Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘children’

While it may strike some people as odd that such a thing needs research support, it has been shown that talking to children from the moment they are born, even prior, has an effect on their language development.

The research demonstrates that children need to be spoken directly to, not just placed in a language-rich environment.  It is possible that the reason for this has to do with “affect” – the emotional component of learning.  When you are spoken to you know that the other person is engaging directly with you and the brain responds to this in a meaningful way.  So, once again we have evidence for the personal touch in learning.  The work of Dr. Andrew Meltzoff (http://journalsconsultapp.elsevier-eprints.com/uploads/articles/pedia5.pdf  and  http://www.scmp.com/lifestyle/family-education/article/1499201/its-never-too-early-children-learn-second-language-say ) some years ago showed that foreign language acquisition depended on live, personal interaction with the foreign language speaker.  If the same person was “live” on a monitor the effect was as if the child had no exposure to the foreign language at all.

All of this research serves to add to the pile of research that has been building the research-based case for Montessori Education.  This approach to education is a developmental one that allows children to develop at their own pace and places them in environments where they construct their own knowledge.  Lessons are presented very personally and directly, not in large groups or in whole-class situations.  The latter are much more like the infant only hearing words spoken but not sensing that they are directed at them.  Thus, in both cases learning is minimized.

Montessori Education remains the only approach to learning that understands and respects the way that people learn, from early childhood onwards.

Read about the new research here:

http://www.economist.com/news/science-and-technology/21596923-how-babbling-babies-can-boost-their-brains-beginning-was-word?fsrc=email_to_a_friend

Read Full Post »

February 2, 2013

AN OPEN LETTER TO BILL GATES

Dear Bill,

Stop. Pause at least. In the name of all that you hold dear.  In order to truly and fully realize that which you have spent so much time, energy and money to achieve and advance in the world of education, hear me out.  In order to serve the children of the globe that you some much want to serve, hear me out.

You are a man of great vision.  You see integrated systems for what they are.  You understand and appreciate the integration of disparate elements, the connections that bind these systems together.  Gladwell was wrong, as I’ve told many people: it is NOT the case that any other person who happened to be in your shoes would have made the choices, taken the risks and achieved what you achieved had they just been in your shoes.  You, only you, did what you did.  Gladwell is a jealous hater of people who achieve.  Decades ago you saw and described what the world still does not have but is slowly moving towards: the technologically integrated home.  A home where HVAC systems, refrigerators, stereos, etc all operate with an integrated technology controllable remotely via technology and also operated “smartly” by internal technological monitoring. But one example.

In the sphere of education, of child development, you have given millions of dollars.  Around the world you have helped countless children with medical support.  How you have dedicated your time since stepping down from leading Microsoft to raise the bar for children everywhere, in many ways, is remarkable, praiseworthy, bold and honorable.

But you are misguided, I respectfully submit.  That you seek what best serves children and the world I do not doubt.  That you have missed some essential things, though, boggles my mind.  It’s not possible that you are not aware of them. It’s not possible that the evidence in support of what truly serves children has not been available to you.

The newspaper I read the other day had a story in it about how “Bill Gates says we need to grade teachers”.  Really?  This is the solution to the problems in education?  Even if only a small part of your education reform platform, it’s so far off the mark, so irrelevant to the meaningful first things that need attention that it is misguided.  It’s like saying that the PC of 1985 had some issues and that the first thing to turn our attention to was the design of the mouse.

I am not here coming to the support of school teachers.  I do not write from the perspective of teachers’ unions. To paraphrase Seuss’s The Lorax, “I speak for the children”.

Education needs repair.  That’s an understatement and fails to capture the reality of the situation. It needs overhaul, reform, transformation and evolution.  Education, traditionally defined and understood since the 1850s, got off on the wrong foot. And there it remains, hobbled and failing.  Poorly defined, it has stumbled along, trying to reinvent itself every decade or so, and continuing to underserve children of all ages. As a result it has underserved society as a whole.

We have big problems. We need big solutions.

Education, properly understood, is nothing more than the process of a human being “becoming itself” -from birth to maturity.  It is not about transmitting data or knowledge to the next generation.  It is about guiding a child according to the natural laws of human development.

Airplanes fly because the laws of physics became sufficiently understood to allow a massive hunk of metal (yes, I know that the first planes and flying machines were not made of hunks of metal) to achieve “lift”.  It amazes me that planes fly.  I love them, but it amazes me every time I see a plane in flight that such a thing is possible, yet it most assuredly is.  Planes don’t fly because someone wanted a plane to fly, they fly because they adhere to the laws of physics- which are immutable, unwavering and universal.  The principles which allowed the first plane to fly are the same principles which allow planes to fly today.

Human development also follows principles of growth and development. The best that we can offer all children is to identify and adhere to those principles.  Only then will we be able to serve children in a manner that will meet their needs, and by extension, the needs of society – of humanity.

