Author: Alfie Kohn
Title: The Myth of the Spoiled Child: Challenging the Conventional Wisdom about Children and Parenting
Narrator: Alfie Kohn
Publication Info:Tantor Audio (2014)
Summary/Review: The current generation of children are often described by the media, politicians, and even parents as entitled and narcissistic. Alfie Kohn shows through his research that 1. similar statements have been applied to children for centuries, 2. there’s no evidence to show that these statements are true for any generation, and 3. strategies and policies for parenting and education formed by a belief that children are particularly “spoiled” today are actually harmful to children. This is a fascinating book that offers a lot of research that shows that parents and teachers are actually too controlling. There’s an idea that life is all about competition and the kids “better get used to it now” which forces children to experience everything as a competition rather than a learning experience. As Kohn succinctly states “Competition undermines achievement,” which is something our leaders and policy makers fail to understand especially when it comes to children. Definitely a must-read book!
Recommended books: Reign of Error by Diane Ravitch, Huck’s Raft: A History of American Childhood by Steven Mintz, and Free Range Kids by Lenore Skenazy.
Posts Tagged ‘Education’
Author: Alfie Kohn
Book Review: Reign of Error: The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to America’s Public Schools by Diane Ravitch
This is the most important book I’ve read all year and one that I think every American should read. Educational historian Diane Ravitch unravels the multi-pronged attack of the “school reform” movement on public education, teachers, and the core principles of democracy. While school reformers appropriate the language of the civil rights movement, Ravitch details how their programs are often untested (despite grandiose claims), increase segregation, and divert public money earmarked for the least privileged communities to corporate interests.
Ravitch doesn’t just criticize and complain, though, as she also offers solutions that will address educational achievement gaps in schools as well as addressing the crisis of poverty that often undermines even the best intended educational programs. I’ve listed them below, but please be aware that each solution is accompanied by a chapter-long description and action plan.
- Solution No. 1: Provide good prenatal care for every pregnant woman.
- Solution No. 2: Make high-quality early-childhood education available to all children.
- Solution No. 3: Every school should have a full, balanced and rich curriculum, including the arts, science, history, literature, civics, geography, foreign languages, mathematics, and physical education.
- Solution No. 4: Reduce class sizes to improve student achievement and behavior.
- Solution No. 5: Ban for-profit charters and charter chains and ensure that charter schools collaborate with public schools to support better education for all children.
- Solution No. 6: Provide the medical and social services that poor children need to keep up with their advantaged peers.
- Solution No. 7: Eliminate high-stakes standardized testing and rely instead on assessments that allow students to demonstrate what they know and can do.
- Solution No. 8: Insist that teachers, principals and superintendents be professional educators.
- Solution No. 9: Public schools should be controlled by elected school boards or by boards in large cities appointed for a set term for more than one elected official.
- Solution No. 10: Devise actionable strategies and specific goals to reduce racial segregation and poverty.
- Solution No. 11: Recognize that public education is a public responsibility, not a consumer good.
“In this book, I show that the schools are in crisis because of persistent, orchestrated attacks on them and their teachers and principals, and attacks on the very principle of public responsibility for public education. These attacks create a false sense of crisis and serve the interests of those who want to privatize the public schools.”
“I contend that their solutions are not working. Some are demonstrably wrong. Some, like charter schools, have potential if the profit motive were removed, and if the concept were redesigned to meet the needs of the communities served rather than the plans of entrepreneurs. It is far better to stop and think than to plunge ahead vigorously, doing what is not only ineffective but wrong.”
“Testing in the early grades should be used sparingly, not to rank students, but diagnostically, to help determine what they know and what they still need to learn. Test scores should remain a private matter between parents and teachers, not shared with the district or the state for any individual student. The district or state may aggregate scores for entire schools but should not judge teachers or schools on the basis of these scores.”
“If you want a society organized to promote the survival of the fittest and the triumph of the most advantaged, then you will prefer the current course of action, where children and teachers and schools are “racing to the top.” But if you believe the goal of our society should be equality of opportunity for all children and that we should seek to reduce the alarming inequalities children now experience, then my program should win your support.”
“The “reformers” say they want excellent education for all; they want great teachers; they want to “close the achievement gap”; they want innovation and effectiveness; they want the best of everything for everyone. They pursue these universally admired goals by privatizing education, lowering the qualifications for future teachers, replacing teachers with technology, increasing class sizes, endorsing for-profit organizations to manage schools, using carrots and sticks to motivate teachers, and elevating standardized test scores as the ultimate measure of education quality. “Reform” is really a misnomer, because the advocates for this cause seek not to reform public education but to transform it into an entrepreneurial sector of the economy. The groups and individuals that constitute today’s reform movement have appropriated the word “reform” because it has such positive connotations in American political discourse and American history. But the roots of this so-called reform movement may be traced to a radical ideology with a fundamental distrust of public education and hostility to the public sector in general.”
