30 October 2007

Q&A Is wanting to learn and just being smart the same thing?

from Yahoo! Answers:

Is wanting to learn and just being smart the same thing?

My dad is talking to my sister about her grades, and started dragging in other people. I'm an A student, and he was talking, sort of, about people who want to learn and all.
I am smart, ok, booksmarts, whatever.
But does that mean i want to learn?
I hate class, I hate school in general, I only like magic in my books, am i some kind of freak?

posted by arch_angeleo

Best Answer - Chosen by Voters (written by Don Berg, Attitutor)

They are not the same thing and you are not a freak.

In my view being educated means that you can perceive accurately, think clearly and act effectively on self-selected goals and aspirations. What classroom schooling does, in general, is inhibit accurate perception, muddle thinking and impose goals and aspirations (effectively inhibiting the self-selection option.) Of course, you might occasionally run into a teacher who is inspired and inspires you to overcome those limitations, but it's a rare occurrence.

I also have to point out in all fairness that many people succeed in achieving an education, in spite of their schooling. But that is because they somehow tapped into their innate learning potential and figured out how to extract what they needed from the system, not because of any property of the system itself.

The reason that classroom schooling is prone to these flaws is primarily because of the flawed assumption that there is some objective quality of certain activities that makes them educational. The truth is that what makes anything educational is the quality of attention that the learner puts on it.

It sounds to me as though the quality of attention you put on school work is basically “I’ll jump through their hoops because it keeps them off my back.” The real lesson they are teaching is that they have the power and you don’t, so you should just get along until you get an opportunity to do something better. (The problem is that they have trained you to wait for them to give you the opportunities.)

I breezed through school with a minimum of fuss but didn’t get grades as good as yours. I went right on to college because I didn’t know what else to do. Then, when I realized in college that I couldn’t fake it any more (and that I had both a talent and passion for working with kids) I left formal schooling behind. It took me a few years to recover from my schooling, but eventually I re-discovered the sheer joy of learning. That healing process informs my teaching and what I write about education, learning and teaching on my web site.

Below are links to a book called the Teenage Liberation Handbook. I recommend it as a beginning resource for exploring alternatives to what the mainstream of our society teaches about schools and schooling. You or your sister might find it interesting even if you are still stuck in school. What’s most important is that you realize that you are not alone, you are not a freak. There are lots of people who think and feel the same way.

I am also going to include a link to the Alternative Education Resource Organization (AERO), so that you can find other options as well. Hopefully you can find some supportive resources to help you make the difficult choices about what to do about it now that you know options exist.


Teenage Liberation Handbook on Amazon

Teenage Liberation Handbook Site

Alternative Education Resource Organization

My Web Site

Q&A Should I teach?

from Yahoo! Answers:
Should I teach? I love kids but hate politics?

I recently obtained a master's degree in Creative Writing, and had always imagined that I would teach and write. But, this past year I worked as an Instructional Aide and saw so many negative things about teaching that I feel very turned off. Here's my deal:

I actually LOVED the kids that I worked with, but found it very hard disciplining them. They don't respect or listen to me, and though I was terrific working one-on-one, I couldn't hold their interest at all when I was in front of the class. I also saw a lot of disenchanted teachers who seemed to hate their job and complain all day about the kids. I saw evil office politics, bizarre administration rules, and ridiculous educational policies overwhelming the teachers.

Please give me some insight about this problem. I have this idealistic dream of what teaching is, but I don't like the reality.

posted by rugger_betty25

Best Answer - Chosen by Asker (written by Don Berg, Attitutor)

It sounds to me like you are thinking that in order to teach you have to teach in a school. Consider teaching in an environment that does not require you to submit to the evil, bizarre, and ridiculous stuff that you experienced in that school.

Consider teaching through other kinds of programs. There is a non-profit teen cafe in my town that hosts writing groups. Maybe you could find a similar kind of organization that would allow you to offer classes or facilitate writing groups. Consider tutoring. Consider working with alternative schools, private schools, home schoolers, and/or youth oriented service organizations.

