Skip to main content

View Diary: Let’s Have a Real Discussion about Education Policy (13 comments)

Comment Preferences

  •  Interesting attempt to have a discussion... (0+ / 0-)

    trying to get going on the AERO listserv I participate in.  Here is the post from fellow list member Laura Pretty...

    Hi, everyone.

    I am currently reading Left Back: A Century of Failed School Reforms by Diane Ravitch. In her chapter entitled "The 1960s" she really tears apart much of the work. She starts by mocking Summerhill as a school built on "sexual liberation" and ends by describing the 60s education movement as "good neither for the educational mission of the schools nor the intellect, heath, and well-being of young people."

    I wanted to bullet some of her main points and to see if any of you can respond to her criticisms, as I think the failure of the learner-centered reform movements of the 60s are something we should pay attention to. For me personally, I am currently trying to shore up my own knowledge as I prepare to speak more broadly about learner-centered schools with my colleagues in the public school system, and I realize that much of her criticism may be theirs as well, especially as I work in an urban district where a very large population of our children are poor. Also, my personal interest in this kind of education is really to what extent it can empower our least empowered students.

    Big question here: Can you help me to find evidence that learner-centered schools, especially more radical designs, help poor children overcome their circumstances?

    Ravitch On the Free School Movement

    *She notes that most people involved in the learner-centered movement were white, and that black teachers and parents saw their work as keeping disadvantaged children at a disadvantage.

    *In describing the ideas of radical progressive educators from the 1960s, "Such ideas could only worsen the plight of poor children, who in fact needed more opportunity to learn, more adult attention, more structure, better curricula, better materials, and better-prepared teachers to help them acquire knolwedge and skills."

    *She argues that "One might question their idealististic concept of human nature or even the practical problem of finding teachers to realize their Rousseauistic vision. One might even wonder why the critics seldom asked whether parents wanted their children to attend schools like Summerhill. But one one issue, there could be no doubt: an educational philosophy of 'do your own thing' was the worst possible prescription for poor children, because it left to their own devices the very children who were most in need of purposeful instruction. Poor children in classroom swhere teachers 'facilitated' instead of teaching were at a terrific disadvantage as compared to privileged children who came from homes where educated parents read to them, took them to museums, surrounded them withbooks, and supplied whatever the school was not teaching.... The radical idea that poor kids should be left free to learn or not was a large gamble with their lives (the gamblers were upper-middle-class graduates of prestigious universities). This laissez-faire approach to education was an abandonment of the funamental promise of public education to provide social equality."

    *She holds up Bill Ayers' Children's Community School as a case in point, noting that not one of the children there learned how to read.

    Ravitch on the Open School Movement

    *She argues that parents viewed schools as too permissive; that districts were forced by parents to create traditional schools

    *She describes the work of former proponent of Open Schools, Roland Barth as describing his own "disastrous effort to introduce open education to two inner-city public schools, with mainly black enrollments... Within three months, the open education  program had been abandoned. The teachers' desks were restored to the front of the classroom, the children's desks were in rows, and they were grouped by abilitiy levels... The teachers assigned homework and issued hall passes... The program succumed to the resistence of both children and parents. The multitude of choices confused hte children; the more options were available, the less they were able to follow through on any one of them and the more disruptive them became... Children tested and abused every teacher who was attempting to run an unfamiliar classroom..."

    Lisa Delpit, the famous African-American writer on education, ultimately rejected such notions of education for poor children, saying, "What [African American children] need are the skills that will get them into college.... This is just anouther one of those racist ploys to keep our kids out. White kids learn how to write a decdent sentence. Even if they don't teach them in school, their parents make sure they get what they need. But what about our kids?"

    Cooper Zale Los Angeles

    by leftyparent on Sun Oct 28, 2012 at 11:14:06 AM PDT

Subscribe or Donate to support Daily Kos.

Click here for the mobile view of the site