encouraging news and noting that Diane Ravitch attitudes are the problem, not the solution!

A New Assignment: Pick Books You Like:

“What child is going to pick up ‘Moby-Dick’?” said Diane Ravitch, a professor of education at New York University who was assistant education secretary under President George H. W. Bush. “Kids will pick things that are trendy and popular. But that’s what you should do in your free time.”

Okay then. I hereby declare it is ALL their free time, and not yours to dictate to them!

Or to quote teen Sean Penn as iconic stoned surfer dude in Fast Times at Ridgemont High, finally articulating one intelligent free thought to his authoritarian teacher Mr. Hand (played by Ray Walston who btw, also played an inhumanly good literal Devil in Damn Yankees):

“I’ve been thinking about this, Mr. Hand — if I am here, and you are here, doesn’t that make this OUR time??”
😉

30 08 2009
Crimson Wife

I have a lot of respect for Dr. Ravitch, but she’s making a false dichotomy between having students read literary classics and offering students a choice in what they read. There are hundreds of well-written books out there- why force every child to read the same one?

One of the best classes I took in high school was an elective called “Reading for College”. I met with a teacher once every 7 school days to discuss what I was reading and to pick which book I wanted to read next. The teacher made suggestions of titles she thought I might like, and I often did choose one of them. But if there was something else I really wanted to read, she would permit me so long as it was quality literature. The other days I got to spend doing independent reading in the library. Then at the end of the term, I had to turn in a college-type essay comparing two of the books I had read. It was awesome & I wish ALL of my English classes had been like that.

This is the kind of model I use for my DD’s reading in our homeschool, though obviously with an age-appropriate writing assignment.

30 08 2009
JJ

As Nance and I long ago decided, School would be so awesome if it were the Library instead! 🙂

30 08 2009
JJ

I invented my own “lives of journalists” course at UF when I discovered there was nothing like it available. I pitched the idea to a professor in the J-school and he used a three-hour independent study shell to let me pick the books I wanted about Hearst and Pulitzer and Mencken, and we’d meet once a week to talk about it. Most Oxford-like university class I ever took, just brilliant. . .power of story about power of story, through power of story!

30 08 2009
JJ

I’ve read a good bit of Ravitch over the years. You could say I “respect” her as a professional but it shouldn’t surprise any of us that CW and I would mightily disagree over her prescriptive if not punitive approach to “right” answers. 😉

30 08 2009
Mrs. C

OK! I have another question. Supposing you were homeschooling and read a children’s version of the Odyssey. And they want to read it again a year later. Would you:

a. Tell them no, and they should read a book they haven’t read yet.
b. Tell them YES, but only if they learn Greek. Then they can read it in the original language.
c. Tell them YES, but it has to be Pope’s translation this time. No baby stuff.
d. Tell them YES, check out the books, and do it all again, but maybe throw in a few extra things about Ancient Greece so you feel ok counting it toward school.

How did you handle these requests when your children were younger?

See… if my kids hung out in the library, I think they would flit from book to book to book and not quite finish anything. I’m finding myself as a guide, but I also want them to finish what they start to gain a good appreciation for the work.

CW, that does sound like an awesome class. More like a guide to help you develop a taste for good books so that you can pick out better literature on your own. :]

30 08 2009
Mrs. C

Whoops, Pope translated Iliad. Well, you knew what I meant. 😛

30 08 2009
lori

Mrs. C, you forgot e: Say OK, and then go get the book from the library (or bookshelf or bookstore) for them.

30 08 2009
JJ

Mrs. C, my kids never thought of the library or stories and books as “work” and still don’t. I think it will be my biggest success as their guide if they never do. 🙂

My “school” message: Hell is Not Working

30 08 2009
JJ

Also, FavD our English major never did read the Odyssey. She saw the Wishbone version though!

It sounds like perhaps you are counting these books for some kind of curriculum requirement, which would explain both: a) why you have them choosing books of a certain, shall we say, academic gravitas, and b) why they would lobby to reread something they can be more sure of getting through that way, without falling short of your expectations?

That’s work, all right.

30 08 2009
COD

My junior year of high school one of my English classes was a Sci-Fi class.

30 08 2009
JJ

(And look what it did to you!)

31 08 2009
Nance Confer

“Yes.” That’s the answer to a request to read a book. Or, in reality, the conversation goes like this:

DD: “Mom, I have finished all my books. I need to go to the library.”

Me: “OK. We’ll be going that way later and we’ll stop in. OK?”

DD: “OK.”

Content of reading? Not my decision.

I have noticed a mixture of teen dreck and classics and art books lately though. Sounds good to me. 🙂

And this may be yet another strike against public school around here. When would we have a chance to go to the library?

We’ll see. DD asked me to call in sick for her today while she thinks about her options. We’ll see. . .

