Saturday, October 10, 2009

failing schools in Arkansas

Of the 1081 public schools in Arkansas this year 407 have failed to meet prescribed "yearly progress standards." That is a 37.6 percent failure rate following 7 years of "No Child Left Behind" legislation. Could it possibly be that the missing link in our children's education could be something as simple as the human hand?
"...the human hand and brain co-evolved as a behavioral system." --Frank Wilson, author of The Hand: How Its Use Shapes the Brain, Language, and Human Culture.
We neglect the education of our children's hands only to put their minds at risk.


  1. In the corporate world, if a program doesn't produce positive results after three months, it's scrapped. In the bureaucratic world, a failing program is allowed to continue for SEVEN YEARS! I'm nauseous just thinking about it...

  2. Turning an educational system is a bit more challenging than turning an ocean liner. It won't turn on a dime. And corporations are killing us with their short-term, bottom line, bottom feeding mentality. So if the hands ever get a full test in education, I hope they will give them more than 3 months before they change direction.

    The important part is to have a worthy captain at the wheel. Bush thought that he could use standardized testing to drive change. It was like the Taylorizing of education that took place in the 30's when time and motion studies were the rage and people thought that they could improve education by making it more like manufacturing.

    We keep trying to fix education by using allegories drawn from industry, corporations, the economy, and most currently, the computer. "The little darlings just need to be hardwired to the internet, right?" But it would be best if we based education on an understanding of children. It is what Froebel did, and Montessori did, but what we seem to have no patience for. It is like the child told to discover the sound of one hand clapping. He ran all over the place, looking for what it might be while the answer was there all the time, in the observation of his own hands. What is there about reality that they just don't get?

  3. "The important part is to have a worthy captain at the wheel."

    To my mind, that belief is the problem. We keep endlessly search for the right captain, electing Rs and Ds and independents, and the schools never improve. Is there any point at which we will decide the basic system is at fault, regardless of the captain? If we had a voucher system, where the money followed the child, and no government run school systems, then parents could send their child to a school where the hands were involved if they chose. It's incomprehensible to me... to feed the hungry, we issue food vouchers- we don't have government run farms and grocery stores. To clothe the naked and house the homeless, we issue relief checks and section eight vouchers, we don't have government run weavers and homebuilders. To build a road or a bridge, we take bids from construction companies rather than employ government contstructors. In all other aspects of public life, the government pays for things, it doesn't try to do it itself... but somehow when education is mentioned, it is always presumed that the system must be owned and operated by the government, with all aspects controlled by a one size fits all matrix.

  4. Joe, I think vouchers would be a good thing in some areas, and they would be a very clear benefit to schools like my own. But public education is a very strong tradition in the US.

    I don't know what the answer is on funding. But we need new school models like the one Clear Spring presents.

  5. You're right about having patience. I feel the pressure from the parents and administrators every day in the classroom: Why aren't those 4-yr olds reading? When will they start doing math?

    But at the same time, a bad method of education (NCLB) will not help, no matter how much time you give it. As you say, the answers are already there, but we need to give them (and our children) time to develop.

  6. Parents are certainly part of the problem. Many think their child is the next baby Einstein, but the pressures put the child behind rather than ahead. I am reminded of a zen poem, "inch, time, foot, gem, each moment is a precious flower that will not bloom again."

    If there is some way to counsel your parents to find joy in each moment with their child... What is the great rush? But they start comparing notes and then feel some sense of inadequacy if they haven't supercharged their child's experience and launched him or her like a rocket into the future. There is too much fear and self doubt, but the child is hardwired to learn and grow on its own, given love and a stable home and school environment.