A R T H U R . Z A J O N C We Need an Educational Philosophy Fit For Human Beings

Reprinted from GREEN MONEY JOURNAL winter08/09


The educational imagination of one age is simultaneously a foreshadowing of the society we will live within a generation later. An impoverished educational imagination will inevitably lead to a diminished human society and an abused planet. In his essay “The Loss of the University,” Wendell Berry said that the goal of higher education is, “…not just trained workers or knowledgeable citizens but responsible heirs and members of human culture.”Berry is right; the human being in the fullest and most comprehensive sense should be in our minds and hearts when we take up the high task of education, and We must seek to educate the whole miraculous human being for the sake of the individual, society, and our planet. 

While specific pedagogical interventions and strategies are important, of urgent significance now is a coherent and encompassing view – an educational philosophy. 

The three dimensions of an educational philosophy of education originate in an understanding of child development and age appropriate curriculum. An understanding that is holistic and multi-dimensional. An understanding that cultivates social and self-responsibility.
1. Understand child development at different ages. 

  • Acquire rich, expansive understandings of the children we teach and the world in which they live. We need to embrace and elucidate the multi-dimensional nature of both ourselves and our world – body, mind, and spirit. Our education needs to address each with a pedagogy that is as rich and varied as our own nature, engaging all aspects of the student: head, heart, and hands. It should be an embodied learning that moves the soul and speaks to the highest spiritual ideals.To educate the whole human being requires teachers who teach out of their full humanity. We teach who we are as well as our subject matter. 

2. Teach the whole child. 

  • Cultivate all capacities in our students for knowing and creating. If we and the world have several aspects, we should not expect a single mode of exploration and understanding to be sufficient. Rather to each domain of nature and to each level of our own being, we should craft a nuanced means of inquiry suited to that realm. Specifically, of equal importance to the scientific method, which is so well-developed, we should recognize the crucial place of contemplative forms of inquiry. They lead from humility and a gentle engagement to a full and intimate participation in that which we would understand. As Goethe wrote, through a participatory epistemology we make ourselves “utterly identical with the object thereby becoming true theory.” He was pointing to the truth that we only genuinely understand that which we love. Such deep connections shape us, transform us so we become more insightful. “Every object, well-contemplated, opens a new organ in us,” said Goethe. Living patiently yet energetically with real questions allows time for the changes required in us that enable us to live our way into the answer, to paraphrase Rilke. 


3. Foster free will and social responsibility 

  • Foster values that balance individual freedom with an ethic of compassionate concern and social commitment. The third aspect of an adequate educational philosophy concerns the practice of life. With a full appreciation of body, mind, and spirit, and with multiple ways of knowing, we must contribute to society and the planet in ways that are of greatest benefit. As students become more self-aware and cosmopolitan, the strictures of their childhood fall away and the new basis for values is sometimes slow to appear. If we would shun a fundamentalist return to blind obedience to religious dictates or social customs, then we need to locate the source of a free ethical understanding and action. Here again a partial and reductive view of the human being can offer nothing, and we are left with a sophisticated but ultimately empty nihilism. However, the fuller view we advanced at the outset is one that embraces the body, mind, and spirit of our students, ourselves, and our world. This opens up the possibility for the ethical refinement of our moral sensibilities such that genuine moral insight becomes available to the individual. And yet, it also honors and serves human culture in all its diversity within a complex, contemporary global community. 

With this view of our full humanity, we can cultivate a knowing that becomes love, and an active, compassionate, and inclusive ethic that honors both individual and community. Our education can and should support such development. 

Article by Arthur Zajonc, Chair, Physic Department, Amherst College 
Arthur Zajonc partners with Parker Palmer on his next book about the future of higher education; he directs the Academic Program at the Center for Contemplative Mind in Society http://www.contemplativemind.org 
More information at http://www.arthurzajonc.org

