All Kids Love School

What? Really?

My seatmate on a plane to Chicago the other day was Frank, and as you can imagine, we talked about schooling and education. After a while he said, a little timidly: “Well, I don’t think school is for everyone, do you?”

I had to think.

My first reaction was that school should be for everyone. But then I thought, why? People go into a wide variety of endeavors and the straight academic fare of school was often not very helpful. Not only was it not very helpful, but it also made some feel valueless, stupid–like losers. Frank had just said so. He was a real estate investor, and had learned all the mathematics, the problem solving skills and the creative genius one needs for his business after school. In fact, he had to overcome what school had taught him.

To be successful what does Frank need to do? Continue reading

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Daphne Goes to School

It was a hot day on the upper west side of Manhattan. I had just dropped my freshman stepdaughter off in her dorm room at Columbia University and was experiencing a rare and marvelous moment of directionlessness. Daphne, age five, stood at Broadway and 114th at a table with her father and held a sign saying “Lemonade 50 cents.”

I said, “Wonderful. Lemonade. Perfect thing on this hot day. How much does it cost?”
“Fifty cents,” Daphne replied with a smile.
“Fifty cents. That’s cheep. Can I have a glass?”
“Certainly,” said Daphne.
I gave her a five-dollar bill, and she reached into the zippered purse around her neck, giving me back two quarters.
“But I gave you a five,” I said. Continue reading

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Are the Frills Essential?


Only connect… —E. M. Forster

As spring begins and the tiny yellow-green mulberry leaves start bravely out from their branches, students begin picking them. They pick them with the same care their parents use when making breakfast. In the classroom they feed the leaves to silk worms. The worms raise tiny faces to look into the children’s eyes, clinging to hands with hind feet. Pulling them off feels “weird.” The students’ reverence is akin to awe. By May the silk worms are spinning their cocoons and the art department has a box full of pure white silk amulettes as light as two raffle tickets and as big as your thumb. Students dye the cocoons turning them into all manner of marvelous creations, and make thread which they use in other works of art.

Cute, but is this activity really essential? Is this the kind of thing that should be going on in school?

Continue reading

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