Janine Shamos

Reach for a dream

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Are we educating or hindering?

The education system is severely flawed but we seem to be becoming increasingly impotent when it comes to skill development, accountability and responsibility. Are we educating our youth with anything worth having?

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    Jul 9 2013: It depends on who "we" is. It is not uniform. If you are a teacher, it is indeed useful for you to reflect on your personal practice in this way. If you are not teaching anything worth knowing, it may be time to get help in changing your practice to be more effective or even to change your career. to something in which you believe you can make a more meaningful contribution.
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    Jul 8 2013: Here is what public education (in US) does well:
    1) Provides a safe environment for child care for children 5-18 years old while parents are at work.
    2) Teaches and allows social interaction in language arts.

    Most of that is accomplished by 7th grade (12-13 years old). K-6 works pretty good if under the guidance of one teacher.

    After that all formal individual attention is gone. Teachers try hard but it is futile. The education system degrades to one size fits all standardized low bar tests, instead of developing metrics based on each student's cognitive capability and other individual characteristics. Teachers know how to do this but the system is to big and inflexible to allow it.

    The system has also established a "normal student". This has caused 80% of the students on psychoactive drugs to be boys. Recently, girls that day dream are included in the regiment. Boys now are held back from learning a trade when they are most interested (9-10th grade). And actually gaining apprentice experience in a field. Plumbers and electricians are suffering a big shortage. Boys are failing in college at a much greater rate that girls. And attendance is much less than girls. Girls have, of course, been in situations just as serious.

    I see no way out of this.
    • Jul 9 2013: Gosh I think of Germany and Mexico when you state the above. The serious "should go to college" are in Honors classes by 8th grade. Good point why not better trade training.
      Finally, for the B group why is some sort of baby sitting a bad thing? The military does fine with D and C students Why not physical training and some select trade and other programmed training?
  • Jul 21 2013: We are hindering with a check list education system. I once told a teacher who I had no respect for (I might add that most of her students had no respect for her also) that it is a good thing children learn in spite of adults. She said she agreed with me and asked me why I said that to her.
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      Jul 22 2013: I have always believed that teachers have the incredible power to hold us in their hands and either open up their lingers and let us fly or crumple their hands into fists and make sure we are never allowed to even walk. Indeed, given the majority of teacher I have had over the years, it is certainly a blessing that children can learn in spite of their teachers. But I long for a world of passionate men and women so kids don't have to.
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    Jul 15 2013: Thank you all for your sage and guiding questions and feedback. Education always will be an area that I am passionate about - and one that I want to change! So watch this space, maybe one day soon, I'll be able to post some wonderful success stories.
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    Jul 15 2013: These same question came up in another form and I offer the book by Peter Gray as a good resource.
    The book is titled, "Free to Learn: Why Unleashing the Instinct to Play Will Make Our Children Happier, More Self-Reliant, and Better Students for Life."
    The author's argument is that education has systematically eliminated play and playing from a child development.

    "Our children spend their days being passively instructed, and made to sit still and take tests—often against their will. We call this imprisonment schooling, yet wonder why kids become bored and misbehave. Even outside of school children today seldom play and explore without adult supervision, and are afforded few opportunities to control their own lives. The result: anxious, unfocused children who see schooling—and life—as a series of hoops to struggle through."
  • Jul 14 2013: It is the most severe moment for eduation system.high technology,Internet,computer...all these new technologies are going to challenge the traditional education system.What is the orientation of education?We are on mess and have to go on and on by seeking,searching
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    Jul 9 2013: First I don't think I worded my topic too well (bad ex-English teacher!). But what I mean is: are we merely going through the motions and pushing kids up and out and into university but aren't letting them develop any sense of self, or purpose or accountability? And I don't mean to genera;lise - there are some phenomenal teachers, some incredible students, but are we letting the middle kids down?
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      Jul 9 2013: Janine, if you want to go back into your topic box above and edit it, you absolutely can do that!

      In my time in schools, I have never seen teachers "going through the motions" and not "letting them develop any sense of self, purpose, or accountability." In fact, teachers typically understand that there is a child-rearing component to their jobs, an aspect that is part of what draws teachers into the profession, particular in grades k-8.

      So I would have to say that ignoring these dimensions would describe only a small minority of teachers. The majority of teachers in the US, I believe, count this as an important part of their daily work.

      In fact, one reason some kids and classrooms fall behind others is that the teacher needs to spend so much time on cultivating these and other aspects of preparing to learn effectively and play a productive part in community. It doesn't work to try to skip it, as it is foundational.
    • Jul 10 2013: if you had the choice to teach someone WHAT to think vs. HOW to think, which would you choose?

      ......no blending :-)
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        Jul 10 2013: No choice. I'd want them to learn HOW to think - over everything learning how to critically think, HOW (and then letting them do ir because we can talk about and teach it but we need to help students actually do it all the time)
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    Jul 9 2013: and yet, it seems, we never actually learn from history - we repeat all the same mistakes! Thanks Raymond
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      Jul 9 2013: My thoughts (credit to Dr. Case, history professor and Dr. Meehan political science professor for trying to teach this stuff to me .. I am sure I did not get it all right)

      Given that recent personal history is those events experienced in a life time: We need to repeat the "mistakes" others have made in order to develop our personal "neural network" physiologic brain. We depend on that "gut instinct" later when making decisions. I do not think being told not to touch a hot stove programs our braiin in the same way as actually touching it.

      Indirect history is leaning from the experience of others. It is easier to learn from a trusted grand mother than someone in a history book. The grandparent provides answers to questions about the context of passed events they have experienced. In general, family culture is built on patterns of behavior that have been supported or not supported.

      I love history in books. I learned 5 different points of view of the causes of the "American Revolution". How does that effect my patterns of behavior now? The main lesson learned was to stand back as an observer an think on different points of view of a problem. First, to put the the problem in context of the "great scheme of things." Then acquire knowledge; assess it; model a solution; predict what the solution will do based on past knowledge; and then take action.

      Basically, we are riding down a river in a row boat. All we see is the past. After a while we learn the river and can predict what is up ahead. Even the waterfall.

      So, bottom line for education: Teach students how to define a problem; acquire knowledge; assess the knowledge; predict outcomes; and take action; then evaluate the action. Once that is learned they can use the teacher as a knowledge coach and explore on their own.
  • Jul 8 2013: If i may, what is your understanding of the PURPOSE of Education?
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    Jul 8 2013: Education teaches people of the way things work and of our history. The history part severely hinders our development. Too many carbon copies. Too many repeated false steps, like religion, war, control and possession.