How Schools Can Make Kids Stupid and What Parents Can Do.

If the deadening weight of school ever threatens to extinguish the love you came here with, don’t let it. We were wiser than we knew when we wrote those college personal statements. Remember the person that naïve teenager wanted to be. Be that person, and more.

–Aarti Iyer—Columbia College Senior*

Episode 1: Taking Recess Away

Teacher: “Class, you can have your lost recess time back when you show me that you can sit quietly and focus on this worksheet for the next fifteen minutes without talking or staring out the window or bothering someone else.”

With one voice Class replies: “No deal. Here’s the deal: Continue reading

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What Good Schools, Happy Families and Successful Adults Have in Common

An educated person has the ability and inclination to use judgment and imagination in solving the problems that confront them at work and at home, and to participate in the maintenance of democracy.

-David Berliner

Happy families are all alike. Every unhappy family is unhappy for the same reason. (Tolstoy only got it half right.) The same principle holds true for schools.

That reason came to me yesterday, when one of the men who was working on our new home in Decatur discovered I was an educator and wanted to talk. He started with: “If you ask me, the problem with our schools is all about discipline. The problems all began when parents stopped supporting the authority of the teacher. Continue reading

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Parents as Teachers in the Academic Achievement Race

Four Ways to Undermine Love of School

Yesterday, I saw a young mother and father in the Decatur Library leaning forward over a small table at their three-year-old daughter as she tried to put together the puzzle of an alligator with 26 green pieces A to Z. The A-piece belonged at the nose and Z at the tip of the tail. Their intensity was disturbing. They talked at her constantly as if their willpower could get their daughter to put the alphabet in order. Continue reading


The Goal of the Parent-Teacher Partnership

Two weeks ago, I walked through the double glass door of a large, rectangular, brick building that houses the Baker Demonstration School in Evanston, Illinois. To my right was the Principal’s Office, but on my left were two three-year-olds who greeted me with: “Good morning. Would you like to come to our art gallery?”

“Why yes, of course,” I replied.

“Admission is five cents,” the boy said.

“Rats,” I answered. “I don’t have any coins.” Continue reading

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