XO Elicia Clegg
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Before we start I would like to share with you a poem: I do not know who wrote it, but I do know it is from a high school senior who wrote it two weeks before he committed suicide…There are several copies of it floating out on the internet:
“He drew... the things inside that needed saying.
Beautiful pictures he kept under his pillow.
When he started school he brought them...
To have along like a friend.
It was funny about school, he sat at a square brown desk like all the other square brown
desks... and his room was a square brown room like all the other rooms, tight and close and
He hated to hold the pencil and chalk, his arms stiff
His feet flat on the floor, stiff, the teacher watching
And watching. She told him to wear a tie like
All the other boys, he said he didn't like them.
She said it didn't matter what he liked. After that the class drew.
He drew all yellow. It was the way he felt about Morning. The Teacher came and smiled,
Why don't you draw something like Ken's drawing?"
After that his mother bought him a tie, and he always Drew airplanes and rocket ships like
He was square inside and brown and his hands were stiff. The things inside that needed saying
didn't need it
Anymore, they had stopped pushing... crushed, stiff
Like everything else.
To be clear, I do not believe there is an epidemic of “dumb” children, as seems to be the wave of thought amongst the articles spewing this way and that. I do not believe that nothing can be done to help the so-called “dumb” children …We need to rise above the following notion and get away from this type of thinking: (Now this is not to say that there are no disabilities, such as down-syndrome and the like…but these too can be addressed)
…..John Taylor Gatto, a teacher of more than 30 years said or perhaps asked:
If you believe nothing can be done for the dumb except kindness, because it’s biology (the bell-curve model); if you believe capitalist oppressors have ruined the dumb because they are bad people (the neo-Marxist model); if you believe dumbness reflects depraved moral fiber (the Calvinist model); or that it’s nature’s way of disqualifying boobies from the reproduction sweepstakes (the Darwinian model); or nature’s way of providing someone to clean your toilet (the pragmatic elitist model); or that it’s evidence of bad karma (the Buddhist model); if you believe any of the various explanations given for the position of the dumb in the social order we have, then you will be forced to concur that a vast bureaucracy is indeed necessary to address the dumb. Otherwise they would murder us in our beds.
And I answer: NO!!!! Despite what I have been told…I don’t think there is a vast amount of stupid, or slow children, or that they should be labeled as such…It is true a child may learn at a different rate…But why does that child then have to be labeled as “slow” or “disabled”….HMMMM
All Right, Let us Dive in: We know there is a problem with our educational system (don’t worry I am going to give a solution…at least my solution)
One needs only to look at the amount of money spend each year to know there is a problem. According to IES: America spends over 638 billion a year on public elementary and secondary education that is $11,184.00 per student. What is this money being spent on?
As John Taylor Gatto Stated: “Socrates foresaw if teaching became a formal profession, something like this would happen. Professional interest is served by making what is easy to do seem hard; by subordinating the laity to the priesthood. School is too vital a jobs-project, contract giver and protector of the social order to allow itself to be "re-formed." It has political allies to guard its marches, that’s why reforms come and go without changing much. Even reformers can’t imagine school much different.”
(He goes on to explain the plight of school)…the heart of the problem: David learns to read at age four; Rachel, at age nine: In normal development, when both are 13, you can’t tell which one learned first—the five-year spread means nothing at all. But in school I label Rachel "learning disabled" and slow David down a bit, too. For a paycheck, I adjust David to depend on me to tell him when to go and stop. He won’t outgrow that dependency. I identify Rachel as discount merchandise, "special education" fodder. She’ll be locked in her place forever.
In 30 years of teaching kids rich and poor I almost never met a learning disabled child; hardly ever met a gifted and talented one either. Like all school categories, these are sacred myths, created by human imagination. They derive from questionable values we never examine because they preserve the temple of schooling.”
Now I really want you to think about that. Think of a student who may have struggled through elementary, but magically caught on and excelled in Junior high. Why is that? We all learn at different paces…perhaps.
