Monday, November 19, 2012


Have you heard the talk?  There's a lot of talk about education -- news alerts  -- the U.S. has dropped to 14th place in the world, and educators are still discussing teachers' strikes, cheating at Harvard, very focused on why kids should (or shouldn't)  bother getting a college education.

Hey, people have been raising kids for about two million years. You'd think by now they'd be sure what to do.  Don't we know, by now, that kids who get good grades do better in life than kids who get bad grades or don't go to school?

Okay, but now there's a trickle of thought that says academic ability may not be what it's cracked up to be.  Also, there is a flood of books on how to fix education in America. The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and its program for International Student Assessment, that compares the knowledge and skills of 15-year-olds in 70 countries around the world, ranked the U.S. 14th in reading skills, 17th for science, and way below average -- 25th for mathematics. 

So everyone's reading books, saying teachers gotta do this, schools, parents, and kids gotta do that.

"FAILURE IS NOT AN OPTION,"  by Alan M. Blankstein, shows how to avoid ten common routes to failure, how to double the resources, (with case histories, and examples) and suggests how a failing school can become a winning school.
  "WIN,"  by Pamela Grundy, examines the way school sports (starting in North Carolina,) affected industry, women's suffrage, the rise and fall of Jim Crow, and in high school and college -- how athletics has grown into one of America's most beloved and most controversial institutions.

"TEACH YOUR CHILD WELL," by Madeline Levine, is manual on how to restore family sanity -- with less emphasis on grades, more on values, less homework, more sleep, less fretting by parents, and more encouraging the kids, themselves.

'"HOW CHILDREN  SUCCEED," by Paul Tough, stresses resilience, discipline, re-framing the way kids think and react -- it helps kids more than high SATS do.  Rather than so much focus on congnitive skills, Paul Tough suggests grit, (perseverance), is what kids need to be taught, starting in kindergarten.

Okay, so what did you want to be when you were a little tyke?  I remember it was a giant big question on my mind when I was five.  I didn't want to be like Mom -- she spent too much time folding towels, dusting, and checking on the maid, who also did those things that to me seemed boring, useless.  My father was an executive in the children's dress manufacturing business, but he talked about the book he always wanted to write, and the seven wonders of the world  he wanted to see someday.

I knew it was important to decide when you were young and stick to it.  I'd been to Radio City once, I wanted to be a dancer -- not a Rockette -- I wanted to be the lady in a white tutu and pink satin toe shoes.

What do kids today want to be when they grow up? They've got TV and films  -- fancy cars, sexy stuff, and bang-bang weapons -- fantastically exciting murder-death-sex adventures. They've heard quite a bit about terrorism, nuclear disasters, poison in the air, and other worrisome stuff about running out of water, electricity, roads, schools, bridges, banks, debt, and the top guys -- just about everybody and everything is rotten to the core -- nothing and nobody can be trusted.

Be like Mom or Pop? Be what they admire -- be a money maker -- sing, dance, strip, do something crazy and become a celebrity -- shoot basketballs, hit home-runs -- do something no one else can do in sports, the arts, or some money business -- legally or illegally.

What about college? C'mon, it costs a ton of money -- what have you got if you got a degree? A teachers job?  Get on committees and help run the things?  People applaud the do-gooders. but gee -- that's a hard road to hoe -- look what happened to JFK, RFK, MLK.

Am I sorry I didn't go to college?  No, I'm glad -- I learned to teach, run a business, create sets, sew costumes, hire, fire, direct -- I learned more by tackling more opportunities in my work, than I would have, if I'd gone to college.

What I don't hear in the education talk, nowadays, is the searching for something -- going after something you'd like to do -- making, building, growing, or caring for things.

How about teaching kids to look around -- to learn how to win -- how to lose and not be destroyed by what doesn't happen -- how to boogie and learn more -- it's the spice of life.

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