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Freedom To Learn
3 years ago
| Surprise Me

 

'School Is A Prison!'  


Dr Peter Gray Interviewed on Freedomain Radio




Podcast: http://www.fdrurl.com/FDR1982

Peter Gray is a research professor of psychology at Boston College. He has conducted and published research in comparative, evolutionary, developmental, and educational psychology; published articles on innovative teaching methods and alternative approaches to education; and is author of Psychology (Worth Publishers), an introductory college textbook now in its 6th edition. He did his undergraduate study at Columbia University and earned a Ph.D. in biological sciences at Rockefeller University. His current research and writing focuses primarily on children's natural ways of learning and the life-long value of play. His own play includes not only his research and writing, but also long distance bicycling, kayaking, back-woods skiing, and vegetable gardening.

Peter's blog: http://www.fdrurl.com/gray More

3 years ago

Yes - more on the joys of privatization. Well, we have to deal with one of those "great" alternative methods of teaching this year.  All our classes are privatized now and online. Kids will stay home and go to school on their computers. No face to face contact with other students or teachers. In the sample orientation and welcome letter that we are supposed to send to our students, there was this sentence:

 

   "Isn't this exciting?  Now, you don't even have to get out of your pajamas to go to school!"

 

 

Just great.

3 years ago

Well, I don't know that just because attending classes at a specific location is how it's always been done means that it is necessarily the only or even the best way to educate our kids.  

 

There sure is an awful lot of 'trade-off' for the 'privilege' of our kids attending a public school where they are treated like suspects or criminals in buildings that look like prisons, where police officers instead of teachers roam the halls where kids suspend their rights for 6 hours a day.

 

I would have THRIVED in a cyber classroom!  I couldn't have cared less about spending time with kids my age, or socializing outside my family of 'neighborhood' friends.  Instead of some brain-numbingly boring P.E. class I could have actually been getting real exercize and enjoying myself swimming laps and playing in the pool, or water skiing because I can take my computer/class to the river with me.  I think school outside of school for a lot of students is a great idea.  Maybe it's not the best for all students, and perhaps (probably) students would 'need' to attend a physical class for this or that purpose, but I don't think I'm so unique that it wouldn't be welcomed by a lot of kids.

 

I think it's a good thing when kids can grow up to be who they are without peer or social pressure to be, or think, any certain way.  I'm thinking about a much more 'mature' and grounded graduating class.

 

Whatever system works best and spits out 'smart' kids who are 'thinkers' because they've been allowed to think - that's what I'm in favor of, no matter what it takes or how 'radical' - or 'simple' - a change may be required.

 

"Private" or privitization isn't a dirty word to me, especially when it comes to education; I can see how privatizing some things would be of benefit to everyone.

3 years ago

I won't even begin to get into the severe clinical depression caused by being home alone all day in your pajamas sitting in front of a computer screen for hours while you're still a kid. I won't even go there about how kids will be learning in isolation - day after day - without an opportunity to talk face-to-face with other kids and make friends (one of the important things kids are supposed to do is develop appropriate social skills).  Instead, I'll just post this quote from ACT (American College Testing):

 

It shouldn't happen. A high school diploma is supposed to signify college readiness. To earn a diploma and then find out a few months later that you need more high school–level training is dispiriting and probably contributes to the high dropout rate—around 30 percent—in the first year of college (ACT, 2010). It also burdens colleges with providing preparation that should have taken place earlier.

Will more technology in high school classrooms help? Not in the crucial area of reading. When teachers fill the syllabus with digital texts, having students read and write blogs, wikis, Facebook pages, multimedia assemblages, and the like, they do little to address the primary reason that so many students end up not ready for college-level reading. When they assign traditional texts—novels, speeches, science articles, and so on—in digital format with embedded links, hypertext, word-search capability, and other aids, they likewise avoid the primary cause of unreadiness.

Complex texts require a slower labor. Readers can't proceed to the next paragraph without grasping the previous one, they can't glide over unfamiliar words and phrases, and they can't forget what they read four pages earlier. They must double back, discern ambiguities, follow tricky transitions, and keep a dictionary close at hand. Complex texts force readers to acquire the knack of slow linear reading. If they rarely encounter complex texts, young students won't even realize that such a reading tack is a necessary means of learning. Unready students might be just as intelligent and motivated as the ready ones are, but they don't possess the habits and strategies needed to carry on.