Nance

31 08 2009
JJ

Wow, Nance, DD must be even smarter than I thought. That sure didn’t take long — one week? 😉

31 08 2009
Crimson Wife

My answer to Mrs. C’s question would be to give my DD a choice. If she wants it to count as formal schoolwork, she’d need to up the challenge by either reading a harder version or learning Greek and comparing portions of the original poem with the re-telling or writing her own version of the story from the POV of a different character (along the lines of Marion Zimmer Bradley’s feminist version of the Fall of Troy, Firestarter) or whatever. If she wants to read that particular version, it’s leisure reading and doesn’t count towards her formal schoolwork. She’s free to do what she wants, but I make it clear what the consequences are of each option would be.

31 08 2009
Crimson Wife

Oops, that would be Firebrand. “Firestarter” is the name of a trashy Stephen King novel, LOL!

31 08 2009
More T-Shirts and Dress Message Stories, From Stupid to Dead Serious This Time « Cocking A Snook!

[…] « Messages at School From T-Shirts to Serious HATS […]

31 08 2009
Mrs. C

This is interesting stuff! I see how everyone’s answer to my question seems to fit their overall educational philosophy.

I would at first blush just want to get the book and *have fun,* but then, I’ve never thought of the possibility of saying YES, and then not counting it toward “school hours.” Thinking in a box. :p

31 08 2009
Nance Confer

One week and counting, JJ. 🙂

She is going back tomorrow. They have two days of something called benchmark testing and then a couple of days of regular school and then a long weekend.

We’ll see. 🙂

Nance

31 08 2009
JJ

CW, I’m not so sure you do. Make the consequences of each “choice” clear to her, I mean.

Not unless you’re making it clear that that no matter which she chooses, she is being hard-wired to perceive reading and thinking and learning as something grownups are in charge of when it counts and kids are only in charge of when it doesn’t. Have you thought about the effect that will have on her as a mom and therefore on your grandchildren, in a century almost sure to reward something very different than what our parents artificially set up as lessons for us?

31 08 2009
Crimson Wife

You mean like she might pick up on the real purpose of the formal schoolwork log- to keep Daddy’s skepticism about homeschooling at bay enough such that he won’t insist upon enrolling her in a traditional school? (Where’s the “one eyebrow raised” smiley when I need one?)

Learning happens throughout the entire day. Some of it counts as formal schoolwork and gets logged for “accountability” purposes. Other things don’t. Is it all pretty arbitrary? Sure, but I have to work within the constraints of the situation I’m in. Isn’t that a big part of life?

31 08 2009
JJ

But isn’t she just barely school-aged?

1 09 2009
Crimson Wife

True, but in our social circle the academic “rat race” starts ridiculously early. I was just at a playgroup 2 weeks ago for moms whose babies were born in the first half of 2009. The other moms had this whole long discussion about which preschools they ought to put their babies on the waiting list for (ugh!)

1 09 2009
lori

JJ, here’s a comment that was left on the NYT story you linked to in an earlier comment. I’m almost through reading them all (over 400), and this is one of my favorites. Comment #371:

//I’m currently a college student and I would like to say that everything I learned in school, K-12th grade that is, I learned by reading books under my desk and not paying any attention to what the teacher was teaching.

As in books that had nothing to do with what was being taught in class. In both public school (K-8) and Catholic private school (9-12), in several different states, I taught myself. While I devoured all sorts of literary classics and challenged myself everyday, the rest of the class struggled through books I’d read years ago. Or, more often, the class spent hours and hours learning ‘important’ test taking skills in order to pass national tests, state tests, AP exams, SATs ACTs yada yada yada. Even when the class was actually studying literature and not memorizing test taking points the various levels of learning within the class meant that the teacher nearly always taught the material to the least advanced members of the group and those who wanted to be challenged or move at a more rigorous pace had to be patient and wait for the rest of the class to move along slowly.

And so, everything I learned in school, everything that has been of use to me in college, all the basic knowledge that I daily draw upon to understand higher concepts or discuss issues with others or put things in their proper context, I learned by reading books under the desk. If I had paid the utmost attention and subscribed to the proscribed way of teaching these days, I’d say I would indeed be about as stupid and uninformed as adults seem to think my generation is.//

1 09 2009
JJ

Sounds like something I would have written — have in fact written! — too. So true and so important for us to keep saying if society is ever to transform schooling into education. I’ll look around and see if I can find one of those examples to link.

Lori, wow, 400 comments to read and think about, no wonder we haven’t heard from you while you were at it. 😉

1 09 2009
Cobbling Together the Best Real Learning We Can « Cocking A Snook!

[…] something CW said here followed by something Lori found and linked, which taken together moved me to write today for Thinking Parents everywhere, as […]

1 09 2009
JJ

Lori, this isn’t what I’m looking for but I think you’ll like it, while I keep looking. . .

What’s the Matter with THOSE Guys??

The discussion after the post is more on point than the OP.

1 09 2009
lori

Well, I was also at my first unschooling conference from last Thurs. through Sun., so that kept me pretty busy, too. 😀 I came home with a lot of enthusiasm, some new friends, and a couple of bumper stickers. Not a bad haul.

