18 January 2011

This American Life on Brooklyn Free School

This episode of This American Life on NPR radio is called "Kid Politics" and covers briefly the unskilled use of democracy in a Chinese elementary school from the movie "Please Vote For Me" and in the third segment a report on the Brooklyn Free School. The Free School piece is an unusually considerate story about how the kids participate in the decisions about what happens. The reporter took real time, a month she says, to get to know the school and get in on some interesting decisions, one on screen time and the other on an incident of swearing by nine and ten year olds.

It is unusual to get a report that takes the time to get to know what's going on in terms that are not automatically framed in terms of how important adult control is. She looked deeply into not only the decision but the aftermath of the decisions. She noticed that follow-up on many issues is called for but may not actually happen. This is naturally part of how life works. Bringing attention to many issues is enough to encourage everyone to be more considerate about how the handle it in the future, thus avoiding the necessity of further action.

The "Please Vote For Me" segment is the prologue to the episode. The first segment is primarily on how kids are given a role playing opportunity at the Reagan Presidential Library. It's a clear demonstration of how NOT to educate kids, but how to train them to do what the adults expect them to do. The "role play" breaks complex decisions into simple binary choices and if the kids choose differently than Reagan did then they get a harsh claxon whereas if they parrot Reagan then they get a nice bell sound. Not to mention that they frame the whole situation in terms that make any deviation from their agenda seem wrong.

I didn't listen to the segment on climate change.
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