 

Oh, did I forget to mention this?  We won't be using text books anymore with the new model.  We are being encouraged to craft multi-media presentations and use little cartoon character representations of ourselves to impart concepts - through web sites like Voki.  Why we can even have them watch TV online through Videofurnace.  I surfed Videofurnace today.  I can have them watch American Chopper and write an essay,Taboo, and Animal Cops - Houston.  But text books are becoming obsolete in this new era of privatization where profit is the bottom line.    Also, we won't have any conversations with our students over the phone.  Nope.   They're going to be out there, all alone.

 

Welcome to the Brave New World.  Dismal, isn't it?

 

BTW, how did you get the idea that all public school, attendance everywhere, is exactly like prison?  I mean, I am no apologist for the public schools, believe me, but isn't that a little over the top?  Is this a view that Ron Paul shares?



This post was modified from its original form on 24 Aug, 19:53
3 years ago

traditional schooling works for the majority; maybe cyber classes are for a select few and I am serious saying that.  This is not the answer for American education.

3 years ago

Angelica, who said anything about being a shut in living in PJs and staring at a coputer screen all day??? I don't think you could have taken the idea of freedom to learn to a more extreme scenario!!!

Being locked up in a prison-like environment all day, be forced to conform to a mold you dont fit in - all day - is supposed to be 'good' for a child's psyche? I don't think so. The 'school house' format of the fronteir days, which did work, with all ages and lesson levels in one room with one teacher is dead. Now kids are herded into huge class rooms in huge 'fortresses' full of same age kids with the same age group mentality, which, on a constant basis can be stagnating for mental or emotional development.

unless there are some meaningful changes in our out-dated and failed education system there is no way my future grandkids will be attending public schools where lesson one is 'how to conform' and become a sheeple.

3 years ago

I don't exactly know what you mean, Katii, when you say that kids are "locked up all day."  Are you saying that we make them do things that they don't want to do?  I never wanted to read "Romeo & Juliet" in school, but I am glad now that I did.  It was my first introduction to Shakespeare and it was really hard. I remember coming upon the passage where Juliet's father threatens her.   He calls her, very graphically, "...a green carrion sickness"  among other equally visceral things.  I remember being totally reviled by that passage and suddenly deciding that I hated all the characters and that it wasn't worth it to read this stuff.  Now I love Shakespeare. I have the Temple Notes for all his plays, which are the historical footnotes for many obscure references. 

 

 I hated math.  Hated it.  Today, I sure am glad they forced me to take it.  Maybe if they hadn't I wouldn't be able to handle my own personal finances today.  In order to learn all that stuff, I was forced to sit in a classroom and pay attention. It felt like prison and we acted, occasionally, like unruly inmates. I really hated that. In my teens, I wanted ot party all the time.  So did all the other kids. So, yeah, we hated it.  But when I graduated, I had some pretty good survival skills I wouldn't have had otherwise, and a lot of friends that I have kept to this day.

 

I am certain that some teachers - not the majority - want total control over their classes 100% of the time.  Most don't because the current best practices in teaching lay a lot of the responsibility for learning on the learner.  In order to do that, we have to let them express their thoughts and ideas about what they are learning, give them lots of opportuniites to practice what they are learning, and provide them with the tools and time to do their own research. And, if you read the passage above about how kids always on computers have extreme difficulty with slow, linear thinking, you'll understand why we have the current problems that we do.  Privatization will only make this worses.

 

The most popualr privatized model is virtual school right now because it is a real money saver.  I will only be able to provide the bare bones basics to students with this model - and I can never provide direct asistance to them in their efforts. 

3 years ago

Sorry for all the typos.  Multitasking - Aarrgghghhhhh! (That was my virtual scream).

3 years ago

Lesson one "how to conform" and be "sheeple".. that's good stuff.

 

Angelica, you are exactly right. unfortunately we don't have the resources to tailor learnign environments to all needs all the time. The fact is, that in life, you sometimes have to sit down and shut up and listen to your boss teacher etc. This doesn't mean that creativity and individual thought should be crushed.

 

There are bad teachers and they are made worse by these standardized tests.

