A composition of other people’s thoughts and ideas… with a theme.

How to Bring our Schools Out of the 20th Century by Claudia Wallis, Sonja Steptoe, Time Magazine cover story Dec. 18, 2006

“For the past five years, the national conversation on education has focused on reading scores, math tests and closing the “achievement gap” between social classes. This is not a story about that conversation. This is a story about the big public conversation the nation is not having about education, the one that will ultimately determine not merely whether some fraction of our children get “left behind” but also whether an entire generation of kids will fail to make the grade in the global economy because they can’t think their way through abstract problems, work in teams, distinguish good information from bad or speak a language other than English.”

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An Alien in an Alien World by David Warlick,

“I wonder how many natural mathematicians, engineers, artists, composers, story tellers and innovators we are wasting, when we measure our schools almost exclusively on their ability to produce good test takers.

How many natural born leaders are we squandering as we teach them to listen, watch, follow direction, regurgitate facts, to sit down and shut up. How many leaders are we losing when we teach them to be taught — in stead of teaching them to teach.

How alien are our classrooms?”

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Do schools today kill creativity?

Sir Ken Robinson

Sir Ken Robinson makes an entertaining (and profoundly moving) case for creating an education system that nurtures creativity, rather than undermining it.

“Truthfully what happens is that, as children grow up, we start to educate them progressively from the waste up. And then we focus on their heads, and slightly to one side…”

“My contention is that all kids have tremendous talents and we squander them, pretty ruthlessly.”

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The eternal question… Why? by Kris, a 15 year old I had the pleasure of teaching.

Here it is from a student who will be a lifelong learner, dare I say… despite her schooling. She is the one that sent me the time article above, which got me thinking about compiling this post.

“To the adult readers out there: this is how public education is contributing to your child’s success. We list the qualities we have in one column, the qualities we don’t in another, and write about how the qualities we have will make us nice, successful white collar workers someday, coupled with a post-secondary education and a Graduation Portfolio with bureacratically-documented evidence (signed in triplicate) of us kissing the toes of their shiny black shoes.

Of course, like every student who hopes of one day becoming a successful, white collar worker, the answer I intend to put down is a lot less sarcastic and a lot more Ministry-friendly. There is satisfaction in lashing out at public education on a blog, and there is self-preservation in doing exactly what they tell you on the work you hand in. I have a hunch the Ministry won’t like it, but I still wonder, as I hope others will: “Why?”

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Adopt and Adept by Marc Prensky

“…technology adoption… It’s typically a four-step process:

  1. Dabbling.
  2. Doing old things in old ways.
  3. Doing old things in new ways.
  4. Doing new things in new ways.

…Some people will no doubt worry that, with all this experimentation, our children’s education will be hurt. “When will we have time for the curriculum,” they will ask, “and for all the standardized testing being mandated?” If we really offered our children some great future-oriented content (such as, for example, that they could learn about nanotechnology, bioethics, genetic medicine, and neuroscience in neat interactive ways from real experts), and they could develop their skills in programming, knowledge filtering, using their connectivity, and maximizing their hardware, and that they could do so with cutting-edge, powerful, miniaturized, customizable, and one-to-one technology, I bet they would complete the “standard” curriculum in half the time it now takes, with high test scores all around. To get everyone to the good stuff, the faster kids would work with and pull up the ones who were behind.

In other words, if we truly offer our kids an Edutopia worth having, I believe our students will work as hard as they can to get there.

So, let’s not just adopt technology into our schools. Let’s adapt it, push it, pull it, iterate with it, experiment with it, test it, and redo it, until we reach the point where we and our kids truly feel we’ve done our very best. Then, let’s push it and pull it some more. And let’s do it quickly, so the twenty-second century doesn’t catch us by surprise with too much of our work undone.

A big effort? Absolutely. But our kids deserve no less.”

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Animal School– by R.Z. Greenwald… Curriculum: Running, Flying, Climbing, and Swimming

Animal School Slideshow

(Click this button in the link provided to view this movie/slideshow)

Schools do not make accommodations for individual talents and learning styles. A slide show of a story I read a long time ago… still priceless!

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Creativity Killer: Discouraging creativity in children, © Leslie Owen Wilson, 1997, 2004

“It is perhaps ironic that within our culture we insist that we place such value on creativity and then blatantly try to steal it away from children in the contexts of their educational experiences and their upbringing. As a culture we need to finally decide what we really want for our children and then carefully design and monitor experiences which provide those things we value.”

This has links to 3 versions of The Little Boy by Helen Buckley.

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Why does engineering/math/science education in the US suck? by Kathy Sierra

What we Teach vs What they need

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Where do we go from here? We can keep looking at Kathy Sierra for the answer!

Big Wall

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I started this blog with a post titled, The purpose of a system is what it does, and I started this post with a ‘Time’ (or perhaps ‘Timeless’) article that states in the second paragraph,

“American schools aren’t exactly frozen in time, but considering the pace of change in other areas of life, our public schools tend to feel like throwbacks. Kids spend much of the day as their great-grandparents once did: sitting in rows, listening to teachers lecture, scribbling notes by hand, reading from textbooks that are out of date by the time they are printed. A yawning chasm (with an emphasis on yawning) separates the world inside the schoolhouse from the world outside.”

Incremental changes will not take us where we need to be. Standardized testing, outdated curriculum and unwired classrooms won’t get us there. Teachers using a white Smart Board to simply replace the green chalk board, which replaced the blackboard, won’t get us there.

What profound change is needed? I don’t think one teacher at a time can do it. What is going to get us over the Big Frickin’ Wall?

