My friend knew she would get a reaction from me when she sent a page from the Kenyon College Alumni Bulletin. She might not have expected a blog entry, but she knew I would be upset. Amy Blumenthal's Don't Ask, Don't Tell, Don't Read should disturb every parent. As many children do, Ms. Blumenthal's daughter suddenly discovered, in the middle of her kindergarten year, that she could read. Initially thrilled, she suddenly stopped, saying, "I don't want to read." When asked the reason, she replied, "Because my teacher doesn't want me to." (More)
Posted by sursumcorda on Monday, January 24, 2005 at 4:52 pm | Edit
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That's the intriquing title of an article by Vigen Guroian, a professor at Loyola College in Baltimore, who warns that unsuspecting parents have been "persuaded that they must send their children to college with no questions asked, when in fact this [is] the near-equivalent of committing their sons and daughters to one of the circles of Dante's Inferno." That comment is only slightly less blunt than the title of a book I heard about but never read, I Spent $75000 To Send My Child To Hell!

The article is lengthy but valuable, and you can read it here. According to what I hear from my own campus spies, Dr. Guroian is unfortunately more accurate than not. I once laughed when I read about a college at which the lack of dormitories was a matter of principle; now I recognize a noble attempt to swim against the sweeping tide. Perhaps it is time to rethink the entire college experience, to heed John Holt's advice and ask ourselves, "Where are we trying to get, and are we getting there?"

Update 5 April 2009  The link to the essay on why the college does not provide dormitories no longer works, so I have removed it, but the school in question is New Saint Andrews in Moscow, Idaho. (More)

Posted by sursumcorda on Friday, January 21, 2005 at 1:26 pm | Edit
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Yee-Ha! I just pushed Florida past Wisconsin to take over the #33 spot in the Geography Olympics. Pennsylvania (#31) here we come!

When I started keeping track, Florida was down at #45, so I feel that I (and many others) have made good progress. Currently Nebraska is #1 (Andy must be helping out.)  (More)

Posted by sursumcorda on Monday, January 3, 2005 at 1:59 pm | Edit
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Homeschooling is legal in Pennsylvania, but the regulations imposed on homeschooling families are among the strictest in the nation. Recently, one family decided to sue the state on grounds that the rules impose an unreasonable restriction on their freedom of religion. Reading that article, and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's editorial in response, reminds me that we must never, never become complacent about our rights, nor take our freedoms for granted. The Post-Gazette wonders,

To us, the requirements seem rather minimal. Parents must submit an annual affidavit to the local school superintendent outlining their educational goals. They must turn in a log at the end of the year showing what subjects were taught and when. A neutral, certified teacher reviews the work and interviews the child. Standardized tests are required at several grade levels.

What is the problem with that?

One problem is that such an attitude betrays appalling ignorance of what homeschooling is all about. It is not about taking the philosophies, methods, systems, procedures, and materials of school and trying to squeeze them into one's living room. Rather, homeschooling liberates children and families to pursue learning in creative ways that are not possible when subjected to classroom-mentality restrictions. (More)
Posted by sursumcorda on Saturday, November 6, 2004 at 4:57 pm | Edit
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I can't find an official Baldo website to advertise with a link, but today's comic says a lot about some folks' attitudes toward grading:

Posted by sursumcorda on Friday, October 8, 2004 at 11:25 am | Edit
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Today's For Better or For Worse comic strip, though it's talking about an actual school, expresses neatly the technique I used when required to produce a curriculum and transcripts for our homeschooled children. "Educationese" isn't hard to speak once you've read enough of it. There is one difference, however: In the comic, the teachers are fitting the material to the students' interests; with homeschooling, the interests generally come first, and when necessary one finds official words to describe the educational results.

comic
Posted by sursumcorda on Wednesday, October 6, 2004 at 11:57 am | Edit
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The proper place and best place for children to learn whatever they need or want to know is the place where until very recently almost all children learned it—in the world itself, in the mainstream of adult life. If we put in every community…resource and activity centers, citizens’ clubs, full of spaces for many kinds of things to happen—libraries, music rooms, theaters, sports facilities, workshops, meeting rooms—these should be open to and used by young and old together. We made a terrible mistake when (with the best of intentions) we separated children from adults and learning from the rest of life, and one of our most urgent tasks is to take down the barriers we have put between them and let them come back together.

John Holt, How Children Fail

Posted by sursumcorda on Sunday, January 30, 2000 at 5:31 pm | Edit
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We adults destroy most of the intellectual and creative capacity of children by the things we do to them or make them do. We destroy this capacity above all by making them afraid, afraid of not doing what other people want, of not pleasing, of making mistakes, of failing, of being wrong. Thus we make them afraid to gamble, afraid to experiment, afraid to try the difficult and the unknown…. We destroy the disinterested (I do not mean uninterested) love of learning in children, which is so strong when they are small, by encouraging and compelling them to work for petty and contemptible rewards—gold stars, or papers marked 100 and tacked to the wall, or A’s on report cards, or honor rolls, or dean’s lists, or Phi Beta Kappa keys—in short, for the ignoble satisfaction of feeling that they are better than someone else…. We kill, not only their curiosity, but their feeling that it is a good and admirable thing to be curious, so that by the age of ten most of them will not ask questions, and will show a good deal of scorn for the few who do.

John Holt, How Children Fail

Posted by sursumcorda on Thursday, January 20, 2000 at 3:10 pm | Edit
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We went to the Orlando Museum of Art to see a special exhibit of Hudson River School paintings, and our attention was captured by a couple of school groups. I was pleased that the museum was busy with school children, but disappointed, as I've been with most school field trips, in what they were able to do. The docent explained that grant money and school time is only available if they show that they’re meeting certain school curriculum goals, such as “uses deductive skills,” so they design the art activities around these. They also try to do a lot of hands-on work, which has a point, but I still think that 10 minutes of “creating a landscape” by taping together pieces of paper has limited value and could be done back at school instead of in the museum where they could instead spend time looking at the landscape paintings! (More)
Posted by sursumcorda on Thursday, September 30, 1999 at 6:05 pm | Edit
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