So where did we really go wrong? We get it, education has become an assembly line, and dare I say that Woodrow Wilson’s statement made just before World War I, in a speech given before businessmen come true? “We want one class to have a liberal education, we want another class, a very much larger class of necessity, to forgo the privilege of a liberal education and fit themselves to perform specific, difficult, and manual tasks.” And don’t forget…In 1918 Benjamin Kidd wrote: “impose on the young the ideal of subordination.” Doesn’t that make you feel all warm and fuzzy, your kids are being taught to be subordinate, to toe the line, and do manual tasks. (Don’t believe me, look at the stories they have to read…take a deep and long look…Sample: Two Bad Ants.) Indeed School has accomplished this…hasn’t it? Art is not really taught, PE is going by the wayside, reading has turned into reading manuals over and over again…We’ll get to that in a moment….and Tests…always test…What happened to Quizzes?
I personally believe that Tests were a supplement of learning. We learn something, take a quiz, fix our mistakes…and move forward…
As of late I have a sneaky feeling that education, at its root, is attempting to destroy our natural innate desire to learn. Why do I think this? Let me give you some examples of destroying our natural love of learning: We’ve all seen the new math…and while a deeper understanding of math is important…we don’t need to drag it into an insane mess. If a child deeply understand 1 + 1 = 2 and 2-1 = 1, then why can’t that be applied to 3008 + 102? So we won’t go into that…If you haven’t seen new math. Please look into it.
We are going to talk about new reading.
I found a video produced for Common Core about “close” reading presented by McGraw-Hill education. They talk about having the children read a “passage” ….I will quote Douglas Fisher
Douglas Fisher defined Close Reading as, “Careful and Purposeful reading. Well actually it is re-reading. It is a careful and purposeful re-reading of a text. It is an encounter with a text were the students really focus on what the Author had to say. What the author’s purpose was, what the words mean, what the structure of the text tells us? It really is getting to what Louise Rosenblat talking about getting to the transaction between the reader and the text (WHAT? A TRANSACTION) Louise Rosenblat the originator of Reader Response Theory really talked about understanding what the Author had to say and not impugning (challenging or questioning) those Authors words BUT really getting what the Author had to say and bringing some of your own ideas to bear on that text.”
“In a close reading we have to have students reread the text (BORING) we give them questions. Text dependent questions that require they go back into the text and search for answers. These aren’t simply recall questions, just the facts of the text but rather questions that allow students to think about the text (Wait, if they are asking the questions doesn’t that mean they are directed the students thoughts?) And the author’s purpose, and the structure, and the flow of the text. Close reading requires that the students actually think and understand what they are reading.”
Close reading is not in the Common Core states standards, however it does state that you have to learn the text well? Common Core says to provide evidence and justification for their answers….Which in theory is a great idea….Seriously….But this can be misleading…Students will be given a text, asked questions and are only able to provide evidence for their “answers” using the GIVEN text…this is a form of controlling free thought….under the guise of free thought.
Ask yourself this: When you read a book, you chose, and love that book…You can talk about it endlessly, go over it without a care…RIGHT?
Please do a search for lesson plans and would will see what I am talking about. An example. Grade 3 they will spend 5 days reading “The Fisherman and his Wife” great story, love the Grimm brothers…but they are to read it, then re-read it, and re-read it again. Then they talk about it, dissect it, all to get a deeper understanding of literature.
So an 8 to 9 year old: Will have to do the following.
Day one: They read it twice, and then do a group activity of Word Play (which is a fill in the blank of the story, thus they read it again).
Day two: The teacher poses a focused question: Why does the sea change throughout the story? They talk about it for 5 to 10 minutes. Then the students pair up and find evidence relating to the focus question.
Day three: They ask the focus question again…Finish their research…then get to use watercolor paints in order to create a visual of the text marked (that part is fun)
Day four: Students reflect on their notes and discuss their findings as a class. The student then develops a concise, single sentence answering the focus question.
Day Five: Students again go over the focus question. Then, using the sentence, they write a paragraph on the focus question.
