Wednesday, May 27, 2015


Students are now burdened with 10-11 hours of common core testing. Some parents are worried that their children don't measure up. Other parents and groups of parents are in revolt, threatening boycotts and withdrawal of children during test days. Sir Ken Robinson says that education should be a human business, and not one in which children are expected to perform as machines.

Well, OK. This education business is not easy for anyone. Parents and policy makers put pressure on administrators. Administrators are strapped to budgets that allow only so many teachers for so many kids. Like in the game of Money Ball, they try to get the best teachers they can afford. And then along come folks like Sir Ken, and folks like me, who say that schools have it all wrong. What's an admin to do, but to attempt to carry forth in the same old manner with the scant resources that school boards provide? What you see in the cartoon is what we are talking about, and what we are rebelling against, and why the system is breaking.

When Kindergartens began taking American education by storm in the late 1800s, American educators faced a choice. Either change the rest of education to match the Kindergarten ideal, or change Kindergarten to conform to the strictures of traditional learning. At this point, you can see clearly which side won. But if you step back and watch children at work and at play you will see that learning is a basic impulse that should not be restrained.
"This craving of young children for information," says Bernard Perez, "is an emotional and intellectual absorbing power, as dominant as the appetite for nutrition, and equally needing to be watched over and regulated." – Froebel's Gifts, 1895
Today, I will be working on end of year conference reports, continuing to clean the wood shop at school in preparation for ESSA classes, and will attend a showing of Eureka, the art of being, at Crystal Bridges Museum. I have been asked to bring samples of my work for display.

Make, fix and create...


  1. A majority of the most sensible or refined people I've met in this country of ours are either over 50, or foreigners. And by sensible, I mean that they seem deeply connected with themselves and the other people they share the planet with. I've often wondered why this is: why the scarcity of soul in our youth and young adults. I don't feel my experience or socialization is unique, exceptional, or limited. And, regarding the foreign-born, why do I get the feeling that their culture offered them something... some element of soul and solidity that ours doesn't offer many of our youth?

    In the form of education and career obsession; in the form of lifestyle, fitness, or adventure worship; in the form of consumer & entertainment fixation, the lure, hyper-focus, and pursuit of these modalities of life (and the shallowness of most of their potential paths) might be responsible for the estranging self-and-image-centric spin that young Americans are under from their teens to their 40's. In the absence of focusing on how to empower our children and young people with a truly-needed, useful, creative, easily-accessible and sustaining skill-set, we have denied them a natural sense of real connection with the world; we have, perhaps, not sunk their feet in a firmament for autognosis, esteem, function, and social integration. More than simple distractions, I often wonder whether it truly stunts maturational growth in the form of personal and character development, landing us with some of the psychological/behavioral archetypes I seem to see much of today:
    -the financially stable but egomaniacal epicurean who fears commitment (vulnerability) and having children
    -the demotivated obese entertainment junkie sedated by garbage food, movies, and games
    -the cynic, highly resistant to authority, yet with no clear drive to forge their own future -- often losing their potential by self-distraction in a whirlwind of highly transient social circles...
    Et al.

    We've taken the natural way of being/doing/embodying/creating out of learning & living, and outsourced it. We've instead made the course to functional living and self/social worth a pathway of abstraction (passive learning, academia), and a competitive proving ground for placement in its hierarchy.

    This abstract learning isn't all bad, of course, but in more obvious ways these days, we're also beginning to reap the bitter harvest of policy makers and "good idea committees" that live and execute based on their over-valued learned abstraction. And even when they are not ulteriorly motivated (profit from the educational test industry and textbook monopolies), they are perceptually too far removed from knowing the relationship between their decisions/policies/initiatives, and how those things effect the actual mechanics of a classroom and school system.

    Beyond the topic of education, after studying other facets of society (eg prisons, military, social work, etc.), one thing I'm compelled to believe is this: in any given person, a lack of meaningful exchange (input & output) with their society leads to existential dilemma and mental health crisis. Simply put, in a society that doesn't make sense, only the crazy survive well.

    The bigger trouble with our education system functioning as it does now is that it *normalizes* nonsensical processes as functional in the eyes of our children. If we don't fight it, we're literally enculturating our children to passively accept and be judged by bullshit metrics.

  2. Thanks for your reflections on this. You've made some clear points. We have outsourced too much. When we asked others to make our stuff, we've outsourced the character and intellect that was earned in the process of making it. Then we've begun to outsource our own laziness and destructive relationship with natural resources. It is time to get back in touch with virtuous reality, meaning the real kind.