• Bridging Differences

    In Bridging Differences
    Deborah exchanges views with a different colleague, each for a month or two.  Her current correspondent is Harry Boyte, a Minnesotan (although his roots are southern). He has always been a friend and mentor, even though we come to stuff in different ways and even disagree on and off. He is a professor and an activist, a theorist and a practitioner, with a focus on democracy—beginning a long time ago when he worked with Martin Luther King. He has written or edited ten books on the topic and founded a Center on
    democracy which is now at St Augsberg College, but formerly at the University of Minnesota.  

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    Dec 1-3, 2016 Fall Forum Coalition of Essential Schools: Providence, Rhode Island

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Ready to Learn

Out of the mouths of the experts designing our new expanded prekindergarten program.

We’re trying to ensure all children are ready to learn when they get to school,” said Neera Tanden, the president and CEO of the think tank and a former top policy official in the Obama administration. “Investing in early learning and pre-K is the best investment that we can make. The return on investment is significant.”

What does Neera Tandeny think little children are doing from the time they leave the womb until they arrive in a 3 year old, 4 year old or 5 year old classroom??? We used to try and figure out how we could keep the miraculous learning that ALL children engage in from birth to 5 alive and well after they get to school. Make a list of everything they know and know how to do that they didn’t at the time of birth. Even the most backward “talkers” are developing a vocabulary (regardless of dialect, et al) that we’d think inconceivable if we tried to provide for it by direct instruction. We are a specie that has no choice but to be learners, except under the most extreme forms of sensory deprivation.

If we don’t acknowledge this, and appreciate it we can’t be effective allies if are not learners ourselves. We must meet children with pleasure and pride at what they HAVE accomplished, not a list of remedial tasks to compensate for what they haven’t. We must join with them as learners, as most mothers seem to know how to do instinctively. Joining with, learning alongside, partnering, enjoying–that’s the language of good early childhood interactions between adults and children.

Then–above and beyond–we need to address as a society the deprivations that poverty itself inflicts–in country of great wealth we have the most astounding percentage of children in deep poverty. We outdo the developed world in poverty, malnutrition and incarceration! That’s a huge and critical investment that shouldn’t get mindlessly “added to” a good classroom. It needs the collaboration of parents and teachers, but the expertise of a society that already knows what it means to have good housing, good medical care, and neighborhood safety–but that isn’t getting to about 25% of its children. Let’s not burden them or their teachers further by trying “to teach them to learn”.


5 Responses

  1. If only these heducation hacks could be half as “ready to learn” as the average 4-year-old …

  2. Excellent point made. They need only read the 1st chapter in Pasi Sahlberg’s “Finnish Lessons” to realise that kindergarten is indeed the children’s play garden – the Scandinavians in general encourage rather than suppress play as the natural means to engage with the world and hence learn.

    The hijacking of education by the elite is a crime that is hard to bear.

    • We keep expressing our need to learn from and duplicate Finland’s success without ‘Doing’ Finland. US is so far off the mark that we need to stop talking about competing with Finland. I love the type of education Finnish children receive, right up my alley. However, Big$ corporations in US only use kids for $$$ purposes. Testing vultures are making millions off our kids. Not about kids, only $$$. Disgusting!

  3. We should be providing Brian Cambourne’s conditions of learning.

  4. Deb, you talk often of poverty.

    There is poverty of money and poverty of culture. For a few children, poverty of money will be an impassible hurdle. (Untreated medical issues, etc.)

    Yet the view here is that we must ‘fix’ poverty of money before we can fix poverty of culture. I find that backwards.

    90% of what is learned is school is about mental and emotional discipline, about asking questions before leaping to judgement, about basic facts on which to form those questions. (The US Deficit has increased ___-fold since 1980; US govt spending /GDP is ___ that of WWII; Ice ages arrive every _____ thousand years; its been _____ since the last ice age. ___% of the upper middle class are born out of wedlock; ___ of the poor are born to single mothers. The control laws for a robot that cleans up a garbage dump are ____.)

    I don’t know how we fix the poverty of culture. But if we don’t at least acknowledge it in discussions like this, I can’t see things going anywhere but worse.

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