Taking Stock

“How Do You Use Blocks? An Excellent Interview Question” was the 100th post on “The Genius in Children.” Looking back on the postings of 2011 I am reminded of many great discussions that some of the posts triggered, and I am enormously grateful to all of you who participated. To celebrate, I am stepping back to ask you about your favorites and ask if any of these discussions need to be continued or if there are topics you would like to see pursued in the new year.

Here are a half-dozen of the most active from 2011, but please feel free to find your favorites. I would love to get your thoughts.

Why Mathematics is a Foreign Language in America and What to Do about It.

JUNE 21, 2011

Nine Lies about Academic Achievement that Parents and Teachers often Seem to Believe—but Don’t Really.

JUNE 15, 2011

How Parents and Teachers Can Get Bad Results with “High Expectations” for Children?

MAY 11, 2011

Parents as Teachers in the Academic Achievement Race

APRIL 13, 2011

Parenting toward Happiness

MARCH 2, 2011

“Superior Parenting?” That’s Crazy Talk. Children Need Only 3 Things.

JANUARY 19, 2011

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This March on Washington, Where’s the Dream?

At the end of this month there will be a  “Save our Schools March” on Washington. Unlike the 1963 March on Washington, there is no clear, shared vision of what it would look like if the desired changes happened. What would it look like if teachers and parents “took back the schools?”

Last month I published “Nine Lies about Academic Achievement that Parents and Teachers often Seem to Believe—but Don’t Really” in which I suggest that parents and other educators actually do know what we want. We want schools to graduate young people for the world as it is rather than for the industrial age.

The good news is, we know what those graduates should look like. Educators from Tony Wagner at Harvard to Linda Darling-Hammond at Stanford have identified the kinds of skills the world will require of our graduates: focusing, making connections, changing perspective, creating, making judgments, finding meaning, working with others, managing conflict, planning, taking on challenges, persevering, etc.

Citizens with these skills, however, will not come from whomever wins the big debates over testing, teachers, unions, accountability, privatization, vouchers, charter schools, and so on.

The great news is that the changes we want have already occurred in some schools for some students. Hundreds of schools across the country, both public and private, rich and poor, are learning communities whose cultures are focused on bringing out the best in each person, building their character and their competence, and growing their authority. They have abandoned the Pyramid Model. For these schools and the people in them the game of school is not the “Get the Right Answers Game” but the “Work with Others to Investigate Interesting Questions Game.” These schools are graduating young people for the future—any future.

I have met many of these young people. They are everything we say we want: confident, creative collaborators who can communicate, they can speak and write, and solve problems on their own and also know when to involve others, and they are not into measuring up but rather into making a difference. They are trying to find their own unique place in a very wide world, and seem quite ready for the dynamic never-ending process of self-reinvention.

Moreover, they aren’t all under 30. Apparently this change has been going on for at least a generation. A parent at one school was going on about how wonderful her daughter’s school was. He said: “I visited 15 different schools. I could tell in five minutes that I wanted this school.”

So, I asked, “Terrific, but what’s so great?” Continue reading

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