The Treasure Hunter

A blog by Joanne Yatvin

Another Rant From Joanne

on April 28, 2017

Yes, this is a repeat of a piece I wrote and posted many months ago.  I’m still proud of it and think it is worth while for readers. Mindfulness and all its attachments continue to expand to more schools and states. Yet, to my mind they are just a poor substitute for teaching the things kids really care about in ways that are natural for them as they grow up.

I am sorry to have to say it, but the formalizing of students’ thinking and behavior is a waste of time and just plain ignorance. What I am referring to specifically is the teaching of grit, mindfulness, and resilience, and the move to “personalized learning”, all ofwhich have become popular recently. All human beings, including young children, choose how they behave and what they learn. We adults influence their decisions by our actions, but we cannot control them or teach them directly.

If we want kids to like being in school, value the required schoolwork, and be interested in the content of the curriculum, we’ve got to make all those things meaningful and useful in their eyes. And, we have to recognize that much of what is taught in school now is mastered only temporarily, not for the long run.

Let’s consider for a minute our own school “learning.” Can we still speak or read the foreign languages we studied in high school or college? Can we use algebra to solve complex problems? Do we remember why the War of 1812 was fought and against which foes? What place became our 49th state? Just what are a gerund, a transitive verb, and a reflexive pronoun? *

The lasting things that can be learned or solidified in school are honesty, cooperation, respect for others, self control, self-respect, curiosity, patience, and a deep interest in certain skills, arts, and sources of knowledge. Those are the things that good teachers practice regularly, and by doing so, teach students to do the same.

We have a big problem in this country because the officials advocating for strict and traditional public education do not realize how shallow and ephemeral much of it is — even for the Japanese students who score so well on international tests. Over the past twenty or so years what we have heard from the decision makers at the national or state level, and the critics, is that the standards for American students must be raised. Why? They say, “So we can compete with other countries.” Unfortunately, they don’t mean that we should be giving health care to everyone and free college to all students.

In this blog I have written as often as possible about the good things I see or hear about in schools, and I wish every day that I would hear about more. What I recognize is that most of my readers are realists who know the difference between fads, pipe dreams and the lasting things that can be learned in schools.

*Don’t feel bad; I had to look up most of those things, too.

One response to “Another Rant From Joanne

  1. Don Bellairs says:

    Your list of abstract nouns (you don’t have to look that up, do you?) that comprise what should be the lasting benefits of our public educations are, alas, immeasurable. I worked (in five states) with some teachers who didn’t know their crafts and resented me because I knew mine. They remained in place because they had administrative support that did not require of them high standards of academic expertise. I never ever had a problem with dedicated, qualified educators but struggled my entire career with phonies who were threatened by me.

    The abstracts are desirable but we desperately need measurable standards of professionalism and accountability for those who do not meet them. It should not be easy to be a teacher–or a building administrator.


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