T H O M A S . A R M S T R O N G, Ph.D Kindergarten is the New High School


Reprinted from GREEN MONEY JOURNAL winter08/09

I see the question of how K-16 education needs to change for the 21st Century asked a lot in educational circles these days, and I feel that it is often a question masquerading as an agenda. The agenda is basically to make kindergarten the new high school and college – hence the “K-16” label – by pouring more academics on already stressed children “to get them ready for the challenges of the future.”
The problem with this is that children have different developmental needs at different ages:
  • Young children need to play. 
  • Older children need to find out how the world works. 
  • Young adolescents need to work on social, emotional and meta-cognitive growth. 
  • Older adolescents need to prepare to live independently in the real world. 
  • Young adults need to work on vocational and relationship challenges.
Any attempt to prepare students for the 21st century must include addressing these different needs. 
I suggest that we don’t really know what the challenges of the 21st century are going to be, and since we don’t know, then we’d better teach our children to be self-reliant, to be curious, to ask questions, to be tolerant of other points of view, to be playful (in other words, not to take life too seriously), and to find something that they are really good at that they can use to help make the world a better place. 
Obviously, even though we don’t know for sure what the future will bring, there are strong indications that an emphasis on ecology and diversity, in particular, will help prepare students for the coming decades. Consequently, we need to create living schools that help students think in terms of whole systems and cooperation rather than water-tight modules and competition with others. Since it appears that Marshall McLuhan was right about the future forty years ago when he said we were increasingly living in a “tribal village” then we need to help our students understand the challenges of globalization, and at the same time, help them prepare to work in their own neighborhoods to effect change. David Brower’s famous adage, “think globally, act locally” certainly applies here. 
We need to stimulate our students to develop character and a deep appreciate for ethics that are not based on rigid moral values but on living and breathing spiritual principles. Finally, in order to prepare for the future, we need to help our students understand the past, since history all too often provides us with a map of what may lie ahead, so that we can avoid the mistakes repeatedly made by previous generations. 
Article by Thomas Armstrong, Writer 
Recently I’ve completed two books on human development and the stages of life, The Best Schools, and The Human Odyssey, and am now working on a book about neurodiversity, The Gift of Neurodiversity: Discovering the Hidden Strengths of Autism, ADHD, Dyslexia and Other Brain Differences (DaCapo/Perseus, 2010), which applies metaphors of biodiversity and cultural diversity to conditions that have thus far been couched in metaphors of deficit and disease. After this book, he plans a book on schools that are based on strong ecological principles (and would welcome suggestions of specific schools to investigate). 

B E T T Y . S T A L E Y To Educate Future Change Agents, Change Education Today


Reprinted from GREEN MONEY JOURNAL winter08/09

We live in a short attention-span world and face long attention-span challenges from a stressed-out educational system, a stressed out society, and a stressed-out earth.
Although we can and do look at the educational system in isolation, we could begin to see it in context of its interconnection with society and the environment. Based on 40 years of experience as an educator – most recently working with teachers of “at risk” students learning how to apply the “Waldorf” educational approach – I propose an integrated approach that meets the needs of children at different ages. We could stop assuming, for example, that concepts appropriate for 11-year-olds can just be simplified for 6-year-olds. This goes against the latest neurological research and against common sense. As one community college educator remarked to me, “Things have changed. The students coming in are deficient in basic skills, are superficial thinkers, and lack depth and insight. They know isolated bits of information, but they can’t see the whole picture.” 
