Saturday, April 23, 2005

What Is Wrong With Our Schools--open ended series.


A lawyer has threatened to sue police officers who handcuffed an allegedly uncontrollable five-year-old after she acted up at a Florida kindergarten.
The officers were called by the school after a teacher and assistant principal failed to calm down the little girl.

The incident was caught on a video camera which was rolling in the classroom as part of a self-improvement exercise at the St Petersburg school.

There are so many things wrong with this story in just two paragraphs!

1. Using the terms "self improvement exercise" is insanity when talking about little children. This is "corporate talk". And should be vigorously resisted by any sane child not to mention adult.

2. Once again, an issue that should be "parental control of the schools via voting and participation" becomes a lawyer thing.

3. Five year olds with tempers are laughably easy to deal with. I did this for years and years. Anyone wants lessons in this, I will be happy to oblige. I train horses and dogs and birds and fishes, too (yes, you can train fishes).

4. The police could see this was a small child. If the child were totally out of control, the teachers could have evacuated the room by herding the others out and the cops could have sat down and talked the child out of this passionate rage.

5. My Victorian great godmother would have had a caniption fit over this news. She was very strictly "children should be seen but not heard" school and she taught me how to sit up straight and be still at the age of four.

6. The BBC article notes the children were doing math. This is insanity. This is kindergarten!

So, time for my early education lecture. I have credentials in this area. When, in NYC, I had babies, I joined a nursery co-op. I eventually taught there. We were very liberal and did a great deal of research into how to conduct a nursery school. Our school was so successful it became an after school place, too, so we could do this for several more years. It was democratic. Literally. Our children learned to negotiate and vote for things and we discussed all our plans with the children in a circle each day. So we had a willing troop for all activities. It was pretty astonishing, the choices these children made. "Let's go to the science museum!" they would shout raising hands, smiling. "Let's go to the movies!" also got a big vote. We would discuss the movies, mostly cartoons, of course. "Analyze this!" we would say. They learned to dictate to us, as we used a primative typewriter, their movie reviews which we then published on a mimeo machine which they cranked out and then we passed this out to the other preschools!

The history of Kindergartens: this is a German word for "Child's Garden" and was started by neo liberal German Romanticists. Von Bismark was so impressed by them, he made them part of the German school system he was building. "Strong bones and strong minds" was his motto. You can't build a powerful army with people who worked when they were six or had rickets and bad teeth and were stunted from hunger and privation. So all children went to preschool to be fed and cossetted. This is why it was called "GARDEN" and not "WORKHOUSE".

In America, the desire to "teach" stuff has dropped down and down in age while the ability to learn is collapsing like a souffle in winter. There is zero need to teach math to five year olds. You simply make up fun counting games that make them laugh while they learn effortlessly. We had a penny jar. Every day we went shopping for lunch with the kids. The children would guess at how much something like grapes would cost and then count out the change. Each one had a seperate thing to buy and got to select it. Off we went, each child proud that they were going to buy lunch which we made from scratch with the children. They learned to cook with us as well as washing dishes which was great fun. We deliberately generated a great deal of soap and would build things out of the dishes and cups.

Many weekends the children voted to run the school for fun! We ended up, on weekends with the parents, going on vacations or long trips to just outside NYC like the beaches in summer. We were literally one big happy family. My children still talk to their nursery playmates twenty years later.

We were family.

I have tutored children. Nearly always, when I meet them, they are sullen and angry. They don't want to learn, they want to play games and watch TV. So we do this, together. Slowly I would build up a relationship and get them into discussing the shows and the games. Slowly, they open up again. It is very tedious and I always wonder, why don't adults do this earlier?

This is because most people really don't want to interact with their own children. Or if they do, they do it as if they are a child, not an adult visiting the child and guiding them to another world. The increasingly childish behaviors and attitudes and lusts seen in adults is, well, my great godmother would have been appalled if she saw what I see every day. This includes stuffing our faces or boorish driving habits.

The news media has story after story of cops going into increasingly younger school rooms to wrestle with difficult children. This is utterly unacceptable and is an indication of the collapse of our ability to learn, grow strong, be responsible. But then, look at the story below this one: our government, investigating itself, refuses to be responsible for anything at all. Bad children, bad prison guards.

Blame them.

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