Skip to comments.Occupy Harvard's Graduate School of Education
Posted on 10/24/2011 6:27:56 PM PDT by BruceDeitrickPrice
In a recent Times column entitled Occupy the Classroom, Nicholas Kristof went to bat for the idea of early childhood education.
He quotes the dean of Harvards Graduate School of Education, as she forcefully states what we already know: there are significant performance gaps between rich and poor students; and those gaps widen in later years.
Question is, what does our Education Establishment intend to do about these gaps? Nicholas Kristof is sure that we should do something. And that something, apparently, is to do more and more of what we are already doing but force it on younger and younger kids. This proposal may be very dishonest.
First of all, Im suspicious that this is merely a funding ploy. If the economy forces communities to cancel jobs in higher grades, the Education Establishment will simply create thousands of new jobs in Pre-K. The same number of teachers will remain employed. How ingenious!
Second, if the Big Plan is to extrapolate from the anti-intellectual, anti-cognitive, anti-knowledge, anti-academic, distinctly lightweight approach to education that we now find in far too many kindergarten and elementary schools, then we should just save the money.
If the Big Plan is to do unto three and four-year-olds what we now do to six, seven, and eight-year olds, then we need a better plan.
Heres the crucial question. What is it precisely that defines those gaps between rich and poor students?
Its nothing nebulous, murky, theoretical, abstract, or hard to pin down. Its precisely all the easy, ordinary, fundamental knowledge everybody should know. Middle-class parents are teaching this stuff from an early age. Poor parents dont know the stuff themselves, they forget to teach it, or theyre too busy surviving.
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Head Start or any other program that purports to help poor children has got to immediately address the knowledge gap. Everything that children in a richer home might automatically know must be taught, AS A CRASH COURSE, to the children from poor families. This is how you create the equality that liberals always say they want; but then they refuse to create it.
I think Occupy the Classroom is an unhelpful name. What we need to do is Occupy the Education Establishment and try to make it support helpful, practical ideas, for a change.
Ever since the time of John Dewey, our top educators have been hostile to basic knowledge. How to spell correctly, the multiplication table, where Spain is--all the stuff that is just second nature to families further up the social scale tends to be neglected in poor families. Ergo, the public schools have to fix this immediately.
So the real enemy here is the kind of empty, so-called education that is basically a low-cal confection made from a stew of slick sophistries, with names like Whole Language, Reform Math, Relevance, Constructivism, Self-Esteem, Cooperative Learning, 21st Century Skills, Critical Thinking, Learning Styles, Prior Knowledge, Multiculturalism, and another two dozen. Harvard, in fact, is one of the main culprits in perpetrating this stuff.
Well, heres my vote. Get rid of all the folderol and start teaching facts and more facts, basic skills, and mastery.
GIVE POOR KIDS PRECISELY THE EDUCATION THAT RICH FAMILIES PAY FOR AT PRIVATE SCHOOLS.
Here is our mantra, provided by no other than John Dewey himself: What the best and wisest parent wants for his own child, that must the community want for all of its children.
(For more on slick sophistries, see 56: Top 10 Worst Ideas in Education on Improve-Education.org.)
(And on the anti-academic literary front, Lit4u.com has been redesigned. Name means "Literature For You." Not pretentious and opaque, but fun, feisty, and unexpected.)
Learn to read as early as possible. Phonetics, not that whole word crap. Everything else can follow.
Yes, yes, a thousand times yes! I don't know what's going on in homes or in the lower grades, but year after year I get kids in 7th grade who cannot add or subtract numbers in double digits, do not know their multiplication tables, do not know the difference between a city and a state, or a city and a country, have no idea where any country is except Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala, and the US. Think Paris is a country near Turkey, could be easily convinced that China is in Africa, can't tell time on an analog clock, have no idea when the Civil War was or who fought it or why or who won... Can't tell you what 50% of 6 is... and I'm supposed to "draw upon their prior knowledge" to teach them recurring theme in bell hooks and Gary Soto's writing. They can't spell "would" or "because". (Not all of them, but huge numbers, are at this level.)
Do you teach in a poor district, or are these kids just the ones who should have been left back,since the first grade?
What??? Use phonics to teach a phonetic language? You, radical, you.
The scores for the schools in my town were that only 20% of the kids in elementary school were reading at grade level, and the math scores were worse.
My eldest child was a special case, at 4 she was already reading books. She had a large vocabulary for her age and was able to sit and pay attention to the task at hand. Unfortunately, her birthday was in November and the school district refused to even speak to me about putting her in school the September before her 5th birthday. I knew kids who were six months older than her and had none of the skills she possessed; but, that was not to be considered. I ended up putting her into a Montessori kindergarten, and then went the Catholic school route.
The schools can really be that bad. Hubby and I spent our own money to get a decent education for both of our girls. This meant scrimping on our budget, definitely no vacations. But, it was worth it. When they hit college they were definitely ready for the work. My youngest went through college for her bachelor's degree in 3-1/2 years.
I think a lot of the problem is not having moms at home with the child from birth. I would walk around with my babies and talk to them constantly. I read them little books, even as an infant. Children learn language from hearing language. They get that from one-on-one interaction with mom (and dad), not from a minimum-wage person, who doesn't really care and changes frequently.
I remember seeing a young woman, who I knew had a degree in teaching, use hand signals to communicate with her children, like they were dogs or something. It is silly stuff like that which really hurts children and affect the outcome for what a teacher will have in her classroom.
Downtown Los Angeles. Yes, fairly poor district.
My own students also have the Spanish/English difference to contend with. Many have non-English speaking parents. If they come in for a conference, we have to have a translator. School districts are increasingly pressuring teachers to be bi-lingual.
Allowing for regression to the mean, they will still produce offspring with serious cognitive deficits. You can put them in a rich home and surround them with stimulating goodies but they will still be below average. You can look it up--it's been tried. Everything has been tried-- except abstinence for the stupidoes.
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