Where do we start? When Rudolf Steiner founded the first of more than a thousand Waldorf schools that exist worldwide today, he spoke the following words to the teachers: 
“Imbue yourself with the power of imagination, have courage for the truth, sharpen your feelings for responsibility of soul.” 
I will examine these words in relation to our current educational task and in relationship of society and the earth. 
“Imbue yourself with the power of imagination.” Re-imagine teacher education. We begin with the teachers themselves. At the Public School Institute at Rudolf Steiner College, it’s become clear that a new imagination of teacher education calls us to develop new abilities: the art of self-transformation, the art of entering the developing consciousness of the child, and the art of cultivating community. 
1) We begin with work on our own self-transformation. Teachers begin to use tools to strengthen their capacities of reflection, of finding inner peace, and experiencing joy. The humanizing activity of the arts is an essential part: the joy of learning through painting, drawing, sculpting, acting, singing, playing music together, and story telling. , This joy influences cognitive learning as well as providing a healthy social atmosphere in which children feel safe and willing to take risks. 
2) We begin to focus on child development. We learn how children of each age operate and what children of each age need for healthy development and support for their learning. Re-imagining the curriculum and methods based on developmental stages leads to strong, intelligent, problem solvers connected to a sense of place in the natural world and to each other in healthy social communities. 
3) We begin to nourish community life. We share classroom experiences; discussing particular children’s needs, inter-act with other professionals in the learning community, and work with parents so that the school becomes a village. 
“Have courage for the truth.” Speak up on behalf of children. We ask of ourselves the inner strength to speak what is needed regardless of popular opinion. On behalf of our children, we begin to confront the pervasive polluting presence of electronic media, video games, and advertising that fills the airwaves, the billboards, and even school walls. With courage for the truth, we are joined by others who are willing to turn off the television and computer, insist on stronger family time together, create a change in life style so that every member of the family becomes healthier and more in touch with each other. We begin to call upon teachers, principals, parents, community activists, politicians, doctors and others to stand up for children with courage and integrity. 
“Sharpen your feeling for responsibility of soul.” Work together with integrity. Education. Society. Environment. Each speaks to us through the stress we feel about them separately and together. All three desperately cry out for us to begin to notice the needs of each human being, renew our relationship as guardians of the earth, and grow strong and caring communities. Children are not computers, passive screen watchers, or a commodity. Children are the latest messengers from the future and they rely on us to make this world a nurturing, welcoming place in which to grow and awaken in their own time and manner. Adolescents rely on us to be role models of healing, caring, and moral strength. We adults begin when we reclaim authority as guides for the next generation with imagination, courage and responsibility. 
The question is not whether these changes are necessary, but when will we start? 
Article by Betty Staley, Educator, Writer 
Betty Staley has been an educator for forty years. She consults for schools beginning Waldorf high schools (independent and public charter), lectures world-wide on adolescence and education, and has authored seven books. She has translated the essence of Waldorf education into many different settings in service of transforming education for all children. Having been a key teacher at the Sacramento Waldorf School in past decades, Betty directs teacher educator programs through Rudolf Steiner College in Fair Oaks, California – for independent Waldorf schools and for Waldorf-inspired public schools, for teachers of at-risk students and juvenile offenders, and workshops for public, parochial, and home school teachers. 

