Are You Supporting Your Child To Reach Their Full Potential? 99

Are You Supporting Your Child To Reach Their Full Potential? 99

supporting your child to reach their full potentialThe other day while getting my hair cut, I struck a conversation with the hairdresser who has two children of her on. We talked about how difficult it is for parents to know whether they’ve sent their child to a good school or not. I could see a subtle look of concern in her eyes glancing back at me from the mirror when I shared with her how different the schools are and how the child might be taught something in one school in grade 1 that in another school is only being taught in grade 6 or maybe not ever.

She said what most parents say when asked about the quality of their child’s school: “Well, it seems good.”

Like most parents she has little to no idea what her children is being taught in school, because school-life and home-life has been inexorably separated and severed from one another. Teachers and parents barely have time to meet or to talk and when they do, it is only to make sure that everything is going according to schedule when it comes to the development of the child’s cognitive and social abilities.

Let me tell you a little bit about my work:

I go to over 20 different schools every week. In some preschools, the teachers hug the children each morning when their parents drop them of. They make sure to have a personal and individual conversation with each and every child and this is not a show they put on for the parents, because they do it whether the parents are there or not. It makes it a safe place to come to school, even for someone as young as 3 or 4. These preschools (and schools in general) are often private, small in size and/or run by a cooperative of parents. The state- and municipality-run schools are usually bigger in size and have a constant influx of teachers.

Unfortunately most parents don’t get to chose which schools to send their children to and even if they do it’s difficult to know whether the school is good or not. Often you only find out when it’s too late.

I teach students individually or in groups of three. Through teaching this way I have discovered that each child has its own entirely unique and individual learning requirements. No child is in the exact same place in its development process; some benefit from more structured and calm environments. Others learn best when they can take initiatives and push themselves. Some are good at math but bad at reading. Each one has their entirely own unique needs for an educational environment that will support them to grow and develop their potential.

The way the school system is build doesn’t even come close to supporting each child’s unique requirement for learning, not even by a long shot. When 30 students are stuffed into a small room with 1 teacher and are expected to rush through a standardized curriculum, at best we call it a ‘one size fits all’ system – at worst it is a system that prohibits each individual child from reaching his or her full potential.

The fact of the matter is that children can learn, all children have the potential to expand and grow and even defeat the odds that comes with poverty or learning disabilities.

So on one hand the education system is random. It’s like a lottery where, if you’re lucky enough your child might just end up in a school where there are teachers who teach because it is their passion and where there are resources. On the other hand, the education system is also tragically predictable in most cases, where it is almost guaranteed that your child will not be able to reach its full potential.

As parents it is our responsibility to be the main caretakers and guardians for our children in those first vulnerable years – but when it comes to education most of us have completely handed over the reigns to the education system, turning a blind eye to the fact that it is in no way equipped at providing our children with the education they require to truly reach their full potential, academically as well a personally.

It is time that we as parents start daring to see what is actually going on in the world of education today – and that because no one cares about our children as much as we do, it is our responsibility to make sure they get the education that will foster and nurture their full potential to develop.

Whether that means getting involved with the school board or setting up impromptu lessons around the dinner table or investing in sound educational materials for our children, we have to stop relying on the hope that the problems we see in schools today will sort themselves out.

If you don’t have the skills or resources to teach your children, if you don’t know what’s actually going on in school, if helping your child with their homework is daunting or something you resist doing – then start there. Start by taking one step, just one step towards ensuring that your child won’t just become another number in the statistics used by corporations and governments to serve some obscure and delusional agenda leading our world into even more dire straits than what they’re already in. The change starts with you, because without you, your child won’t stand a chance, and your child is the future of tomorrow.

If you start today, you will give your child a head start to face tomorrow and it will be a gift that will last a lifetime, with the potential to change, not only your child’s life, but also the world as we know it.

If you are ready to get involved in a political and economic change of paradigms and thereby also a change of our education systems, I invite you to investigate the Equal Life Foundation’s proposal of a Guaranteed Living Income System. This proposal suggests a groundbreaking change in political paradigms that doesn’t ‘take sides’ but instead presents a completely new approach to solving the problems we are currently facing in this world.

 

Imagine A Day in the Life of Your Child. 95

Imagine A Day in the Life of Your Child. 95

A DAy in the Life of your childAre you a parent to a child in school or do you plan to be one day? If so, I’d like you to join me in a thought experiment. How we’re going to do that I’ll explain in a moment, but first let me explain why exactly I’d like you to join me in this experiment:

Working as a teacher I’ve come to realize that parents hold the key to changing the education system.

Here’s why:

Parents, unlike teachers, aren’t paid to do what they do. You don’t get paid to be a parent. As teachers we are hired to follow guidelines and curricular, often stipulated by governments and other formal institutions. Our jobs depends on us following and adhering to the goals and principles set by the status quo of the current establishment. This means, that even if we see fundamental flaws in the education system, there is little we can do about it because our very livelihoods are dependent on that same flawed system. As parents, your primary interest is the wellbeing and success of your child. You don’t get paid to be a parent and so within the boundaries of the laws of your country, you have the right to raise your child as you see fit.