Mr. Gates, you have it within your power to transform the world.  Do you wish to save children from starvation and war?  Do you wish to stop the killing of youth in the streets of Chicago? Do you wish to support the elevation of children in the villages of Kenya? Do you long for a world where children everywhere have the ability to “become themselves”?  To find that intersection of their talents and their passions, so that they could then offer their personal gifts to the world, contributing those glorious things to the world in which they live?  Of course you do. You are a good man.

The universal laws of child development are not a mystery.  It is not that we lack the insight and tools to discover that which guides life from birth to maturity.  Developmental psychologists, neuroscientists and legions of educators have provided the information that was lacking in 1850.  Today the principles have been identified and codified.  It is called Montessori.

Montessori is not the name of a cult. It is not the name of a theory.  Montessori is simply the name of the woman who turned her eye to identifying what the natural laws of human development are.

Not more did Newton create the law of gravity than did Montessori create the laws of human development.  Both merely looked at nature and wrote down their observations and helped the rest of us understand how something in the world operates.  Gravity isn’t going away and how children develop isn’t about to change any time soon either.

Since the first child appeared on the face of the Earth children have continued to develop according to the same laws of development. That is why they are the laws of development.  The firing of synapses, the process of myelination, the emergence of spoken language, the first smile, the formation of self-esteem, and so on, all happen the same way today, around the globe, as they did 5000 years ago, around the globe.

What Dr. Montessori did for 45 years (1907-1952, the years of her work in education) was to look at the evidence.  In her own words, “I did not invent a method of education, I merely followed the child”.  Spoken like the scientist she was, she served no ulterior motives.  She was not chasing grant money.  She was not answering to corporate or institutional interests.  She was pursuing the truth of how children grow and develop.  She sought one thing: to identify what NATURE has set in motion as to how children universally develop.  And that she did.

No one has written a book, published research or found contrary evidence to show that she was mistaken.

Quite the contrary has occurred.  All of the science of child development has come to support every claim that Dr. Montessori made.  All of her principles of human development have been supported by cognitive and developmental science.  The reason why Montessori has not yet toppled the conventional approach to education is the same as the reason why Copernicus’s ideas took so long to be accepted: they were counter-cultural and touched too many vested interests.  But universal natural truths have a way of abiding.  They do not relent.

The resources exist to find out for yourself.

Mr. Gates, in the name of all that you value, please stop your current focus on changing education.  I appreciate your interests and passion, but you have been misinformed.

The best money you can spend to change education and transform the world, and that is not hyperbole, is to spend it on the first 6 years of life.  Look into the research of the Nobel economist James Heckman at the University of Chicago (http://heckman.uchicago.edu/    and  http://jenni.uchicago.edu/human-inequality/papers/Heckman_final_all_wp_2007-03-22c_jsb.pdf)

Look into the research on self-regulation and executive functions: http://www.devcogneuro.com/AdeleDiamond.html   and  http://www.devcogneuro.com/Publications/Activities_and_Programs_That_Improve_Childrens_Executive_Functions.pdf  and    http://www.goodatdoingthings.com  and   http://youtu.be/faYco1b-IJI  and www.aidtolife.org

Of course, Montessori principles extend beyond the first 6 years of life and have been developed and implemented through the high school level to tremendous success.  I know you know this: your foundation gave money to a Milwaukee public Montessori high school – the most successful of all the high schools you’ve given money to.  Curious?

Thank you for your time.

Mark Berger

mb2424@gmail.com

www.ultimateprep.wordpress.com

 

 

 

Read Full Post »

Yes, true education reform remains the hot topic.

Education needs to be reconceptualized as “that which a human being requires to develop from birth to maturity”. That is such a different focus from the conventional conception of education as the transmission of data/facts.

All we can do, in this new understanding, is “to  assist life”.  What does this mean? : what does life “want” and how can we assist it?  What does it mean to ask  this question or to even think this way?

Life, all life, not just human life, wants to thrive.  A basic element of biology  is this: living things want to thrive.  We see this everywhere in nature: the wildflower growing out of a rock face or through dried leaves in early spring; the instinct of animals that serve to protect or propagate.  It would be wise to learn from nature – being a part of it.  The secret is there for us to see, if only we’d turn our gaze to it.

Children are born ready to learn, to thrive.  Our task is to clear  the way and provide safety and security for this life to unfold.  Nature knows what to do.  We’ve learned about the nature-nurture dance, about the value of  enriched environments.  Let’s do that: prepare the environment that nature requires, then stand aside and let it work its magic.

This is what it means to “assist life”.  It’s easier than we think.  Nature is a lovely, beautiful, integrated and powerful  system –  let’s unleash it, respect it, honor it.  Instead, conventional  education has blindly and misguidedly tried to invent something that doesn’t need inventing.  Education is a natural process if you conceive of  it as life merely unfolding.

This is a different way to conceive of education and if there’s a chance for education, for children and for our world, we need more people  to begin to come to this understanding.  Montessori schools get this.

Read Full Post »

An adult was heard to say “my dad didn’t teach me what to do, he just lived and let me watch”.

That’s rich.  How many parents spend a great deal of time “telling’ their children what to do, how to do it, how to be “polite”, “kind”, etc.  Is this the best way?  The adult above clearly valued a different approach: modelling and let it be.

