There is no shortage of talk about our public schools being broken. Some critics say we need to embrace a reform agenda that includes more standardized testing and a longer school day for students and performance pay and an end to tenure for teachers. Others respond that the effects of these measures are overstated or counterproductive and that the most sensible place to start is to dramatically increase funding for public schools in their current form. Whatever their positions or priorities, both sides in this debate are likely making the same key assumption — public schools are the best way to promote socio-economic mobility. This means that they still envision a lot of the same things, like an adult teaching a large group of children, who are approximately the same age, content that someone else has decided is important for them to learn. What if they instead accepted that other social programs would be a more effective means of achieving equity in our society? What if they believed that public education was a worthwhile endeavor, but that its true power was in its ability to facilitate creativity, critical thinking, civic participation, and self-direction? That would result in a much richer discussion with ideas that look completely different from the schools we recognize today. In Schools on Trail: How Freedom and Creativity Can Fix Our Education Malpractice (Doubleday, 2016), Nikhil Goyal makes the case for completely rethinking our conception of school and its purpose and presents models we can look towards to take it in a radically new direction.
Listen to the interview on New Books on Education.
From time to time, we all ponder life’s most difficult questions. "Is there a god?" "How can I live a good life?" "What happens when you die?" When we share our worries or wonderings with friends and family, we can leave those conversations feeling connected, comforted, and even energized. But when these questions are not regular topics of conversation — as is often the case — we lose sight of how they are shared, leaving us feeling anxious, confused, and alone. Adults are even more hesitant to raise these issues with children. Why give them reason to worry? We forget that we had these questions as children too. We are actually missing an opportunity to provide reassurance as well as an opportunity to learn. While we can share our knowledge and experience with children, children are open-minded and can cause us to question our long-held assumptions. They make excellent conversation partners. In The Philosophical Child (Rowman and Littlefield, 2015), Jana Mohr Lone shares her insights gleaned from countless philosophical conversations with children of all ages and provides guidance for parents and teachers who hope to build stronger relationships, model thinking dispositions, and deepen their own understandings.
Listen to the interview on the New Books in Education.
Our lives are so busy nowadays that we are almost always multitasking to the extent that those around us let us get away with it. We rarely take the time to be fully present for others and allow our observations to inform how we treat them. When we are not attuned to others, we rely on our assumptions about what they are need. These assumptions are often wrong, leaving others feeling disempowered and disrespected. What are the consequences when we allow these assumptions to guide how we treat small children? What is there to see when you are observing a baby? Is there really an empowering and respectful way to change a diaper? In Baby Knows Best: Raising a Confident and Resourceful Child, the RIE Way (Little, Brown, and Co., 2015), Deborah Carlisle Solomon outlines the parenting approach first developed by Magda Gerber and Resources for Infant Educarers 35 years ago for parents and teachers in a changing world.
Listen to the interview on New Books in Education.
Blogging my work as a teacher, educational consultant, speaker, and host of New Books in Education.