“Disabling or eliminating teachers’ unions removes the strongest voice in each state to advocate for public education and to fight crippling budget cuts. In every state, classroom teachers are experts in education; they know what their students need, and their collective voice should be part of any public decision about school improvement. Stripping teachers of their job protections limits academic freedom. Evaluating teachers by the test scores of their students undermines professionalism and encourages teaching to the test. Claiming to be in the forefront of a civil rights movement while ignoring poverty and segregation is reactionary and duplicitous.”
“The states of Massachusetts, Minnesota, and Colorado, which volunteered to participate in TIMSS, ranked among the top-performing nations in the world. Massachusetts, had it been an independent nation would have been ranked second in the world, behind Singapore.”
“Eliminating unions does not produce higher achievement, better teachers, or even higher test scores. Eliminating unions silences the most powerful advocate for public education in every state. It assures that there will be no one at the table to object when the governor or legislature wants to cut the budget for public schools. The union’s main role is to advocate for better working conditions and better compensation for its members. Better working conditions translate into better learning conditions for students, such as reduced class size and more resources for the schools. Better compensation attracts and retains teachers, which reduces teacher attrition. That too benefits students.”
“The claims made by Teach for America distract the nation from the hard work of truly reforming the education profession. Instead of building a profession that attracts well-qualified candidates to make a career of working in the nation’s classrooms, our leaders are pouring large sums of money into a richly endowed organization that supplies temporary teachers. If we were serious about improving teacher quality, we would encourage all future teachers to get a solid education and preparation for teaching, and we would expect districts and states to construct a support system to help them get better every year. Instead of expending so much energy on whom to fire, we would focus energy on making teaching a prestigious profession in which classroom teachers have considerable professional autonomy over what and how they teach.”
“Charter schools satisfied a long-standing ideological drive by libertarians to remove schools from government control and shift public assets into private hands. ALEC—the American Legislative Exchange Council—immediately saw the possibilities. ALEC, an organization of some two thousand state legislators and business leaders, promotes privatization and corporate interests. ALEC’s model law for charter schools is called the Next Generation Charter Schools Act. It has several key points: first, it insists that charter schools are public schools, even though they may be controlled by private boards and operate for profit; second, charter schools should be exempt from most state laws and regulations applied to public schools; third, charter schools may be authorized by multiple agencies, such as the state board of education, universities, and charter-friendly organizations, which maximizes the opportunities to open new charters; and fourth, the governor should have the power to appoint a board to authorize charters and override local school boards, which are often reluctant to grant these charters because they drain resources from the school system whose interests they are elected to protect. This legislation encourages the acceleration of privatization and undermines local control of schools. The corporate agenda of privatization and free markets, in this instance, takes precedence over the traditional conservative belief in small government and local control. In that sense, the reform agenda is not really a conservative agenda but a radical attack on local control that serves corporate interests, not Main Street.”
“At present, our national policy relies on the belief that constant testing will improve the education of children in the poorest neighborhoods. But this is the cheapest way to supply schooling, not the best way or the right way. The children with the greatest needs are the most expensive to educate. They will not have equality of educational opportunity if their schools focus relentlessly on preparing them to take state tests. Like children in elite private schools and affluent suburbs, they need the arts and sports and science laboratories and libraries and social workers; they need school nurses and guidance counselors. They need to learn history and civics, to read literature and learn foreign languages. They need the latest technology and opportunities to learn to play musical instruments, to sing in groups, to make videos, and to perform in plays. They need beautiful campuses too. It will not be cost-effective to give them what they need. It is expensive. What is needed most cannot be achieved by cutting costs, hiring the least experienced teachers, increasing class size, or replacing teachers with computers.”
Recommended books: The Way We Never Were: American Families and the Nostalgia Trap by Stephanie Coontz, Free Lunch: How the Wealthiest Americans Enrich Themselves at Government Expense (and Stick You with the Bill) by David Cay Johnston, The Price of Inequality: How Today’s Divided Society Endangers Our Future by Joseph E. Stiglitz and Unequal Protection: The Rise of Corporate Dominance and the Theft of Human Rights by Thom Hartmann.
The Massachusetts State Legislature is still coming to terms on the Senate Bill 235/House Bill 425 “An Act to Further Narrow the Achievement Gap.” There’s a lot of pressure on our elected leaders to lift the cap on charter schools without first getting a better understanding of how funding charter schools in the state negatively affects the funding and resources for district public schools. Whether or not you think charter schools are a good option for educating children, I think we can all agree that all schools should be fully funded to allow for equitable education for all students.