By my count, over the span of five days: The child will read the story 4 times, and only write a single paragraph focused on a single question from the text. Though I love this story…I don’t love it enough to read it 4 times over five days…and answer a single question….I would be bored out of my mind…And I am an adult…not a 9 year old child…But maybe…Then again:
Two quotes from Kelly Gallagher’s book “Readicide”: What has gone wrong in our schools: the creation of readicide through intensive overanalyzes of literature and nonfiction. Young readers are drowning in a sea of sticky notes, marginalia, and double-entry journals and, as a result, their love of reading is being killed in the one place where the nourishment of a reading habit should be occurring – in school”
“On my desk is a copy of the Los Angeles Unified School District’s (2007) unit of study for teaching To Kill a Mockingbird. This study unit, a guide to teaching Harper Lee’s timeless novel, contains overarching questions, chapter study questions, essay questions, vocabulary lessons, activities for specific chapters, guided reading lessons, directions for setting up a writer’s notebook, literary analysis questions, collaborative activities, oral presentations, handouts, transparencies, displays, quizzes, and projects. It also comes with an almost incomprehensible unit guide. This guide is 122 pages long – almost half the length of the actual novel! … If I were to follow this curricular guide step-by-step in my classroom, there is little doubt my students would exit my class hating To Kill a Mockingbird forever. Worse, students who have been taught to hate To Kill a Mockingbird will find themselves much farther down the road toward hating all reading. . . . No student ever achieved reading flow from analyzing every nook and cranny of a complex work. Students in these reading situations are not coming up for air. They are coming up for life preservers. . . . The over analysis of books creates instruction that values the trivial at the expense of the meaningful. . . . ”As I look at the 122-page teaching guide for To Kill a Mockingbird, . . . the value in teaching this book is when we use this great book as a springboard to examine issues in today’s world. This opportunity seems to be largely missing in the district’s mandated curriculum. A golden opportunity for our children to read, to write, and to debate about relevant issues is buried under 122 pages of mind-numbing instructions.
I could go on and on…But I will stop here…as I am sure some people will disagree with what I just said, and that is fine: Why? It shows freedom of thought…And that is what we need now more than ever.
A side note though. The premise of the Common core is accurate, form standards…Use them to guide the child along the vast journey of acquiring deeper knowledge. YET what it can’t address…and what is the underlying problem…Is that children are unique, they learn differently…and each has a unique skill…As they say: Grade all the animals based off climbing a tree and every fish will fail.
What is my solution: And this is just my opinion…nothing more…so please take it as such…as in I am exercising of my freedom of speech.
Well you aren’t going to get it from the system that is broke. You can continue to attempt to change it…but without a solid plan…it is going to take years…But continue on….Just as I do. I personally look at the education system as a shattered vase…It might be more prudent to build a different vase rather than try to keep gluing it together.
I believe that children need a chance to develop at their own speed and accomplish basic ideas so that they may flourish and thrive and not just become another cog in the machine.
I believe that the basic ideas and concepts needed to open a child’s mind can be taught by age 16, which at that time children should be allowed to either move on to college, or start in the work force. I don’t believe children should stay in school all year nor do I think the amount of time should be dedicated to one “piece” of text which in reality isn’t going to help them be free thinkers. I don’t think they should spend weeks testing…This drastic of a change is not going to happen anytime soon.
In the meantime…We need to worry and focus in on this generation…the ones caught up in a mess of politics and tears.
I would first state the solution needs to come from within the home. If you feel comfortable home schooling, like I do, then do it…But be sure you are ready to take on the challenge….This is what I do…I base my educational system off of principles I have learned through studying different educators who have worked in the field for decades….Stay tuned those who will not home school…because I also have an idea for you as well.
What we do is create a Long Term Goals…The overall objective…and get to that objective by layering steps catering to the child’s ability and willingness to learn.
Long Term Goals….Upon graduating (at 16) I would like my child to have the following skill sets (Don’t worry…she also has to learn the stuff the Department of Education requires: LA, Social Studies, Tech. Ed, Math, Science, health education, and responsible healthy lifestyles) the following is for the real learning.
1. My child will have a strong Act of Literacy: Writing, Reading, and Public Speaking. (These are all easy to meet. Write well? Write every day. Read well: read every day. Public Speaking, provide opportunities for the child to speak in front of at least one stranger….)
2. She will have good manners and politeness (this would curtail a lot of bullying, it is prudent, that when you take this on, you must also live by it…Lead by example)
3. My child will have the ability to do Independent Work! (She will be able to set a goal and follow it through)
4. My child will have an understanding of Responsibility. (This can walk hand in hand with Independent Work.)
5. My child will have an understanding of the Arts: Poetry, sculpture, dance, architecture, music, etc.
6. My child will have the accurate ability to observe and record. (This means she will need to learn to draw!)
7. My child will engage in Energetic Physical Sports. (This can be as simple as walking every day)
8. Over time and through practical use, I would like her to develop a personal code of standards.
9. She will have the ability to deal with challenges of all sorts. (If you get knocked down…Stand back up)
10. She will develop sound judgment skills and understand the caution needed in reasoning to conclusions.
11. Build a strong foundation for math and all its practical applications and utilize it to unlock deep thinking
12.Practical life skills: How to grow food, manage money, build an emergency shelter, etc…
13.She will be fluent in at least 3 language.
