Sunday, March 31, 2013

Stresses of Autism

In a New York Times column here a mother describes a small window of time when her autistic son was eleven, her daughter was eight, and her marriage was failing.

A beautiful, moving piece.  Thank you.

There is a current blog at in which a mother with a low-functioning daughter with autism describes her day-to-day experiences.  It is also very moving, as well as giving the reader a real bread-and butter look af what it means to care for such a child.   The mother's insights are also, often, fresh and unexpected.  See especially her comments on the one child in fifty survey results.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Helping Students be Creative

The Huffington Post has a column here by the CEO of a software explaining that what he needs are employees who can think and plan creatively.  He worried that the current emphasis on testing is not producing these kind of future employees.

I think the education establishment forgets the spillover effect.  One  of my12th grade students explained to me why she would never take part in class discussions:  "Why would I think anyone would listen to me in school when no one listens to me at home?"

Why would we think students will magically be able to creatively work out problems when education more and more consists of following canned curriculum and taking standardized tests?

Protesting Corporate Control of Education

The Washington Post has an article here describing a protest to corporate control of school reform.

I completely agree with this protest.  I taught happily for 37 years but retired early.  I'm a big believer in local control of schools.  To paraphrase Winston Churchill, local control is the worst form of school management except for everything else.   The problems with local control can be fixed with elections and a new school committee;  problems with federal control (Common Core, testing etc), or big business control, are incredibly hard to fix.  

Hacking Your Education

The Huff Post has a column hereby a student explaining how he "hacked" his own education.

A great column from Mr. Birdwell, and evidence that he is working to acquire an excellent education. I'm a big believer that empowering students all the way down to preschool is the real way to turn education around in this country. It was only when I started allowing my high school students to choose most of their own reading, and writing assignments, that I saw them do really advanced work. 

Monday, March 25, 2013

Education and Same-Sex Marriage

Ed Week has an interesting article here discussing that possible consequences for teaching if the Supreme Court decides in favor of same-sex marriage.

I taught high school English in Massachusetts for 28 years.  Here’s the thing.  Yes, gay and lesbian issues do occasionally come up in English classes.  But that ended up being a small issue.  The larger issue is the hostile climate that can pervade a school when discrimination is allowed in the society as a whole.

When I first started teaching there, it was not uncommon to hear pejoratives hurled at gay and lesbian students in the halls and even in the classrooms.  Before gay marriage even became legal, my school system decided that it must educate students that gay and lesbian students were equal in every way to straight students, to try to overcome the hostile climate. 

A school that allows a hostile climate for gay and lesbian students, or for the children of same-sex unions, is opening itself to a lawsuit.  Children must be able to access their right to a free, public education, and a hostile climate can prevent them from exercising that right.

Obviously, there is just so much that a school system can do, but to protect itself from a lawsuit it must be seen as making a good faith effort to ensure that all students can learn in a safe, accepting environment.  I’m guessing that, whatever the outcome of these upcoming court cases, schools are going to have to educate to ensure a safe environment.

Overthrowing the Current Educational System

Forbes has a column here advocating the complete overthrow of the current educational system.  It's hard to tease out exactly what the author, Naveen Jain, is advocating--but some kind of system that will allow each children to be educated individually.  He wants us to think creatively.

I wanted to like this column but ended up just confused.  Yes, children learn differently but surely we have the same goals for most children:  sophisticated reading skills, competence in math, science, and technology, and some knowledge of history, foreign languages, and literature.   I’m not sure that simply overthrowing the current educational system will get us there.

What I would like to see is more study of students who are very competent, and schools that are working well.  What experiences have the students had?  What are good schools doing?  For example, I was a high school English teacher for 37 years, and am very sure that advanced reading skills are only acquired through wide, avid reading.  All of my great students loved books and read extensively.

I also think that schools need to be funded and controlled locally.  I think Winston Churchill’s  comment about democracy fits education as well:  Schools controlled by a locally elected school committee is the worst system of education except for everything else.