Note my “Articulate Thinkers” post, Jan. 29/07, based on an e-mail ‘conversation’ I had almost three years ago…

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Dec. 18. It has been a while since I looked at Christopher D. Sessums’ Weblog. He just added me to his friends list here on eduspaces and I visited his blog again. I found his post with this apple commercial… which pays tribute to the misfits/the crazies/ the ‘Round Pegs in the Square Holes’.

It reminded me of the main reason I wrote this post, which I alluded to, but didn’t really mention. Many of the Square/Round Peg Students (that don’t fit into our other-shaped schools) are the future thinkers/dreamers/innovators that are going to meaningfully change our world. We need to recognize their future value… We have an obligation to nurture them, and to develop their enthusiasm for learning. It isn’t just about not stifling creativity or not making schools so alien… it is about creating an environment where every child can thrive… Not making the misfits fit, but rather helping them create a space that fits them. [I think that the technology is now available to make this easier!]

Jan. 8th. Kris directs me to this Story from the Front-Lines. (A teacher’s frustration with pegs and holes.)

And I’m demoralized, as I’m now having to tell kids, “A paragraph is an idea – unless your teacher tells you it’s five to seven sentences, and then that’s what it is.”

Jan. 16th. I found this in the inaugural post of madamespider, yet another example of a student’s frustration…

“Let me just say this: I hate school with a passion. You’ll never find someone who loves education more than I do, don’t get me wrong, but as far as I’m concerned, school is not education. I believe one should learn because they want to and understand the value of knowledge, not have it shoved down their throats by the school board or government or whoever.”

…and here again, in reaction to this post, is madamespider,

“Looking back on the talks and ’specialists’ they tried to send me to within the school, I now realize that they were treating me as if I had a behavior problem or learning disability. Like I needed their support to do better. That’s not what I needed. I needed something to make it matter to me. That’s what I still need.”

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Feb. 3rd, 07 Here is a quote from Bruce Springsteen,

“I wasn’t quite suited for the educational system. One problem with the way the educational system is set up is that it only recognizes a certain type of intelligence, and it’s incredibly restrictive — very, very restrictive. There’s so many types of intelligence, and people who would be at their best outside of that structure [get lost]. Most of the schools, they’re aiming to build you up and get you into the machine.”

I found this on ‘The Genius in All of Us‘ blog by David Shenk… this is an interesting blog to explore further!

Originally posted: December 10th, 2006

Reflection upon re-reading and re-posting:

Here are a couple of the comments from the original post:

  1. I really appreciate the feedback, and I’ve responded to all this on my blog. It’s rather lengthy, but it’s basically my perspective on the whole matter of my schooling. Hopefully it will yield something worth thinking about, though it’s rather disorganized. I’ll certainly revisit the subject, I’ve got a lot to say =)

    madamespider on Wednesday, 17 January 2007, 02:21

  2. Great work Dave. It’s going to take me a week to get through all these links! Maybe you could wiki this for those of us who only have snippets of time to look at things. Awesome dude (quote from a 15 year old as we watched a student video creation. Thought that line was dead!)

    Kelly Christopherson on Friday, 25 May 2007, 08:23

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This post was very instrumental to my thinking and it was inspired by a former student, Kris. Later, I helped inspire one of her posts and it got a little bit of attention: How to Prevent Another Leonardo da Vinci was a finalist in the 2007 Edublog Awards in the Most Influential category. Now I am helping her by hosting her blog, and she is helping me with some tech support… the teacher/student lines are blurred. It is no longer about established roles, but rather it is about learners helping each other… hubs in a learning network.

Many times I thought I would create a sequel to this post, or take Kelly’s advice and start a wiki. However now it seems so obviously pessimistic to do so. This post says it all… I don’t need to wallow in yet more examples of how schools don’t fit students. As I said above, “it is about creating an environment where every child can thrive.” For that to happen we need differentiated instruction, we need a flexible curriculum, and we need teachers that are the same life-long learners we hope our students become.

7 comments on “Square Peg, Round Hole

  1. I never knew where the quote came from, and had never seen it (in all my 31 years)until I saw it covering a wall at the entrance of my son’s school. I felt as if both of us had come home. Let’s not forget that these “misfits” grow up and are forced to conform to other ideas/values. They are persecuted and misunderstood in every profession including teaching. How can we expect to teach children to appreciate and respect the differences in others if we don’t appreciate, respect, and, at least, try to understand those differences amongst ourselves. Different is not a threat or a lack of intelligence…it is, put quite simply, difference. It is what makes the world what it is, and how we learn from each other. The thinkers are often stifled in the workplace in an attempt to force them to conform and “break’ them. There are some horses, like people who cannot be broken, because, if they are, so is their spirit.

  2. Thank you for this very insightful comment Doralisa… wisdom beyond your years:-)

    I especially like this line: How can we expect to teach children to appreciate and respect the differences in others if we don’t appreciate, respect, and, at least, try to understand those differences amongst ourselves.

    That’s one of the reasons why I like what technology can do in education… it allows students to differentiate the learning for themselves, it lets students take charge of their own learning, and it gives students the power to extend their learning into interests beyond the classroom.

    I tried to share this idea in my video that I just blogged about, Who are the people in you neighbourhood?

    Thanks again for this thoughtful comment!

  3. Hi Dave,
    I am sending this on to my favourite administrator, whose main job at the board office is looking at graduation rates, or, in less bean-counterish language “improving the life-chances of every child.” This puts the discussion on one plate. Thanks.

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