Okay….So let us put these principles into a manageable form…For a challenging situation: Single parent working two jobs.
If you can the best solution would be to get the support of family. Do you have a grandparents with a few extra hours a week? Do you have an older sibling? Family is a great solution…but if not…if you are all alone…Let’s work with what you have.
First and foremost DON’T BECOME OVERWHELMED. As you go along it will get easier…and you will see the natural progression of both you and your child or children. Have fun with it. Start small…take one goal at a time and then start stacking it…Don’t go overboard and come up with a lesson plan full of every single goal…especially if your child already has school and has homework…this will possibly back fire. Set up your overall goals. Overall…long run stuff…Keep them manageable…like mine are manageable. And if it were me…me…my opinion…don’t send your kid to summer school, this is valuable time that can be used to accomplish the long range goals of creating a FREE THINKING…INDIVIDUAL…
Example: The Arts. This is one of the easier goal to accomplish, yet is so very important and our children are being denied it all the time. Art is all around us, from the structure of our home, to the blue skies, to the tree drooping after a rain storm.
For younger kids Art will be easy. What I do…I have bought an empty journal with blank pages, no lines, it cost about 2.50. I bought colored pencils, another 2.50, and regular pencils: 2.50. Every other day my child picks out something to draw: She started out with cute little smiley faced fruits. She draws it twice in one day….Once with her right hand…Once with her left hand. (This is because she is working on a scientific hypothesis right now) Have I required her to watch videos on how to draw? Not yet…not until she is ready to get better…She simply draws, and colors it in…And strangely enough she is getting better…As she gets older she may want to incorporate learning drawing technics, but for now…she is in complete control.
Good manners and politeness are actually the easiest to accomplish and really don’t take any time. Lead by example. Always say please and thank you…Especially out in public: Example: The cashier says: Did you find everything you needed? Why yes, thank you for asking. When you order food: may I please have this or that…? Good manners may seem like a stupid outdated thing…But in reality…we could all use a little kindness.
Physical Activity….Find what they love…This was hard for me, but we found a sport Raven Loves…Karate… but for those who can’t afford it…or any sport…invest a little time in learning what your city has to offer, sometimes they have special summer programs for kids at reasonable prices. You can also check with school’s like Bravo Academy or others who also have reasonably priced activities…still too prices….Then: Walk with your kid every day…This accomplishes two things: It allows your bond as parent and child to grow…plus gives both you and your child much needed physical activity.
A Strong Literacy: Read with your child 20 minutes a day…that simple. Have your child keep a “diary” not something that is a personal thought…maybe I should use the term journal. Start simple. Have them write one sentence. From there…build…Okay…By the end of this month I would like you to write 5 sentences 3 days a week: Even if the child writes: The dog ate the bone. That is fine…because seriously, over time they will want to come up with more clever sentences. Above all….Make sure the sentence is spelled correctly and that the grammar is right.
So Again…Start out small…The above really only takes about an hour of your time: 20 minutes to read, 30 minutes to walk, and about 10 minutes to look at their art work and go over their sentences. Find a rhythm…and go from there.
Our challenge as parents, if we so wish is to correct what the present educational system is not capable of doing: It cannot create an individualized learning plan nor have the flexibility of allowing a child to flourish at their own pace. If anything I would stress at least 3 Goals or objectives.
ART…Are kids need it…you can easily provide it.
Literacy skills: So important, you could have the brightest child in the world…but if they can’t communicate this intelligence to others…they may be stifled and never achieve the greatness they can. Read every day…Even if it is a comic book…READ.
Physical Activity: Get the moving…anyway you can.
I hope this helps someone…or at least gives you an idea of how we can change the system…by simply changing ourselves. Summer is coming…It is quite possibly the BEST time to sit down and talk with your children…talk to those around you…find out ways to help your child develop independent thought. Help them to become more than a simple little worker ant gathering sugar for the queen.