If you have the passion to teach you should teach, but don't sacrifice your sanity in the process. Do not settle for a crazy making organization, it's not worth it. You might have to be creative and innovative to make it work, but what better use can you make of your life than expressing your talents in service of educating youth?


Debunking the Myth That School is a Classroom

Alternative Education Resource Organization

29 October 2007

Q&A Home Schooling One Child But Not The Other

from Yahoo! Answers:
Is it wrong if you home-school one child and not the other?

One is easy to deal with acedemically while the other does not listen just plays around. nothing seems to get his attention, so i figure why not send him to school. Do you think I am being unfair to him? Or is it that I know my child and I know what is best for them. Desperatly need feedback on this.

Posted by soomuchluv

My Answer:

It is not wrong to meet your children's needs according to your best judgment, that's your job as a parent.

You say that one is easy to deal with "academically" and this has me suggest that you might take a deeper look at what you consider to be educational about the activities you are expecting your children to participate in. Because children have different dispositions, personalities and learning needs you may need to be more flexible to accommodate them.

Many schools are notoriously inflexible about being able to accommodate the needs of challenging kids, whereas some schools or specific teachers are really great at discovering what will engage children with different learning needs.

So, the real question is who has the flexibility to meet your child's needs, you or the school? No matter which path you choose you should monitor the results and make sure that your child gets what he needs. If it's not working then try to learn more and adjust again.


My web site

Q&A Capital or Lower Case Letters First

from Yahoo! Answers:

A question for parents who home school pre-k or kindergarten.

I have just started homeschooling my 5 year old son. Along with two other 4 year old boys. I have lots of different books/workbooks that were given to me before we started. Some say to teach capital letters first, then learn lower case. Others say to teach them at the same time. Any parents that have dealt with this, and opinions on which way is better. I would really appreciate it. Thank you.


My Answer:

I home schooled other people's kids (mostly 5-12 year olds) for about 5 years and preferred to take an informal approach to reading and writing.

Think about it this way, did you teach your child to speak vowels first or consonants?

Of course, you didn't "teach" your child to speak consonants and vowels they simply learned them. The way they learned them was by being completely immersed in spoken language.

I recommend teaching reading and writing in the same way. Make sure that you read and write as part of your everyday activities when you are with the kids.

Let me give you an example of how I did this with two my students one day. I was teaching two 7 or 8 year old boys who decided that they wanted to order pizza to be delivered for lunch. I said that was a great idea and handed them a phone book.

Now neither of these kids were readers yet, so this presented a significant challenge. They needed to know the alphabet and how to look up "pizza" and then the phone etiquette for getting the necessary information about how much it would cost. Then they had to figure out if we could afford it with the budget that we had for each day.

I do not think we even had pizza that day, but based on their enthusiasm for the idea they learned about the alphabet, etiquette, math and probably more than that.

I helped when asked and to the extent that they requested. Their learning was driven by the fact that much of what they needed to do to accomplish their own goals required literacy skills. Therefore they learned a variety of literacy skills because that was what they needed to accomplish their goals.

My web site

Q&A: Components of Attitude

This post has been converted to a page on my site:

Attitude Simplified
Attitude is how you arrange the mental furniture of your body/mind re-creational vehicle as you explore the world of your experiences.

It was originally written for Yahoo! Answers:

What are the key components of attitude?

Posted by: james_jass

25 October 2007

Food for Thought from Around The World

I don't mean metaphorical food I mean literally thinking about food from around the world. Peter Menzel and his wife, Faith D'Aluisio, traveled the world to find out what people actually eat every week and created a book called The Hungry Planet. They took pictures of each family surrounded by a week's worth of food and those pictures have been making the rounds by e-mail and blog posts like this one.

