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Archive for November, 2010

It’s just wrong-headed.

Indeed, live and let live.  The current furor about whether, and how, to teach young children about gender orientation, in an effort to combat bullying is just mistaken.  It makes sense though, given how schools and traditional educators think about “education” and teaching.

The issue here is  not what should be taught but HOW we go about introducing concepts and changing behaviors.  It will never make sense to sit a group of students down and talk about gender orientation being “open to all possibilities”  as a way to eliminate bullying of gays.  What does make sense is to create a culture of respect for people, for individuals.  Then you don’t need a curriculum for teaching about gender equality, racial equality, sexual orientation and whatever else may come along.  You simply promote rationality, respect and empathy.  Sit students down and talk about these and all problems will either be minimal or disappear.  Plus, you’re then indirectly teaching them about “thinking in principles”, which is hugely valuable.

As I’ve said many times in this space, you can’t “teach” things.  Our whole understanding of how people learn has to change.  This is the fundamental point.  You won’t change people by TELLING them what to think or how to behave.  People learn by doing, by feeling, by experiencing.  Talk about not making fun of others, period; then you’ll have a principle they can relate to because we all have something about us that others can make fun of if they choose.  This will then speak to your “bullying” curriculum, your “peace” curriculum, and all the others that touch on what it means to simple respect other human beings.

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Oh how there are loud voices over this one, especially now that films like Waiting for Superman and Race to Nowhere, have hit the theaters.

Let’s get one thing straight – teachers are NOT the problem.  That doesn’t mean that there are no poor quality teachers out there – of course there are, just like there are poor quality plumbers, accountants, customer service reps and anyone who holds down a job.  The problem is the system, the approach, the method.

Charter schools often do a better job with traditional education because they can adapt the approach/method.  They can be more attentive and make some of their own school rules, like demanding respect, courtesy, etc.  Imagine that “regular’ public schools have issues with these that they can’t do anything (or enough) about!

We hear from critics that charter schools are all good, that some are no better, or even worse, than regular public schools… yet, YET… parents would still prefer for their children to go to that charter school.  Doesn’t this say something significant?  The reason is that at least charter schools pay attention to “character” issues and they tend to be safer.

BUT, if our only solution to public/traditional education is to create charter schools then we’re not going far enough.  We need fundamental change and innovation of the system – not gentle tweaking.  Of course, if charter schools with a “radically new and effective” approach emerge and become the schools of choice, maybe we’ll bring about fundamental change that way.

One thing we don’t want to see is fewer charter schools.  Let parents decide – isn’t that what “freedom” requires?  We know that the government can’t figure this out and that “one size fits all education” is not going to work.  Let parents decide what’s best for their children – they ARE their children after all.

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