Thursday, April 02, 2015

assuming a lively mind

If you watch an American classroom where children have been taught to sit complaisantly as lessons are delivered, you might make an assumption that would be false under any other circumstances... that children's minds, particularly of the poor or lower classes are less than intellectually lively. These children may not have been given the necessary grooming for academic success, but it would be a serious error to fail to assume the presence of lively minds. Give them the right kinds of problems to solve and watch them work. The following is from Lilian Katz and her essay on "STEM in the Early Years":
There are at least two points to emphasize in connection with the importance of intellectual goals. The first is that it is easy to mistakenly assume that because some young children have not been exposed to the knowledge and skills associated with “school readiness” they lack the basic intellectual dispositions, such as to make sense of experience, to analyze, hypothesize, predict, as do their peers of more affluent backgrounds. Children of very low-income families may not have been read to or had opportunities to hold a pencil at home. But I suggest that it is a good idea to assume that they too have lively minds. Indeed, the intellectual challenges that many children face in coping with precarious environments in poor neighborhoods are likely to be substantial and often complex.
The problem, then is to utilize the intelligence available in the classroom rather than to anesthetize it. Katz notes that "intellectual dispositions may be weakened or even damaged by excessive and premature formal instruction," that fails to utilize and promote the intelligences of those who are not academically predisposed.

The following is also from Lilian Katz, in a keynote address Children as Learners, a developmental approach:
Principle No 7

When young children are introduced to formal instruction too early, too intensely and too abstractly, they may learn the knowledge and skills offered, but they may do so at the expense of the disposition to use them. For example, premature instruction in reading or arithmetic (especially through rote learning) may succeed in equipping children with the intended skills and knowledge at a rudimentary level; however, the processes of learning through such instruction may damage their dispositions to become readers and users of the numeracy skills and concepts so painfully acquired.
This principle noted by Katz has been called the "damaged disposition hypothesis" more commonly called the "second grade wash-out phenomenon." The point here is that learning is fun, the states of learning and inquiry are the child's most natural condition, and that schooling can take all the fun out of it and reverse the child's most necessary inclinations.

We can readily admit that in public education where there may be as many as 30 students in a classroom, it is absolutely impossible for a teacher to be attentive to the needs and concerns of all students. And yet, public education persists along the lines of that model. Even in classes where there is some interaction between the teacher and a few more assertive students, there will be quiet ones that even the best teachers will ignore.

Today I am packing materials to carry to Annapolis for three days of adult classes next week.  I learned this morning that to carry what I need as luggage will be only half the price of shipping back and forth via UPS. I will also finish a few things to ship to Appalachian Spring Gallery in D.C. and hold class for my upper middle and high school students.

Make, fix and create...

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