“Horace Mann, was born on this day in Franklin, Massachusetts, in 1796. He grew up without much money or schooling, and what he did learn, he learned on his own at his local library, which had been founded by Benjamin Franklin. He was accepted into Brown University and graduated in three years, valedictorian of his class.” (5/4/2014 Writer’s Almanac) I love this combination of (unmentioned) real-world, hard-knocks education and library-based, self-taught academics. The recipe obviously worked for Horace Mann, “the father of American pubic education.”
Two years ago, I boasted that 50skatekid worked. Logan returned to public school after our trip, and he earned a spot on the “B Honor Roll” during his first quarter of seventh grade. He spent middle school learning all the things that a teenager misses on the road with his dad – about friends, about girls. Now, he’s a student at South Kent School, which is a good match for his learning style. South Kent is a leading one-to-one iPad school, which appeals to Logan’s interest in technology. The students are all boys, and the curriculum is hands-on, based on the hero’s journey theme. This school understands that every student is on his own epic quest to find himself and to forge his own unique destiny. That’s why I took this job. That’s right, I teach tenth-grade English. So, in some ways, we’re on another adventure together.
If you were ever a teenager or you ever read science-fiction and fantasy novels, you should listen to this clip from This American Life.
While reading The Case Against Homework, this quote grabbed me.
“I have elementary school children coming in who are highly stressed and miserable,” says pediatrician Rochelle Feldman. “They feel like failures at the beginning of school. One of the most important things you need to do for kids is establish school as a great place to be, that learning is fun and they can be successful these. That is actually the main task of the first three grades. So you’re taking a tremendous risk with issues of self-esteem and self-confidence if you make it drudgery instead of fun.” The book is fairly one-sided, but the evidence supports a policy of individualized, developmentally appropriate education.
I just returned from the Kildonan School where I watched a screening of the HBO documentary Journey-Into-Dyslexia: Great Minds Think Differently, by Academy Award-winning filmmakers Alan and Susan Raymond. It profiles a number of successful dyslexic people – artists, inventors, students, and entrepreneurs – who have faced a world stacked against them and risen to that challenge. They’ve all learned to see their dyslexia as a positive aspect of their identity. The film also examines the neurological basis of dyslexia, common to 10% of Americans, yet 35% of entrepreneurs.
Click here to order the DVD .
“Each day was a severe test for me, sitting in a dreadful classroom while the sun and fog played outside. Most of the information received meant absolutely nothing to me. For example, I was chastised for not being able to remember what states border Nebraska and what are the states of the Gulf Coast. It was simply a matter of memorizing the names, nothing about the process of memorizing or any reason to memorize. Education without either meaning or excitement is impossible… To the dismay of my mother I was escorted home and remained under house arrest for a week until my patient father concluded that my entry into yet another school would be useless. Instead, I was to study at home under his guidance.”
See how this 95 year-old old story proceeds at The Writer’s Almanac.