Tag Archives: school

Coop’s Childhood Part 3 – In School & Out

Bach Elementary School

Bach Elementary School

Nowadays K-12 school has become such a high stakes endeavor that academically oriented parents like mine might do their best to “game” the system by letting their kid start school a year later than possible, thinking to give them some sort of developmental and competitive edge relative to other kids. But in 1960 when I turned five, judging me to be an intelligent and precocious kid, my parents had me tested to see if I could skip kindergarten and start public school in first grade instead.

I recall that I found the IQ test they gave me intimidating. Anytime adults focused on me, particularly in a more formal or judging way, I felt uncomfortable. All adults, including my parents, felt like another species entirely rather than simply older versions of us kids. They seemed like large all-knowing deities even, that had me at a total disadvantage.

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A New framework for Working and Learning

Circle of HandsFor many of us the rules of engagement at work are changing, from the traditional approach of being told what to do by “bosses”, to a new more egalitarian approach where a team of colleagues and peers collectively decide what to do. Those traditional “bosses” are being replaced by “managers” who are more facilitative than directive, conveying to us the basic business strategy from the company’s leadership team, making sure we have the time and resources to implement that strategy, and being available to assist when we need their assistance. From all my own experience plus hearsay from other “knowledge workers”, I understand that this has become standard practice in most of the work done in business operations today.

Yet given that new reality, our education system, which increasingly promotes itself as the means for developing our young people into new workers for our businesses, is still operating in the traditional model with teachers and principals as “bosses” and very little if any egalitarian process. This is a disconnect that in my opinion is leading to our young people being increasingly debilitated by their school experience rather than developing the skills to become contributing members of our contemporary business enterprises.

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15 Things Students Want the Nation to Know About Education

I was pleased to see this piece in the Huffington Post a while back and finally gotten around to writing about it. As the author Lisa Nielsen says in her opening…

It’s rare for education reformers, policymakers, and funders to listen to those at the heart of education reform work: The students.

Seems to me that in most education policy statements and discussions in the media, the students are not seen so much as the clients or key stakeholders in the education process, but more like the product. I think it is important that we resist the conventional wisdom of looking at education as an institution manufacturing an educated citizenry as its “product”, whose stakeholders are not our young people, but only political and economic leaders and parents (as necessary votes to keep at least those political leaders in office).

FYI, Nielson sets the context for this list of items from K-12 students…

In fact Ann Curry, who hosted Education Nation’s first student panel, admitted folks at NBC were a little nervous about putting kids on stage. In their “Voices of a Nation” discussion, young people provided insight into their own experiences with education and what they think needs to be done to ensure that every student receives a world-class education. After the discussion Curry knew these students didn’t disappoint. She told viewers, “Students wanted to say something that made a difference to you (adults) and they did. Now adults need to listen.”

So here are each of the sentiments shared by the students as listed by Nielsen in her piece. For whatever reason, the statements are very brief and lack any detail of meaning, but given that, they still communicate some important messages that I think we adults that attempt to play a role in young people’s development need to wrestle with… Continue reading →

Young People – The World’s Last Chattel?

This latest round of high-profile revelations of at times systemic cover-ups of the sexual abuse of young people at Penn State and elsewhere has been topping the news lately. There seem to be ongoing issues with this within the Catholic denomination but that is no longer news. Still in much of the world young people are coerced into military service, marriage or as sex workers under the threat of violence and often death. They are essentially “chattel”, human assets that are either owned and controlled by adult family members by accident of birth, or by “legitimate” or illegitimate sale to or seizure by others.

From my reading of history, at least since the beginnings of formal hierarchical organization of society perhaps 5000 years ago, the most prominent civilizations have featured an elite group of male people wielding power and authority (what I and others call “patriarchy”). The overwhelming majority of people – whether slaves, peasants, women or children – were essentially voiceless, owned and/or controlled by this elite group of men. With the ethical innovations of the “Axial Age” (~800 to 200 BCE) the legitimacy of slavery (particularly of adult males) began to be challenged, though it was still practiced in parts of Europe and the United States well into the 19th century CE. And in many parts of the world even today women continue to be virtual slaves to their fathers or husbands.