People learn best through self-discovery and exploration.  “Telling” rarely communicates what is important because it is disconnected from your own experience- it amounts to accepting received wisdom, so to speak.  Parents who live their lives well, don’t tell their children to do as I say not as I do”, teach them what is important and teach them in the best way possible.

The other thing at work here is not micromanaging a child’s development or future. Sure, as parents we all want what’s best for our children, we all want them to succeed in their endeavors.  There is a difference between providing opportunities and support and what some parents do, which amounts to controlling their children’s lives and not allowing for self-expression and self-awareness.  Letting your child discover what moves them, what contributions they can make to the world, is the best way to help them become both whole and happy.

 

Read Full Post »

“Hey! Teacher! Leave them kids alone!”  (sing it with me.)  Yes, Pink was on to something.  Parents – leave them kids alone!

When did parenting become a vocation?  When did parents become artists whose children are the raw material from which to sculpt their masterpiece?  This is what too many parents do these days: from Baby Mozart (hopefully mostly debunked… right??) to prep-school for a prep-school for a prep-school…. getting into the “right” kindergarten, yes?  Otherwise it’s all downhill.  Helicopter parents who attend job interviews for their 18 and 22-year olds – then call up the employer when they don’t get the job to ask why.  I don’t make this stuff up.

When president emeritus of the American Public Media Group, Bill Kling, was asked what his parents were like, he said “They were wonderful.  They absolutely left me alone.”  What?! Come again.  Not in today’s world.  He talks about all the exploration he did and experiments he invented (and, yes, things he blew up!) – all in the pursuit of his own ideas, his own conceptions, his own thinking, innovation and curiosity.  That’s an education.  That’s a child given the space, the freedom to learn.  Not plugged-in, entertained and “activitied” (I made that up: it’s the parental over-scheduling act of having activities being thrown at you all too frequently).  No, this was a child left on his own to learn.

It really is that simple.  We are born to learn.  That’s the one huge gift we are given at birth: ready and powerful learners.  Naturally curious and explorative we will figure it out, whatever it is.  It’s what humanity has done all  along and will continue to do if we don’t short-circuit the system.  Leave them children alone, and all will be fine.

We need anxious parents to relax, take a step back and understand that this is how it works best.   There are too many parents motivated by good intentions but who are lacking some basic information.

A good new website provides some guidance: http://www.aidtolife.org

Read Full Post »

From the minute a child is born she is learning.  Some will argue before.  This is literally true, and fascinating in its truth.  Think about  it.

Because  learning is happening in every waking moment of a child’s life, we should pay attention to what they’re learning – because they are.  Parents are teaching their child with every little thing that they do.  As an educator/administrator I remind teachers who are dealing with an unruly child that “they weren’t born that way” (Lady Gaga is talking about something else).  The point is that the child learned to be unruly by what she saw or how she was treated.

The parent who always brings to their infant the very thing that  the infant is seeking, so that they won’t have to exert so much energy and can be happy NOW, is teaching the infant that effort and persistence are unnecessary and that things will come easily.  This is what learning in every waking moment means.  The child has no choice about this- it’s how nature set the system up.  For this “now happy” infant: what a shame.

“Maybe their lives will turn out differently” says president emeritus of the American Public Media Group, Bill Kling, when talking about his childhood opportunity to explore things first hand, on his own.  “I think  we often undervalue the importance of giving kids that kind of hands-on experience.  It may not lead to their deciding what to  do with their lives, but  it’s surprising what they will  absorb- and maybe their  lives will turn out differently.”

Indeed.  Let’s step back from being so on top of our children.  Let’s give them space to explore, inquire on their own, make mistakes, mess up, fail, and of course… learn all the while.

Read Full Post »

The relatively new field of neuroeducation has made it clear that emotion plays a role in learning. Getting more specific, the field has shown that stress plays a role, a destructive role.

It turns out that stress prevents the human brain from developing optimally.  It does this by preventing neurogenesis from taking place.  Neurogenesis is our brain’s ability to create new neurons- brain cells.  If you grow up in a healthy and stable environment your brain is able to generate new neurons, which help you to learn.  Provide an enriched environment and you’re off to the races.  Stress takes you in the opposite direction of an enriched environment.

How does this inform the education paradigm-shift position?

Conventional environments create stress in students.  Whether it’s from the fear of failure and mistake making or the upcoming quiz, there are daily stressors for most students in a conventional environment.

The New Education Paradigm removes these stressors.  By placing the learner in greater control of her activities, by encouraging mistakes (in the spirit of risk-taking that is necessary to look for new questions and answers), by shifting to alternate modes of assessment, amongst other things, the new paradigm creates a rich environment that minimizes stress in the student/learner.  The result is a student who is not only motivated to participate and apply themselves fully, but a brain that is there to support them by creating the new neurons that they can then use to learn.

Now, if only we can get the prime movers in “industrial education” (new term) to catch up to  the science of the day, maybe we can begin to help more students sooner.  In the meantime, check out Montessori schools – they’ve understood this implicitly for decades.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »