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Monday, September 27, 2010

Obama: Money alone can't solve school predicament

Yes, Mr Obama, money alone can solve the school predicament. Use the money to create new curricula that are both relevant and interesting. Stop teaching the "scholarly subjects" determined by the Harvard President in 1892. We don't need a nation of scholars. The kids know that, so they ignore what teachers are forced to teach. Try teaching students to get good at doing what they find interesting to do. Indeed, money could do allow that to happen. Also, perhaps you could try fighting the special interests that want to preserve the testing culture.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Milo goes to KIndergarten; we need to fix this fast

Milo started Kindergarten last week. As it happens I was in Brooklyn this week, so I asked Milo if he liked school. He said he did. I asked him what he liked about it. He said he liked recess. I asked him if there was anything else he liked. He said, “yes, he liked lunch.” Anything else? “Snack time.” Anything else? “Choice time” (apparently you can do whatever you want then. At this point his mother said “what about science?” (His class has been learning science words or something like that.) He said “no, that was boring.”

So it took one week for Milo to learn to say the most common word used to describe school by students. (This tidbit of information I owe to my friend Steve Wyckoff, former superintendent of schools in Wichita, Kansas and now an education reformer.)

Milo had a homework assignment. His mother called to ask me what to do about it, because he was already refusing to do it. He was to circle all the “t’s” in some document. Since MIlo can already read (and write in his own special spelling) he also found this assignment boring. I told her to explain to the teacher that Milo wasn’t going to do things that seemed irrelevant for him to do.

All of this made me start to invest more in our Alternative Learning Place idea, opening in Park Slope, Brooklyn, in September 2011. If Milo has to endure the New York City Public Schools for more than this year of Kindergarten, I am sure that we all will be driven to drink

Monday, September 13, 2010

life is a series of tests anyway -- what a load of nonsense

The New York Times, this time in an article by Elisabeth Rosenthal, their former Beijing bureau chief, has waved the pro-testing flag once again. She describes the constant testing of her children when they attended school in China, and notes that while it was stressful, years later they don't recall it as having been awful. Perhaps this was due to the fact they were learning a different culture and language and remember that much more interesting learning experience more?

Nevertheless she reiterates the New York Times party line by saying:

"But let’s face it, life is filled with all kinds of tests — some you ace and some you flunk — so at some point you have to get used to it."

I beg to differ. Life is full of all kinds of situations that test you. Life is not full of multiple choice memorization tests at all.

She quotes experts who argue how testing is killing our children, but somehow, amazingly, decides testing is good. The real question is why the New York Times is constantly beating the testing drum. There is lots of money to be made in textbook publishing and testing and those who make big money on that are always in favor of testing and have been the ones pushing No Child Left Behind. Time to come clean, New York Times. How much money are you making on testing?