If you live in Massachusetts, here are a few things you can do to help:
- Write your elected leaders. Contact information available from this website: http://www.wheredoivotema.com/ The message I sent today to the chairs of the education committee Sonia Chang-Diaz (Sonia.Chang-Diaz@state.ma.us) and Alice Peisch (Alice.Peisch@mahouse.gov) as well as my representative Liz Malia are below (Chang-Diaz is also the senator for my district). Feel free to crib for your own message.
- Sign and share information about the QUEST petition with your friends and family. The petition can be found at http://petitions.moveon.org/sign/adequate-funding-for?mailing_id=21010&source=s.icn.em.cr&r_by=8757554. A Spanish translation can be found at http://tinyurl.com/mk6opsv.
- Join other parents and students at the State House in Boston at 4:30 today, Tuesday, March 25th. This protest is organized by Boston Public School parents from many schools who see the effects of charters on our schools and our children on a daily basis. (See: Facebook page for event)
I am a citizen of Boston residing in the Forest Hills/Woodbourne area of Jamaica Plain. My 6-year-old son Peter is a Kindergarten 2 scholar at the nearby BTU Pilot School, a neighborhood public school with excellent, hard-working teachers and staff and the heart of our neighborhood community. In recent months, we’ve learned that our school is facing severe budget cuts that will cause the school to lose teaching staff, social workers, Playworks, a school supplies budget, field trips, and other resources vital to equitable education. Our school is not alone as most schools in Boston are facing their own budget cuts, and other school systems in the Commonwealth are facing similar challenges with dwindling resources.I believe the Massachusetts Legislature can help address the inadequacies and inequality in funding and resources for public schools in Senate Bill 235/House Bill 425 “An Act to Further Narrow the Achievement Gap.” One issue is charter schools that are receiving a larger piece of the pie in state funding, while the state has neglected to reimburse public schools (see this chart created by a Boston Public School parent: https://pbs.twimg.com/media/BjRzkXVCcAE1WEK.jpg:large). I’m not opposed to charter schools as an educational option for some children, but it seems grossly unfair that one type of school is fully funded while another has to beg for scraps. The legislature should make it a priority to fully fund all public schools.With that in mind, please consider the following steps:• Remove charter school language entirely from Senate Bill 235/House Bill 425 “An Act to Further Narrow the Achievement Gap;”
• Prior to any consideration of raising the charter school cap read the soon-to-be released audit from the State Auditor’s Office regarding charter school finances and practices;
• Work with constituents to draft a more comprehensive proposal regarding the charter school cap. This proposal must address the inequalities already identified, include clear and quantifiable accountability measures that are put into place prior to such legislation being proposed, and explore more equitable or separate funding methods that do not bankrupt our public schools.I understand that you are receiving a lot of attention from lobbyists of the charter school cause. These groups are backed by billionaires and corporations who have their own ends in supporting the charter school cap that may not be in the best interests of Massachusetts’ children. Please listen also to the voices of your constituents – the parents, students, and educators of some of the best public schools in the nation and do the right thing for all the state’s children.
Following up on my earlier post regarding severe budget cuts to Boston Public Schools, here is an issue that requires immediate attention from any residents of Massachusetts who read this blog. Currently there is legislation moving through the Massachusetts legislature that will decide if the cap on charter schools in the state will be lifted. This is a contentious issue as vocal groups of charter school supporters advocate lifting the cap with help from deep-pocketed investors. Meanwhile the parents and educators of children in Boston Public Schools are contending that the cap should remain until we have a greater understanding of the financial pressures that charter schools exert on traditional district schools and that the current charter schools in our state are held to greater accountability for serving all children.
The Boston Public Schools are facing a 60 million dollar deficit shortfall and most of the 128 schools are being asked to make cuts that would lose teaching staff, social workers, Playworks, supplies, and other resources. One reason for the shortfall is that traditional district schools are not being fully reimbursed for loses to charter schools. Whether or not you support the charter school movement, I think we can all agree that education at any school should have full-funding and resources. It will do no one any good to have a fight over limited funds.
Fortunately, my state senator Sonia Chang-Diaz from the Second Suffolk district is working on the Joint Committee of Education and is committed to making a compromise that will support all forms of public education in the Commonwealth. She, and by extension the children of Massachusetts, deserve our support. You can take action by following the steps below. A statement from Senator Chang-Diaz follows.
- Read this informative fact sheet from the Northeastern University School of Law: http://www.northeastern.edu/law/pdfs/academics/phrge/charter-school-cap-fact-sheet.pdf
- Sign this petition put forth by QUEST (Quality Education for Every Student)
- Write your elected leaders. Contact information available from this website: http://www.wheredoivotema.com/
Today the Joint Committee on Education voted on a one-week extension on bills dealing with turnaround and charter schools. Over the past few months, stakeholders from all sides of this issue have been hard at work coming to compromises on various aspects of a composite bill, and we have come to agreement on a number of issues. We are down to the final aspects.