W I L L I A M . C R A I N Animal Feelings: Learning Not to Care and Not to Know

Reprinted from GREEN MONEY JOURNAL winter08/09

At a recent New Jersey public hearing, the topic was a proposed bear hunt. A small boy walked up to the microphone, said his name was Bobby, and told the officials that shooting bears was horrible. “How would you like it if someone shot at you? You wouldn’t like it, would you?” Then Bobby threw up his arms and said, “But you won’t care what I say because I’m only seven years old,” and walked back to his seat in a dejected manner.
Many parents and teachers have observed that young children are fascinated by animals and care deeply about them. Recent research has revealed that animals are so important to young children that they routinely dream about them. In fact, 3- to 5-year-olds dream more frequently about animals than about people or any other topic, and animal dreams continue to be prominent at least until the age of 7 years. 
But as children grow up in the Western world they, like Bobby, find that their deep feelings for animals aren’t shared by the dominant culture. 
The rudest awakening occurs when children discover the source of the meat they eat. In a preliminary study of urban, middle class children, one of my undergraduate students, Alina Pavlakos, found that most 5-year-olds didn’t know where meat comes from. They knew they ate meat, but when asked, “Do you eat animals?,” most said, “Nooo!,”-as if the idea were outrageous. 
Pavlakos found that children soon learn otherwise, most by the age of 6 or so. She and others also have informally observed that many children become distraught when they learn the facts. As Jane Goodall points out, some children want to become vegetarians at this point, but their parents rarely permit it. 
In the years that follow, our culture seems to work in many ways to dampen children’s sensitivity to animals-especially farm animals. Sometimes our language hides the identity of animals as food. We eat pork, not pigs; veal, not calves; meat, not flesh. The philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer pointed out that the English language more subtly distances us from animals by referring to them with the impersonal pronoun “it,” as if they were mere objects. If a young person becomes interested in the science of animal behavior, she will learn to avoid the attribution of any human emotions, such as pain or happiness, to animals. The scientific custom is to view animals impersonally. 
In a tour de force, our society has managed to keep the public largely in the dark with respect to factory farms, which produce nearly all the meant Americans consume. Factory farms subject animals to incredible suffering, but most adults know little about it. This, at least, is what another undergraduate student, Srushti Vanjari, and I have found. From December, 2005, to the present, we have distributed questionnaires to undergraduates at different colleges and to adults in hotel lobbies and a senior citizen center in the New York metropolitan area. In these samples, 73 to 90% of the adults rated their knowledge of factory farms as either slight or nonexistent (with a large majority of these respondents rating their knowledge as nonexistent). 
Admittedly, our surveys are informal, and some of my friends question the results. They believe that the past decade has witnessed a dramatic rise in vegetarianism as people have become aware of the mistreatment of animals. But the most recent Harris poll, conducted in 2006, found that only 2.3% of American adults chose a vegetarian diet-a figure that is actually down from 2.8% in 2003. 
At a time when there is so much emphasis on improving education, the widespread adult ignorance with respect to animal suffering is stunning. I hope educators will rise to the task of eliminating this ignorance. I hope, for example, that educators will introduce secondary school and college students to writers such as John Robbins, Peter Singer, and Jane Goodall, and will encourage discussions on animal emotion and treatment. Perhaps the day will come when the adults in our society, with their blinders removed, will share young children’s fascination and empathy with animals. 
Article by William Crain, Professor of Psychology
 