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My Real Issue is Human Development

Human DevelopmentI write from the point of view of a parent, a “lefty parent” as I call myself, which is intended to have a double meaning of sorts. I grew up in the context and values of a liberal Midwestern university town (Ann Arbor MI), but also being left-handed, I tend to think outside the box of a mostly right-handed world, including the liberal or progressive “left” conventional wisdom of that world. My mom and dad were more left-libertarians than actual liberals and I have come to find that I share that subtle but significantly different orientation.

I really feel more like an ex-parent now, because our kids are grown up (now 22 and 25) and they have been basically running their own lives (for at least the past four years) since they learned to drive and figured out how to make their own living. That said we are still a close family, and their mom and I love seeing them whenever they are available and sharing our now mostly separate lives. We are proud of them and they reciprocate by acknowledging the positive role we have played in their lives, but otherwise the relationships between us look more like peers (though from different generations) than mentors and mentored.

Today at age 56, I have now had a full quarter century of both the perspective of growing up while being parented, and the flip side of being a parent myself (maybe now more ex-parent) and watching our two kids through their own growing up process. And you can squeeze about eight years in the middle there when I was a young adult pretty much on my own, neither parented or parent. All three periods have had their ups and downs, successes and failures, triumphs and tragedies, the whole range. But all in all, things have worked out for the better and I count my blessings (including my own health and my partner’s, plus our two kids surviving their youth and now fully functional as adults).

All that life experience, combined with a midlife crisis of sorts, inspired me to start writing this blog, and as of November 25 it will be three years since I posted my first piece, “Welcome to Lefty Parent”. Looking at the over 300 pieces I’ve written and posted since then, though many of them are about education and schooling, there are really two other more fundamental topics that are of the most interest to me. The first is human development in all its aspects. The second is what I have come to see as a key part of that development, which is the historical transition of human society, at least in the most recent 5000 years of history, from hierarchies of control to circles of equals.

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Schooled to Accept Economic Inequality

Up front I would like to say that I usually don’t write pieces like this, pieces that are perhaps overly simplistic and provocative and lacking a more balanced and nuanced view of things. But in the best spirit of provocation to encourage the dialog… here goes!

I keep seeing statistics and voices calling out that the economic disparities between rich and poor in this country continue to widen. It makes me wonder… in a democratic society where (at least politically) “majority rules”, how come the most wealthy among us, “the one percenters” as they have recently been coined, seem to continue to call the shots on a government financial policy? Why doesn’t at least a majority of the “ninety-nine percenters” come to an agreement and vote for a more equitable path forward?

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Teachers Take Control of a Detroit School

The Palmer Park Preparatory Academy

Just read the Education Week article, “Teacher-Led School Innovates With Student Regrouping”, about some innovative governance and methodological changes happening in a Detroit public school. Detroit, if you are not aware has had a crumbling public school system, even before the current recession has put extra pressure on state budgets and as a result, school spending. What I like about what’s happening at Palmer Park Preparatory Academy is that former worker-bees from the conventional educational hierarchy are demonstrating agency beyond what is expected of people at the bottom of the pecking order. As my mom always said, “The teachers should run the schools”, and that is what’s starting to happening here. The only missing ingredient IMO… bringing the students into that school administrative and governance processes. Continue reading →

Strong Parenting Is Key to America’s Future

My eye caught the above title in an Education Week magazine on-line teaser and couldn’t resist reading the article, by Joseph Gauld, the founder of the Hyde Schools. I certainly wasn’t comfortable with his Cold War “us and them” framing of the need for good parenting…

Not so long ago, we vigorously opposed Russian Communism’s threat to our American beliefs. Now China is projected to replace us as the world’s economic leader… To reaffirm democratic principles for ourselves and other nations, we must meet China’s economic challenge to our leadership… Today, we need the leadership of American mothers, fathers, and all surrogate parents. We need them to begin to develop a standard of excellence in parenting and family, now and for future generations.

Classic hierarchical patriarchal stuff here, framing everything in terms of a high stakes competition between adversaries to determine superiors and inferiors, good and evil, within the pecking order. That rather than a more egalitarian view of China as a problematic peer and partner.

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