I continue to fight to find a balanced third way that breaks from the us-versus-them mindset when it comes to district and charter schools. All are public schools and both are needful of our attention and advocacy. I have been on record in both words and actions that I am committed to getting a bill out of committee that continues to close the gap between populations served by charters and districts, mitigates the financial stresses that even the best charters present for district schools, and allows targeted expansion of good charters. To that end, I’ve offered multiple proposals for balanced compromises. These proposals have been met with consistent “no’s” from the charter advocate community, with no counter proposals that bring us toward a compromise. While I am disappointed that we must resort to a one-week extension today, I remain committed to forging a resolution. My door is wide open to anyone who has ideas about how we can move forward on a middle path that treats all kids with compassion and fairness.
I also want to be transparent that, should we be able to reach resolution and report a bill out of Committee, there are still key decisions about funding fairness that will be made over the coming months through the budget process, which occur outside the Education Committee. These decisions will impact the effects of any bill on the schools in which the majority of students remain and therefore will be large factors in my ultimate vote for or against a bill on the Senate floor.
Last night at the Parent Council at my son’s elementary school in Jamaica Plain, it was announced the Boston Public Schools are requesting that schools prepare for drastic budget cuts. It’s been reported that these cuts will be for as much as 20% of the current budget. The immediate effects of such cuts to my son’s school and to other schools in the city will be loss of staff, Playworks, learning interventions, the learning center, and even shortening the school day. Public schools are already making do with limited budgets while being assailed from all sides in political battles, so further cuts will have drastic consequences to providing quality innovative education to all children in the city. So far there has been coverage on Universal Hub (http://www.universalhub.com/2014/bps-schools-told-prepare-cuts) and social media, but the news has not been disseminated through traditional media.
If you live in Boston and value public education, please join me in the following steps:
- Attend a Boston School Committee meeting. The schedule is here: http://www.bostonpublicschools.org/Page/253
- Write a letter expressing your concern to BPS Superintendent McDonough (firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com) ,Mayor Marty Walsh (firstname.lastname@example.org), and the School Committee (email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com). Feel free to copy other city leaders and local media.
- Share your thoughts on Twitter to https://twitter.com/bostonschools and https://twitter.com/marty_walsh. Use the hashtag #bospoli to draw attention to your tweet! And retweet others in our community).
- Share your thoughts on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/VoteMartyWalsh?fref=ts and https://www.facebook.com/bostonschools?fref=ts
- Do whatever else you can to share this news with others, make your feelings known, and in general make a big noise to let the BPS know that we will not accept cuts to our schools.
Below is the content of the email sent to the Mayor and Superintendent. Please feel free to crib what you like for your own message. It does not have to long, or eloquent. Just write to make sure that your thoughts are heard.
A Pocketful of History: Four Hundred Years of America — One State Quarter at a Time (2008) by Jim Noles takes the State Quarter Program as a launching point for an engaging look at the 50 United States and the symbols chosen to represent them. Often, Noles goes beyond simply telling the history of the image on the coins to delve deeper into the social and cultural history of the States. For each quarter, Noles also discusses the other finalist for the quarter design, the process of approval, and circulation of each coin. The only thing I could ask for is more illustrations of the people and things he discusses.
My favorites include:
- revisiting my 4th grade social studies’ lesson of Connecticut’s Charter Oak (by far my favorite State Quarter).
- the importance of the palmetto in fort construction in Revolutionary South Carolina
- Rhode Island’s quarter inspires a history of yacht racing.
- the “scandal” of Ohio depicting a living person by including an astronaut who must be John Glenn or Neil Armstrong.
- Helen Keller’s Socialist ways make her an unlikely representative of Alabama as well as someone appearing on US currency.
- Arkansas’s Crater of Diamonds, where you can keep the diamonds you find (I didn’t know it existed).
- exciting stories of storms on the Great Lakes make up for Michigan having the most boring quarter.
- the Kansas quarter leads to the history of the Buffalo Soldiers, regiments of African American cavalrymen who fought in the Indian Wars of the West.
- Colorado’s purple mountains majesty hid a CIA training camp for Tibetan subversives.
- Wyoming’s pioneering history in Women’s Suffrage.
The quarters open a door to learning about the states, their great people, buildings and places, arts, and flora and fauna (and their conservation). Like the State Quarters themselves, A Pocketful of History will have a broad appeal beyond numismatic buffs. I think it especially will be a good tool for teachers and children.
Author Noles, James L.
Title A pocketful of history : four hundred years of America–one state quarter at a time / Jim Noles.
Publication Info. Cambridge, MA : Da Capo Press, c2008.
Description xxvi, 324 p. : ill. ; 24 cm.