 

Maybe, if we as a society, showed teachers a bit more respect by paying them good wages and making it a competitive job environment for the best and the brightest, that would go along way toward helping our education system.

 

Kids know that we don't respect teachers as a society. Why should they?

 

People always talk a good game about their kids. But our society won't put its money where its mouth is. That is for sure.

3 years ago

I agree with everything you have said here, Chile.  I think the way education is being used for political mileage is heartbreaking (when I say this, Katii, I am not referring to anything you have said. I know that you home-schooled your kids and you feel they had a better education that way.  I'll go along with that.  You have to admit that it takes a very special parent to home school her children).

 

The goal in many right wing held places is to close the public schools and replace them with privatized, cheaper models. 



This post was modified from its original form on 25 Aug, 9:09
3 years ago

Let me point out that we learn places other than school and at times other than school hours.

 

Any parents that wants to teach their child whatever, can do so.

 

Any child that wants to learn something in cyberspace should be able to do so.

 

That doesn't mean they shouldn't be AT school learning all of the basics.

3 years ago

Right!  Nancy, have you heard about The Common Core Standards yet?  Wow.  That's coming in 3 years and it is a complete 180 degrees away from NCLB.  These standards are going to go way beyond the basics. 

3 years ago

Good (I Think)- I am from NY, I took regents exams. 

 

Will look into it.

3 years ago

The 'basics' are probably the easiest things to teach 'anywhere' Children can learn how to read faster and better with a computer program than when sitting in an uncomfortable chair lisenting to a teacher who gets distracted or interupted by something another kid is doing every few minutes.  

 

In many cases, the modern day 'classroom' is not the best environment for teaching.  There are too many kids concentrated in one place, each with individual needs and characteristics that are expected to conform to a "one size fits all" mold.  In many cases, public schools are a traumatizing experience to children in as many different ways as there are kids in a single school.  

 

I think we've outgrown this model, especially economically, but population wise as well.  Kids, just like adults, will always perform and feel better in 'smaller' groups.  The U.S. educational system's answer to 100's of millions of students v. thousands of students was to just make the buildings and classrooms bigger.  In hindsight, I think it would have been better to build more 'small' schools that offer a sense of neighborhood and community, and where the student is known and treated as an individual instead of just another one in the herd.

 

 

There is no question that being educated makes life easier for people on many levels - even economically when their government doesn't trash it; no question that society benefits when it's an educated one, but as our education system goes, it leaves a lot to be desired and I'm all for vastly improving it in whatever form that takes.

 

It's past time to start experimenting, discarding what doesn't work best and expanding on what does.

 

I don't exactly know what you mean, Katii, when you say that kids are "locked up all day."  Are you saying that we make them do things that they don't want to do? -Angelica

 

No, my meaning had nothing to do with the process of public school teaching(even if it does leave much to be desired).  I meant it more in a literal sense, as in they are forced to be there by threat of violence from the state.   

 

Angelica, I respect the job of teacher - it's an important job, whoever is doing the teaching, but I don't respect 'all teachers'.  I respect 'good teachers'.  I respected my teachers who respected me, my sons respected those teachers who respected them.  

 

Chile, teachers do make good salaries - and they get great benefits.  I know because I've looked into it. Anyone can can look at the stats and data and see that teachers are not being 'cheated' (except by the government that dicates what, when, where and how they teach).

 


3 years ago

 Children can learn how to read faster and better with a computer program than when sitting in an uncomfortable chair lisenting to a teacher who gets distracted or interupted by something another kid is doing every few minutes.

Wow.  Is this the only clasroom scenario you can envision? Is this how you think it is in 100% of the public school classrooms across the country?  And if it is like that in public schools, is it different in charter (privatized) schools that utilize the same model of service delivery? 

 

Kids are fidgeting a lot because they can't concentrate.  We have real problems getting them to read a book all the way through to the end.  They are totally visual learners, much to their own detriment.  Technology is the root cause.

According to the Association for College Testing (ACT) and The Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD), students do not learn to read the kind of complex text necessary for success in college when they are spending large amounts of time on the computer.  There is a growing body of research in these organizations that shows a relationship between not being able to engage in the linear thinking necessary for success with complex text and the amount of time one spends texting, playing computer games, answering email, and surfing and skimming anything on the web in general. Lots of computer time relates to non-linear thought processes.