1 09 2009
JJ

Hey, feel free to post anything here about the conference that you want. (I’ve never been to one, would love to hear it.)

1 09 2009
JJ

More on how we use “School” messages even in school-at-home, to ruin books and reading for kids (hat tip Valerie):

The authors of the Kaiser report attribute the decline in elective reading to greater amounts of homework; reading is viewed as work, so leisure becomes an escape from work. It’s worth asking, then, what happens in these late elementary and middle school years to turn reading into labor — and one answer must surely be the prominence of textbooks. In most schools, education becomes divided along subject lines, and these subjects are taught through comprehensive (and extremely expensive) textbooks.

The rituals of textbook use are so familiar as to be part of the American landscape — the way they are ceremoniously passed out at the beginning of the year, students wrapping them in butcher paper and checking to see who used them in previous years. They form the ballast in backpacks across the country. They fill the top compartments in lockers. They feel so substantial and durable when compared to the normal paperback.

Yet textbooks typically fail to provide the most basic conditions for readerly engagement. They are great vehicles for generating corporate profits, but poor ones for creating readers. They fail young readers on four dimensions of reading — authorship, form, venue, and duration.

— from When Reading Becomes Work on the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS) site.

1 09 2009
JJ

And what about when FEAR is the real message of school and school-at-home, from Columbia Teachers College Record (read it right away because the free access to any article only lasts a few days) —

Reclaiming Childhood: Freedom and Play in an Age of Fear

Helene Guldberg, author of Reclaiming Childhood: Freedom and Play in an Age of Fear argues that overprotective adults have hampered children’s development. She carefully examines many common fears surrounding children in the United Kingdom and United States, including bullying, emotional stress, and children’s knowledge about sex and technology. She concludes that children are now hostage to adult fear.

Guldberg begins by examining what she regards to be a “childish panic” about young people today, which has led to attempts to overprotect and micromanage their lives. This adult anxiety, she argues, discourages any sort of risk taking, renders children’s relationships with one another problematic and interferes with the developmental benefits of play.

“Children are tacitly encouraged to look upon their peers with trepidation and suspicion,” she concludes. . .

Later chapters directly address the roles of teachers, parents, and other adults in this dynamic. . . . she argues that fear mongers view children’s experiences of the past as idyllic, romanticized reflections based in nostalgia rather than fact. When imagining a world free from the Internet and video games, critics often overlook other more troubling realities of childhood’s past: hard labor, starvation, disease, and sometimes premature death. . .

One result of this culture of fear, she concludes, is insecure parents. . .

Guldberg cites examples of policies in the U.K. designed to teach parenting skills, including “nursery rhyme intervention” (p. 141).

British teachers are especially under the microscope, Guldberg contends, with government mandates such as a policy with 69 learning goals for young children, including guidelines that by age one infants should be able to “communicate through ‘crying, gurgling, babbling and squealing’” (p. 148). Other British policies expect teachers to create lessons with the goal of promoting emotional development and happy kids (p. 153). Children would be measured against national standards to see if they “perform” up to the level of their peers in these tasks. What happens if they do not is unclear, Guldberg observes.

. . .While assessing the rationale behind youth-phobia, she hypothesizes that a “disdain for affluence” (pp. 7-8) of our contemporary age could be driving anxieties about children. The book would benefit from some elaboration on this and other possible causes of the fear that pervades public discourse on children. It is also important to note that the consequences of such fears are significantly worse for low-income kids of color, who are more likely to be demonized and subject to increased surveillance by law enforcement. Guldberg alludes to this, but could develop this issue more in her analysis. Youth phobia translates into more concern for affluent kids and often greater mistrust of the poor.

In sum, this book is a valuable primer in critical thinking about taken-for-granted assumptions regarding many children’s experiences today. It is a highly readable synthesis of a variety of ideas and sources, and contains important information for those who work with children and create the policies which shape their lives.

(Um, “those who work with children and create the policies which shape their lives” — that would be Thinking Parents, right? Especially home-educators.)

Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record, Date Published: July 31, 2009
http://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 15732, Date Accessed: 9/1/2009 PM

1 09 2009
JJ

Starting with a Sandra Dodd quote, here’s the same thing said ANOTHER way in a good article I saw linked on the unschoolingbasics list today:

Traditionally, schools use this model:

1. Decide on what kids need to know to prepare them for adulthood.
2. Prepare a curriculum based on this.
3. Give students a schedule based on this curriculum.
4. Have educated teachers hand them the info they need, and drill them in skills.
5. The student reads, memorizes the info, learns the skills, and becomes prepared.
6. Students must follow all rules or be punished. This is actually more important than the info and skills, although it’s never said that way.

Unfortunately, this isn’t a great model. Mostly because it’s based on the idea that there is a small group of people in authority, who will tell you what to do and what you need to know, and you must follow this obediently, like robots. And you must not think for yourself, or try to do what you want to do. This will be met with severe punishment. . .

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