William Crain is professor of psychology at The City College of New York. He is the author of Reclaiming Childhood: Letting Children Be Children in Our Achievement-Oriented Society and the editor of the journal, Encounter: Education for Meaning and Social Justice. Dr. Crain advocates for the child’s right to play and for the protection of nature and animals, and is co-founder of the Safe Haven Farm Sanctuary in Beekman, NY ( http://www.safehavenfarmsanctuary.org ), where children and adults visit animals rescued from inhumane conditions.

L I N D A . L A N T I E R I Building Emotional Intelligence

Reprinted from GREEN MONEY JOURNAL winter08/09

A strong public demand is arising in the US for schools to implement effective educational approaches that promote not only academic success but also enhance health, and prevent problem behaviors.
[This article is adapted with permission from: Lantieri L. (2008) Building Emotional Intelligence: Techniques to Cultivate Inner Strength in Children. Sounds True, Boulder, CO] 
A strong public demand is arising in the US for schools to implement effective educational approaches that promote not only academic success but also enhance health, and prevent problem behaviors. A US poll of registered voters released by the Partnership for 21st Century Skills ( http://www.21stcenturyskills.org ) in 2007 reported than 66% felt that students needed a broader range of skills than just the basics of reading, writing and math. 80% said that the skills that students need today to be prepared for the jobs of the 21st century are very different from what was needed 20 years ago. 
In fact, a growing body of research suggests that helping children develop good social and emotional skills early in life makes a big difference in their long-term health and well-being. In his groundbreaking book Working with Emotional Intelligence (1998), Daniel Goleman identified EQ – emotional intelligence – as being as important as IQ in terms of children’s healthy development and future life success. He writes (1998, 19): 
“Given how much emphasis schools and admissions tests put on it, IQ alone explains surprisingly little of achievement in work or life. When IQ test scores are correlated with how well people perform in their careers, the highest estimate of how much difference IQ accounts for is about 25 percent. (Hunter & Schmidt 1984: Schmidt & Hunter 1981). A careful analysis though, suggests a more accurate figure may be no higher than 10 percent, and perhaps as low as 4 percent (Sternberg 1996).” 
Goleman’s work has helped us understand the importance of emotional intelligence as a basic requirement for the effective use of one’s IQ; that is, one’s cognitive skills and knowledge. He made the connection between our feelings and our thinking more explicit by pointing out how the brain’s emotional and executive areas are interconnected physiologically, especially as these areas relate to teaching and learning. 
Brain science tells us that a child’s brain goes through major growth that does not end until the mid-twenties. Neuroplasticity, as scientists call it, means that the sculpting of the brain’s circuitry during this period of growth depends to a great degree on a child’s daily experiences. Environmental influences on brain development are particularly powerful in shaping a child’s social and emotional neural circuits. Young people who learn how to calm down when they are upset, for instance, seem to develop greater strength in the brain’s circuits for managing distress (Goleman 2008). 
In New York City classrooms and elsewhere, teachers are beginning to equip young people with the skills to be aware of and regulate their emotions more effectively. And it seems that the regular practice of these contemplative skills strengthens the brain circuits that underlie emotional regulation. The benefits of such a regular practice can include (Lantieri 2008, 10):
  • Increased self-awareness and self-understanding 
  • Greater ability to relax the body and release physical tension 
  • Improved concentration 
  • The ability to deal with stressful situations more effectively by creating a more relaxed way of responding to stressors 
  • Greater control over one’s thoughts, with less domination by unwelcome thoughts 
  • Greater opportunity for deeper communication and understanding between adults and children, because thoughts and feelings are being shared on a regular basis
We, as the adults in children’s lives, can’t keep telling our children countless times to “calm down” or “pay attention” without providing them with some practical guidelines for how to do so. By offering children systematic practice in techniques that help them pay attention and relax their bodies, we can help them cultivate their budding capacities and facilitate the development of their neural pathways. Teaching these practices to students can increase not only their social and emotional skills, but their resilience: the capacity to not only cope, but thrive in the face of adversity. 
Many courageous educators and parents are breaking new ground and teaching children practical ways to calm down and pay attention as a daily part of their school day. A window of opportunity exists right now in society for these kinds of approaches to make their way into homes and schools. It is essential for children to learn new ways to have their spirits uplifted and their inner lives nourished as a normal, natural part of their growing up experience. And as Gandhi prompted, “We have to start with the children.” 
Article by Linda Lantieri, Author 
Linda Lantieri, MA is director of The Inner Resilience Program and has 40 years of experience as a teacher and administrator in East Harlem and a faculty member at Hunter College. She is co-founder of the Resolving Conflict Creatively Program (RCCP), widely recognized as an evidenced-based program in social and emotional learning. She may be contacted at The Inner Resilience Program, 40 Exchange Place, Suite 1111, New York, NY 10005; 212/509-0022, ext. 226 or fax: 212/509-1095 
website: http://www.casel.org 
Article References: 