 

Just to make the argument interesting, for the last dozen years or so, there has also been a growing body of research that says there is a relationship between the development of ADHD and babies & toddlers who are parked in front of TV sets for long periods of time.

 

 

There is no question that being educated makes life easier for people on many levels - even economically when their government doesn't trash it; no question that society benefits when it's an educated one, but as our education system goes, it leaves a lot to be desired and I'm all for vastly improving it in whatever form that takes.

I'm for vastly improving it as well, but not through a privatized model that wants to do away with all text books in order to garner a greater financial profit for itself.  That's the privatized model currently being touted across the USA.

 

Last year, in virtual school, fully 75% of the students in one county were failing.  You can't blame the teachers on this one - they aren't even allowed to talk to the students on the phone on a regular basis.  The classes are written for the teachers and the kids.  The virtual school people told the virtual school teachers, "You find a way to pass them."  What a great success.

 

Chile, teachers do make good salaries - and they get great benefits.  I know because I've looked into it. Anyone can can look at the stats and data and see that teachers are not being 'cheated'...

I haven't had a cost of living increase in 7 years and certainly no raise in more years than that. I wasn't making a ton of money 7 years ago, either. This year, we all had to take a 3% pay cut.  Please, point me in the direction of those areas of the country where teachers are doing well.  I may relocate.

 

Finally, I would like to say that cyber learning is not equal to "being allowed to think for oneself."  It just isn't - and especially when one is learning in isolation.



This post was modified from its original form on 25 Aug, 17:30
3 years ago

Children fidgitting is called boredom! I 'get' how most schools in metro and buburban areas are from first hand experience, Angelica, I am old enough to remember what schools were like in the 50's and 60's and can compare them to schools my sons attended and then later the schools my young neice, who I was raising, attended, as well as being aware of the schools my sister's kids attended (her elementary school and teachers were fantasic, middle and high school awful) - that is three generations worth of personal hands on experience - going on four now with Laura's grandkids.

It 'should' go without saying that nothing applies "100%" across the board. But I dont believe the vast majority of public school students are getting a good education (I think college profs will attest that most are not) and they are treated like numbers, not people, the higher the grade the worse it gets.

3 years ago

I believe that the present, traditional educational system needs tons of work, especially in the area of teacher training.  But it is a vastly superior system to the privatized, for-profit model that is going into effect now. 

 

I will never be in favor of doing away with books.  Sorry.  I'm all for books. What kind of teacher would I be if I wasn't?  I will never be in favor of students working all alone, never hearing a human voice first-hand (unless it's been pre-recorded first). Want a nation of kids on Prozac for clinical depression?  This is how you get it. The education offered is also inferior compared to that offered 5 days a week in a classroom.

 

Believe me, boredom isn't the worst problem a kid can encounter.  Not by a long shot. He could be getting that proverbial matchbook correspondence school education instead.  Sadly, where I live, he now will be. 

 

 



This post was modified from its original form on 27 Aug, 13:22
3 years ago

"But it is a vastly superior system to the privatized, for-profit model that is going into effect now. "

 

Absolutely- the education for the few at the expense of our future.

 

"I will never be in favor of doing away with books.  Sorry.  I'm all for books. What kind of teacher would I be if I wasn't?"

 

I agrree with this too.  Too many sounds bites and lack of depth runnign around these days.

3 years ago

Angelica, Admittedly I don't know what new system you are referring to, I haven't rwad the link you provided (but I will), so I dont have an opinion past what I have expressed already. But, does it actually 'forbid' "books"?

3 years ago

We can not use a text book as anything but an occassional resource.  We have been told this.  The virtual school does not provide books and will not provide them.  Instead, they direct teachers to a variety of free websites (Prezzi and Voki) and urge us to make many power point presentations to cover the material.  This is in no way adequate, in my opinion. And, when you read the article, you'll see why this trend towards virtual school is alarming. If they can't succeed in college now, how will virtual school address that problem, a problem that it, by it's very nature, will exacerbate?

3 years ago

Angelica:  "I believe that the present, traditional educational system needs tons of work, especially in the area of teacher training. "

 

A couple of things here. 

 

First:  Reform of the educational system is not possible under the present politicized top down bureaucratic and autocratic system originating from Washington.  This system has been in effect for decades and it's failed. If it was going to work, it would have by now.  Patching and throwing more money, more paperwork does nothing.