Here's are two examples,

the Aboubakar family from a refugee camp in Chad who spend under $2 (which is subsidized by relief organizations to cover the other $22 in cost)


the Melander family from Germany who spend just over $500.

Here's links to find out more:
The Book

NPR Story

Time Magazine Story- Part I - Part II

Map of 20 of the families

19 October 2007

Conservatives are Strict

This is a copy of a Letter to the Editor of The Leader I submitted last week. (Since they have not published it yet, I do not think they will. It was probably not sufficiently local and timely.)

Does it surprise you that President Bush vetoed a bill to continue supporting a successful program for children’s health care? It shouldn’t, because it is consistent with his strict moral view. This is a prime example of conservative morality in which the government acts like a strict authoritarian parent; this veto is their idea of “tough love.” Since they have judged some of the potential recipients of this program to be undeserving, they choose to deny many more children health care by withdrawing funds for the program.

The progressive or liberal moral world view holds that parents (and by metaphorical extension governments) are supposed to nurture their children and help them develop empathy and compassion as a guide to their behavior. Nurturing parents provide unconditional love and support for their children within a set of strong boundaries that teaches the child appropriate behavior. Nurturing parents know that children will misbehave, but the remedy is more support, not less.

Everyone along the moral continuum between conservative and progressive agree that the fundamental values of moral strength and moral nurturance are both important. The distinction between them is which value has priority.

Conservative morality puts moral strength on top. They show strength through “tough love” and then “nurture” according to their judgment of who deserves (or has earned) support.

Progressive morality puts nurturance on top. We show strength by finding ways to be compassionate while holding firm boundaries that ensure everyone gets mutual respect and shoulders a fair amount of social responsibility.

If you believe that all children deserve our unconditional support within a strong set of boundaries for appropriate behavior, then you should be thinking about the moral world view of the candidates you vote for.

07 October 2007

Brilliantly Funny Summary of Education Today

Here is a brief talk by Sir Ken Robinson, only about 20 minutes, that gives a synopsis of the need for a new way of thinking about education:

Notable Quotes:

"...the universities designed the system in their image. If you think of it the whole system of public education around the world is a protracted process of university entrance."

"'Mrs. Lynne, Gillian isn't sick she's a dancer. Take her to a dance school.' ... she did. ... She is responsible for some of the most successful musical theater dance in history ... she has given pleasure to millions. Somebody else might have put her on medication and told her to calm down."


01 October 2007

Response to Unplugged Schools by Lowell Monke

Orion Magazine Sept/Oct 2007 Issue

I agree with the attitude of caution about technology in this article, but there is one fundamental contradiction in Mr. Monke’s presentation:
“Of course, symbol manipulation—reading, writing, mathematics—is the unavoidable nuts and bolts of schooling.”

The contradiction occurs on two levels; the surface imagery and the deeper concept. If there are “unavoidable nuts and bolts,” as he claims, then he envisions a machine that is constructed from those fundamental parts and is inherently mechanical. But, he is thus contradicting his argument against having schools that reflect mechanical thinking. We can give Mr. Monke the benefit of the doubt by calling this a metaphoric faux pas but, of even greater concern is the deeper conceptual foundation for schooling that he simply assumes as a given.

Whatever you create will, in some way, reflect the most basic materials you use to create it. In creating an education system, if you take symbol manipulation as the most basic element, then you will generate a system that is entirely limited by the nature of symbol manipulation. By invoking the image of “unavoidable nuts and bolts” Mr. Monke gives the impression that symbol manipulation is the most fundamental part of the machine, the basic part from which everything else in the machine is made. I argue that symbol manipulation is not basic and that a system of schooling that makes this mistake is (and will always be) incapable of consistently producing the kinds of good results Mr. Monke desires. I propose that the true foundation of good education is optimal states of mind and, therefore, a good school system must use this as it’s conceptual foundation in order to consistently produce good results.

Optimal states of mind are more basic than symbol manipulation.

To read the rest of this piece on our education system click here.