Goleman. D. (1998). Working with Emotional Intelligence. New York: Bantam Books. 
Goleman, D. (2008). Introduction in Building Emotional Intelligence: Techniques to Cultivate Inner Strength in Children by Linda Lantieri. Boulder: Sounds True. 
Hunter, J.B. and Schmidt, F.L. (1984). Validity and Utility of Alternative Predictors of Job Performance, Psychological Bulletin 96. 
Lantieri, L. (2008). Building Emotional Intelligence: Techniques for Cultivating Inner Strength in Children. Boulder: Sounds True. 
Schmidt, F. L. and Hunter, J.B. (1981). Employment Testing: Old Theories and New Research Findings. American Psychologist 36. 
Sternberg, R. (1996). Successful Intelligence. New York: Simon & Schuster.

J A N E . H E A L Y, Ph.D. Multitasking is Cool, But Can They Task?

Kids’ brains are being changed, and not necessarily for the better, according to a recent study by the Kaiser Foundation of recreational media habits of 8-18-year-olds. Its findings suggest that our upcoming generation of voters and taxpayers may have difficulty either thinking deeply or staying focused on anything for very long.
Our youth devote approximately 8 1/2 hours a day to electronic media, compared to 43 minutes for all non-school reading and less than an hour doing homework. Increasing amounts of media time involve “multitasking”-doing two or more things at the same time. For example students may surf the web, watch TV, talk or instant message with friends while they are doing their homework. 
Multitasking impresses adults, (“Look how smart these kids are-I don’t know how they do it!”) and it confers a frenetic sense of accomplishment. Yet this trend has dangerous implications, not only for the quality of the homework in question, but also for the quality of the minds that are developing, untended, within the crania of “Generation M” (for Media, of course.) 
Current neuroscience makes it clear that any activity in which a brain engages causes physical changes in both structure and function. The more time spent, the more significant the effect. At all ages, the brains of today’s children are increasingly being shaped by media, over which parents exert little control. Only about 20 percent of parents in this survey enforce rules about media use; those who do, incidentally, have youngsters who spend less time with media and more on homework. Should we be more concerned about this unprecedented intrusion into the mental lives of our children? Indeed, we should. 
Between ages 8 and 18 critical developmental stages unfold in the human brain, which retains considerable plasticity throughout adolescence. At each stage of development, potential connections proliferate; during the ensuing “sensitive” period, use and practice of developing skills are necessary to firm up and link networks of neurons into effective working systems. The Darwinian law of neural development, “Use it or lose it,” applies to mental skills at every stage. 
Among mental habits needing refinement-and practice-during ages 8-18 are self-directed attention and motivation, moral development and social conscience, language expression, problem-solving, planning and organization skills, and the ability to reason abstractly and reflect critically on issues in life and in society. Time spent flitting among electronic stimuli and responding, often superficially, to multiple inputs (especially if they are of questionable quality) may train the brain to juggle many things at once. Yet how much time-and what brain circuitry-is left for mental depth and the core qualities of mature intelligence? How about the ability to focus deeply on a conversation or a political issue, or to attach one’s brain to a single task and persist within the lonely enclaves of independent thought without the instant reinforcement of multiple sensory stimuli. Studies of highly creative adults show that roaming around in one’s own reflections often inspires invention, but such talent presupposes the ability to stop, reflect, and generate thought. 
Intelligent use of media in reasonable amounts will probably not erode young people’s brains. Some electronic amusements may even develop certain capacities if the brain is actively and deeply engaged. When a brain is “multitasking,” however, each activity gets proportionately less brainpower, especially if the tasks call on similar brain areas. Although we may be able simultaneously to listen to music and draw a picture, trying to converse or write and read intelligently at the same time reduces the amount of attention-and the mental depth-available to each. The more we divide attention, the more likely we are to “dumb down” the activity. Moreover, a brain at the mercy of electronically demanding stimuli becomes a rapid responder rather than an initiator of thought. Reflection and the ability to ponder (what an old-fashioned word!) become unnecessary encumbrances. 
Attention deficit disorder is a new “epidemic” of psychiatric diagnoses in our young people. Fundamentally, it means having a mind at the mercy of changing stimuli. Multitasking may be “cool”, but if it means losing the ability to reflect, imagine, plan, execute, and evaluate one task at a time, we should all start paying attention. 
Article by Jane Healy, Educational Psychologist, Writer 
Jane Healy is an educational psychologist, teacher, and author of Failure to Connect: How Computers Affect Our Children’s Minds (Simon& Schuster, 1999) and Your Child’s Growing Mind: Brain Development and Learning from Birth to Adolescence (Doubleday/Broadway Books, 2004). She is currently concentrating on writing another book. 