 

Second:  The problems in the educational system is a symptom of a broader malaise.  The overall concepts of an all powerful State are sub optimal at best, and destructive to our entire society at worst.  I would argue that the latter is closer to the truth. 

 

Third;  In fact; if we are making "progress" on the goals that the proponents of a powerful State advocate, then why are things going downhill?  For example; despite the advances in productivity, the standard of living of the American middle class is stagnant or declining.  The proponents of big government claim this means we need more government intervention.  But, as government has grown, he problems have gotten worse.  This is another  symptom. 

 

The excuses are that government(s) didn't have enough power and authority.  Each crisis is met with claims that we need to cede more power to the State.  As each intervention results in failure, the cries grow more shrill. 

 

An examination of the final arguments in history of such States is that the failures are the results of the lack of confidence in the State.  The Statists then begin to advocate increasing the use of control of information, social engineering through the increased use of propaganda, and suppression of dissent including force.   Repression of Freedom and Liberty are openly advocated "for the common good", usually as a "temporary"  policy that soon becomes institutionalized......and permanent. 

 

We've seen this stuff before, and it ends badly.  The world has become interconnected and small.  Things that caused the fall of civilizations in the past have left other civilizations untouched to restart the cycle of advancement once again. 

 

This time, a Fall may be much worse than it has been in past collapses.

3 years ago

I totally agree with you on nearly all points, Jim.  Government intervention in education has been a politicized nightmare.  NCLB, in my opinion, was, in part, designed to shut the public school system down to allow for the privatized model.  Obama is going along in the same vein as NCLB with Race to the Top.  Same thing, really.  Unfortunate.  We need to be free to create real learning environments - for ALL students.  I guarantee you, the SOBs in politics who are helping to force virtual school on an unsuspecting middle class & the poor would never accept this level of substandard education for their own prep-school attending children.  I can only assume that corporate kickbacks are involved.

 

I just think we should change the system before we launch another attack on education.  The corruptions in the system are entrenched, legalized, and all -encompassing now.  Leave education (and other systems) alone until these are fixed (if they can be), and a general consensus is reached about how we should proceed. 

 

Corporate kickbacks are now involved in everything, aren't they (also proving your points).

 

In America, if an American child is there to get an education, he or she should get the very best education available on the planet. This is class warfare.

 

 

3 years ago

"This is in no way adequate, in my opinion. And, when you read the article, you'll see why this trend towards virtual school is alarming. If they can't succeed in college now, how will virtual school address that problem, a problem that it, by it's very nature, will exacerbate?"

 

As someone who learns best from a lecture, I would probably fail.

3 years ago

"For example; despite the advances in productivity, the standard of living of the American middle class is stagnant or declining."

 

This is alarming and yet I know it is true.  It is all about corporatizing America with the government playing along.

3 years ago

75% of the virtual school kids were failing last year.  The virtual school told the teachers in no uncertain terms, "You find a way to pass them."  Bonuses for teachers are tied to all students passing in a class.  What a scam on the American public.

3 years ago

Correct Nancy.  We live in a Corporate dominated welfare/warfare State.  The government promotes dependency under the guise of taking care of the people.  The truth is all those programs the government comes up with are loaded with gifts and grift for the powerful.  Then the politicians go on to suppress the businesses that provide competition to those giant Corporations. 

 

The result is the hemorrhaging of jobs as those Corporations off shore American industry.  This creates more dependency to government which also benefits the political class who exploit it.  BUT it also runs the nation down, as there are less to pay the bills.  10 years ago, 62% of Americans had jobs.  That has been reduced to 57%, and that statistic does now show up in the 9.1% unemployment or even the U6 numbers of 16.2% the government uses. 

3 years ago

Where is this 'virtual' school going on, Angelica?  It's not where I live and I haven't heard of it being where anyone I know lives.

 

 

3 years ago

Good question Katii.  It is not going on where I am either though there have been massive cut-backs in everything and firings so thjat classrooms are overloaded.

 

 

3 years ago

http://www.k12.com/alva/

 

http://www.education.com/schoolfinder/us/california/california-virtual-academies/

 

ANd probably all other states.



This post was modified from its original form on 30 Aug, 16:13