an article

This is an article that evoked some interesting comments on a friends FB wall…For me the question boils down to what is the function that we want school to fulfill? What is school for? Do we live in the kind of world where we believe knowledge and the right to it should “belong to everyone” ? What is the history of public school in the US? Isn’t it wasn’t it to empty the factories of children and inhumane child labor, and prepare them for an adulthood of working in those same factories? And then Dewey came along and said NO…school is to prepare people to become particpants in democracy?


About cthebean

Educator, musician, social justice activist...and now a blogger. Children deserve unflinching support from adults.....they deserve nothing less. All kids . Everybody's kids. Everywhere.
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One Response to an article

  1. Library Dragon says:

    I work at a school that for the purpose of the Slate article would be considered “private.” But I reject the label and have embraced “independent” instead. Private schools have a long history of exclusivity and pride themselves on it. Not so independent schools. Most have inclusivity as a stated goal, difficult as that is to realize – particularly in our increasingly stratified society. Nonetheless efforts are made to use financial aid to create an economic range instead of economic extremes. These schools value their independence from the rules and regulations that hamstring public school classrooms and teachers.

    I briefly worked for LAUSD at a school in Watts. My position was as low as you can go and still call yourself a teacher – the “pool teacher.” This meant I was assigned to a school, but not a specific classroom, sent without preparation, without consent, wherever there was a need.

    For a period of about 6 weeks, I worked in a 2nd grade classroom while their teacher was on medical leave. Due to the imposed bureaucratic hierarchy, this class had already had several teachers during the early days of the schoolyear by the time I came along. I was soon hitting wall after proverbial wall of the many things I was not allowed to do regardless of whether it was in the interest of the kids. For example: “My” class hated recess. Have you ever heard of kids who hate recess!?! But recess had been structured, or might I say co-opted, as a series of mandated games through which the classes rotated week to week. The hallmark of recess, self-chosen, self-designed, downtime activities, had been eradicated. (And in a progressive school, recess becomes practically unnecessary when periods of inside and outside, choice and focus, play and industrious involvement are interwoven throughout the day, but that’s a different subject all together.) So I allowed one or two students a day to stay in at recess to help set up for math. It gave us an opportunity to get to know one another better; it gave them a little extra exploratory time with the (teacher-supplied) manipulatives, and potentially a deeper understanding of the activity given that they helped organize it. But restrictions designed to prevent abuse precluded spending time one-on-one (or two) with students even if the doors were open. Given recent history, I would say they were restrictions that didn’t work in part because rules can’t do the work of relationship-building, partnering between teachers and administration, and creating community and a sense of purpose. So we suspended that particular activity much to the students’ chagrin. Multiply that one tiny example several times over, and throw in a few incidents that would make your skin prickle in discomfort. Not long after, I fled. And less than a year later we started our own fledgling school. Independently.

    Fast forward 12 years and my own son was deemed ready for school. We called our local public school to inquire about kindergarten and learned that their K classes had 30 students and one teacher, and English was the third language. When we questioned the student/teacher ratio, they were quick to reassure that sometimes the classes were combined so that there were two teachers – and 60 kids! I flashed on an image of my shy, observant boy curled up in a corner somewhere. Large groups were overwhelming to him, as they are to many kids of kindergarten age. It is one thing to sacrifice myself to support a political cause or make a political statement; it’s another thing to traumatize a 5-year-old, even one I am encouraged to consider “mine,” and use him as my political pawn. If I have a choice, I am going to exercise it on his behalf.

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