J O A N . A L M O N The Politics of Play

Five years ago, when the nonprofit Alliance for Childhood announced its campaign to restore imaginative, freely chosen play to children’s lives, at home and in school, we were told that “play” was a four-letter word. “Don’t use it,” said many of our friends. We thought about it, and said, “No. We’re going to change people’s minds.”
Despite its importance as the foundation for learning in early childhood, child-initiated play has practically disappeared from today’s public kindergartens, and it is rapidly disappearing from preschools as well. This trend began more than 20 years ago, but it has accelerated under the No Child Left Behind Act. The Alliance for Childhood will issue a report this fall with disturbing new data on what is actually happening in kindergartens and why change is urgently needed. 
Public perceptions are at last starting to shift. Educators, health professionals, and parents are beginning to recognize that play is as vital to children’s health as eating and sleeping. Cut it off and children suffer from play deprivation, which affects all aspects of their development. 
In recent months the importance of play has been addressed in The New York Times, on National Public Radio, and through other media. The American Academy of Pediatrics issued a major clinical report in October 2006 asking pediatricians to talk with parents about the vital role of play. Environmental groups are focusing on children’s need to play outdoors and connect with nature, and a number of new studies and books make a strong case for play-based education in preschool and kindergarten. 
In recent surveys of kindergarten teachers in New York and Los Angeles the majority reported spending two to three hours per day instructing children in literacy and numeracy and preparing them for standardized tests, but offering less than 30 minutes per day for play or other freely chosen activities. 
Many urban school districts, such as Los Angeles, have chosen scripted curricula as the primary mode of instructing kindergarten children in literacy and math, so that teachers spend two or more hours per day reading from a script. Inspectors come into classrooms frequently, and teachers are reprimanded and even fired if they do not follow the script exactly. 
The publishers of these scripted materials claim that these methods are research-based. In fact, there is little or no research showing long-term gains from scripted teaching or other intensively didactic programs in kindergarten. Yet these approaches were chosen for federal funding under the Reading First program. Recent government research, however, revealed that Reading First has had no effect on reading comprehension, despite large increases in the amount of time being spent in classrooms on literacy instruction. 
Scripted teaching began in the 1960s but was largely discredited when the High/Scope Educational Research Foundation conducted a comparison study of three preschool classes for low-income at-risk children. Two emphasized experiential activity. The third was a scripted program. The children were followed until age 23, and it became clear that those who had been in the scripted program had suffered greatly. They showed more signs of behavioral and learning difficulties than the others, were more likely to drop out of high school, and more likely to go to prison. Scripted approaches fell into disfavor until the current Bush Administration began to promote them. In the famous footage of President Bush being told of the 9/11 attacks, the book he is reading to a group of children is part of a scripted program sold by McGraw-Hill. The Bush and McGraw families have been close friends for three generations. 
Meanwhile, young children are showing increasing signs of stress and mental health problems. “Kindergarten rage” and other extreme behaviors have become alarmingly frequent. A Yale University study showed that the highest rate of school expulsion for children ages four to eighteen was among four-year-olds. Preschool boys were expelled at 4.5 times the rate of girls. 
The kindergarten picture is growing clearer: First we create unrealistic standards and expect kindergarten children to perform at a first- or second-grade level. Then we frustrate them by demanding hours of concentrated work every day to meet these standards, expecting them to learn in ways for which they’re not developmentally ready. We test the children relentlessly to measure what they have learned, using standardized measures whose validity is highly suspect. We threaten teachers and principals with the loss of their jobs if the test scores don’t go up. Then we deprive these stressed-out five-year-olds of the most effective means of coping with their distress-time for free play. Finally, we penalize them for misbehaving and acting out their frustration and anger. Is it any wonder that, for many children, the first lesson they learn in school is that they are not good enough? 
What’s the solution? Adopt realistic learning goals for emerging readers, such as those delineated by Bank Street College, and restore creative play and experiential learning to kindergartens. These methods, combined with the guidance of teachers educated in child development and early learning, provide a foundation for a lifelong love of learning and a capacity for creative thinking. That is what 21st-century children need. 
© 2008 All Rights Reserved 
Article by Joan Almon, Educator and Advocate for Social Change 
Joan Almon is the Chair of the U.S. Alliance for Childhood, a partnership of educators, physicians, parents, and others advocating for social change to improve children’s overall health and well-being. A major focus of the Alliance is the restoration of play to childhood ( http://www.allianceforchildhood.org and http://www.indefenseofchildhood.org ). There are also Alliance groups in the U.K. ( http://www.allianceforchildhood.org.uk ), Brazil ( http://www.aliancapelainfancia.org.br ), and a Europe-wide network based in Brussels ( http://www.allianceforchildhood.eu ). The U.S. Alliance is also part of a coalition to end the commercialization of childhood, which is composed of 25 organizations ( http://www.commercialfreechildhood.org ).

No Child Left Behind: empty nest, full heart


My youngest child moved into his own apartment over the weekend.  So I literally have “no child left behind”. A phrase with many meanings, obviously.  ;). NCLB (No Child Left Behind), our national education policy, suggests another interpretation for “no child left behind”: “no childhood left in any child once their anti-childhood education under NCLB is behind them”.  Other views exist and they are available: for example, Daniel Goleman and George Lucas on balancing head and heart in education.  

Obama’s pick for education secretary is disappointing

President-elect Obama has selected Arne Duncan for secretary of education. The choice is a disappointment. Although Duncan’s success with Chicago’s graduation rates is encouraging, it seems that the administration is still stuck in the standards movement, emphasizing test-scores and test-driven education. Duncan supports paying students for good grades.

In the current issue of the Green Money Journal, several of us call for an education that goes well beyond test scores. We want an education that nourishes the whole, living, feeling, creating child–an education that recognizes that intellectual development comes from the child’s own curiosity and sense of wonder, an education tht fosters the child’s empathic feelings toward nature and other living beings. I believe parents are increasingly asking for such a holistic education.

During the election campaign (especially the primaries) Obama gave hints that he agreed with our view, but the Duncan appointment doesn’t make me optimistic. We’ll just have to work all the harder to articulate and promote our view of what education should be.

Bill Crain

What needs to be "reformed" about education?

According to TIME magazine, Barack Obama “has to choose sides” on school reform.  He, according to TIME, has to choose between being an ally of the “teacher’s unions” or aligned with “school reform”.  Is it really true that choosing between soft and tough is the Obama administration’s only choice? For 15 different views on what is possible for children and young people in schools, read the special Winter 08/09 issue of the Green Money Journal, “Whole Mind Education: A New Paradigm”.