My Response To Mia

This is a response to a comment left on an earlier post.


Could one of the reasons that more students aren’t doing better in the “core subjects” be because we haven’t allowed schools to move into this century along with everyone else? Could you imagine a businessman from a hundred years ago dealing with all the changes in how businesses work today? How about a doctor from one hundred years ago? Do you think they would notice any changes in how medicine is practiced today? Now let’s take a student from one hundred years ago and plunk them down in a school from today. They’d note different clothing styles, and the furniture is a bit different. In most schools they’d still see chalkboards and desks, and pencils and paper and books. Teachers in many classrooms would still be doing things pretty much the way they did 100 years ago too. Hmmm, maybe that student from 100 years ago would fit in pretty well.

How can a student know if they are destined to be an artist if they have rarely been exposed to art? In our present situation students in primary grades focus only on literacy and math, they rarely do much more than simple drawing. No real art is taught. Science and social studies are only taught through reading class. PE is not funded despite the fact that students are increasingly obese. Students often have to pay extra fees to participate in sports, music and other extra-curricular activities- so guess which schools have the highest participation? Student drop out rates are abysmal because for too many students school has little relevance. Your after school clubs idea would help too, who will stay after school to run quality ones for free? Schools aren’t funded adequately for all they are asked to do though so money for such programs is very hard to find.

You say:
“It seems to me that if students are destined to be artists, they’ll pursue art as a hobby, take classes at a local museum – whatever. I don’t know of many artists who needed a curriculum and a teacher (especially at high school level) to pursue their art.”

Really? The place where I live there is a museum about 10 miles from my school that offers such classes. How will we get the students there and home? Parents are working or don’t understand the value of such activities or don’t like having their kids away from home. How will we get them interested in going if they have done very little art in school or elsewhere and have never been to a museum? Why not offer such classes in the elementary schools which are located in the neighborhoods where the students live? No driving, just stay after school, the teacher drives instead of 30 kids’ parents driving. More kids will participate because it’s easy, and some of them will gain an appreciation for art and some might even become artists or musicians or?

Some students stay in school because they are athletes and participating in sports keeps them coming to school (you hear that all the time when they interview the pros) – maybe we should make access to sports more inclusive and more students would stay. We have turned our high schools into “college prep only” academies despite the fact that most kids don’t go to college (but I wish more had the opportunity to go and would go). How many more students could we get to stay if we offered more and higher quality options in the arts, technology, mechanics, sports, and more? It would be the best money we could spend – imagine investing in our kids. Kids with more relevant things to do might even stay out of trouble and become more educated and we could spend less on crime – might be a bit of a trade off in costs there even.

I’d go into why NCLB is much less than “not perfect”, but that will have to come another time.

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7 thoughts on “My Response To Mia

  1. And those of us who live 2 hours away from the nearest museum, etc.? School here does not look anything like what these kids will be facing in any job they have. For most college is not an option.

    Brian, your comments are great. Many students would pursue other activities but by high school it becomes an elite club. If you are not really good at it, then you can get pushed out. Students who have not really tested what they are good at by then end up being lost. That is a shame.

  2. This Saturday, my family was a part of a homeschool fair for a local homeschooling network. Families put together displays of what they did during the last year or so. Reading your post and thinking about this recent event that brought together a loose network of a couple of hundreds friends of, and families of friends, I was reminded of the question people ask regularly, on why we don’t use schools for our child’s education. My usual response is that schools don’t fit our (life)style, but it’s too broad. In particular, though, this Saturday I saw displays of how families help their kids pursue strong interests and develop new ones, with the general basic education being a background to what each person is about.

    To give one example, my girl is very interested in a Japanese culinary tradition of Bento: highly stylized lunches in cutesy boxes. Bento became a strong node in her network of topics. The network includes cooking in general, with the science as it applies to cooking, and traditions of different nations as they are expressed in cooking. Also drawing and art in general, history of art, and Japanese styles such as manga and anime in particular. And then there are more peripheral, but related topics, people and social objects in that network, such as our Japanese friends, design and fashion, sewing, roleplaying, writing, ninjutsu, web design, Flash programming and so on. My husband, and I, and our friends and extended family support this networked learning of our daughter in various ways: helping with an anime club organized by a friend, spending time showing her the ropes of the web design for the site she is making, installing Flash on her computer, finding good art studio and driving her to two hours of classes there every week for four years, helping her find anime on youtube and manga from online booksellers, supplying stuff from Rosetta Stone Japanese disks to chopsticks and sushi-grade fish.

    It is very easy to find people and resources for this particular network of interests, because most of them are now fads among young people in the USA. I daresay if I formulated this as a unit study for a class, and offered it at any school as an elective, it would be quite popular. The problem is that “a unit study for a class” is not a network – it is a unit of an organization. It would feel very different, because the way we do it, people, ideas, objects and activities come and go, and everything is distributed in time and space, and the connections are “weak ties.”

    More and more of what our family does for education is of the network style, as opposed to pre-organized (corporative) style. To give an obvious example, the vast majority of reading my child does happens in collaborative participatory spaces: blogs, roleplay chats, wikis, or fanfic nets. I am happy about it, because these spaces invite my child to read actively and to become a writer. But I don’t quite see this style – the network style – as natural (or possible) in today’s schools. Because schools are inherently organizations, and classes are organizations, and curricula are organized, and these groups and curricula aren’t open, live networks of people and ideas. Maybe in a few years?