Now – I know that many parents are worried about their children’s future and whether the education system is equipped to effectively educate their children to step into that future. I also know that many parents feel left out and unable to effectively direct their child’s education because so much is left up to schools to decide and most parents have very little time to acquaint themselves with what’s going on in school. What the media and politicians are sharing is often ambiguous and confusing as they in one moment talk about how advanced the education system has become and in the next, expose one troubling result after another showing how schools in many countries are failing even the basic task of teaching their students to read, write and do math. Because of the poor results, many countries are implementing reforms and taking measures into improving the academic performance of students. Students are therefore being tested like never before.

As a teacher spending every day in the education system, I observe and reflect on children’s experiences. I do that because I care, because education is my passion – because I would like to see an education system that truly supports children to grow into their full potential. I see that the current education system is in no way optimal. I see things happening in schools that I would never want my child to experience. But as a teacher there is little I can do about it, because my job is to stand by the status quo, that is what I am hired to do and the children are in an even more disadvantageous position as their voices doesn’t count in the grand scheme of things. They’re there because they have to be, whether they like it or not, whether it supports them to truly learn or not.

The people with the greatest power and ability to speak up and stand up to change the status quo of the current education system are parents. But most parents don’t know what’s really going on. Instead they put their faith and trust in the teachers to teach and in the politicians to effectively determine what principles and values that their children are being taught. But what do you as a parent actually know about the life your child live when they are in school? When you ask them how their day went or what they learned, what do they say?

Therefore, I would like to give you as a parent a glimpse into what your child may experience as they go to school on a daily basis. I’d like to give you a glimpse into what it is really like for a child to go to school in today’s society – so that you may start to see that what’s really happening within education is not what is best for your child. I would also like you to see that there is an alternative, that there is a solution, that this is not how it has to be and that learning and going to school could be so much more than what it is today.

But before we get to that, let’s us start with our thought-experiment:

The following is a story of a day in the life of a student of unspecified origin, age and gender. Some of the details may coincide with your child’s experiences, others may not. The story is based on my observations of the lives of – and conversations with children in today’s Western school system. As you read the story, I’d like you to imagine that you are this child, that these are your experiences – and to then ask yourself whether this is the kind of education you would want if you were a child today.

I’m snugged into my bed when my mom yells at me to wake up. I open my eyes and see that it is still dark outside. I tug the blanket over my head. My mom comes into my room, yanks the blanket off and says that I have to get up or I will be late for school. I drag myself out of bed. It is cold and my body feels tired. I can barely open my eyes. I put on my pants and suddenly remember that kid yesterday who teased me because my pants didn’t have the right cut. The right cut. I feel embarrassed and ashamed. I quickly pull the pants off and throw them in a corner. I yell at my mom and ask why she bought me these pants that aren’t even in style and that I want new pants. They have to be this brand, it’s important. She yells back from the kitchen that we’ll have to see if we have enough money at the end of the month. I sigh. It’s always about the money. I scavenge my closet for a pair of pants that can pass as acceptable. When I put them on I feel nervous and hope that no one notices the patch that my mom has sown on. It would be so embarrassing. I feel a knot forming in my stomach.

When I come into the kitchen, my mom is running around looking for her keys. With a stressed look in her eyes she tells me to quickly eat my breakfast so that I won’t miss the school buss. She’s frowning. I don’t feel hungry at all but I chuck down a bowl of cereal with milk as fast as I can while I watch TV. My stomach feels funny afterwards, but I feel more awake. I hear the school buss pull up and I run out, grab my backpack, and barely get to put my shoes on before I’m out the door. I can hear my mom yelling from the kitchen that I didn’t finish my breakfast. I run as fast as I can but still miss the buss. Now she’s going to be pissed. I come back to the house.

My mom is already standing outside the door with her car keys and a tight look on her face. She says that she has an important meeting today and that she can’t be late. We get into the car. None of us say anything on the way. Right when we pull up to the school she asks me if I remembered to do my biology homework. I feel the knot in the stomach again. I tell her I did, not to worry her or get into trouble… but I didn’t. I tried for half an hour, but I couldn’t understand the questions. The knot is there again, churning in my stomach.

I get out of the car and start walking up to the school. It is a towering grey building with tiny windows and a cemented yard. It looks intimidating and cold, like a prison. I think to myself: “why does school look like a prison?.” I hurry in through the door to not be late. The staircase is dirty and the wallpaper is crumbling off the walls. As I walk into the classroom the teacher looks at me with a sour look in his eyes. There are 35 students in the class and I wiggle my way down in-between the tables and chairs that barely fit into the small room. Someone throws a paper ball directly on my head. I turn around, unsure who is out to get me. I pretend like I didn’t feel it and sit down, feeling slightly paranoid whether I am now going to be targeted by one or more bullies in the class. The knot in my stomach churns.

The table I sit at is too small, too tall and the chair is cold and hard. My stomach already feels empty again and it starts rumbling. I’m afraid the other students will start laughing at me if they hear it, so I quench my stomach muscles to make it stop. While the teacher is talking I try to pay attention but it is so difficult. It is literally like the words are buzzing around my head like a swarm of mosquitos or a fog that surrounds my head, but its like I can’t tune into the right frequency and clearly hear and absorb the words.

Mechanically I write down what the teacher is saying and writing on the board. It is math. That much I know. The muffled sound of the teacher’s words feels oddly soothing and I start dozing off. I realize it when my head nods and I try to stay alert. The worst thing that could happen is if the teacher calls on me, so I am thankful that I am so far back in class. I hope he won’t notice me. When the bell rings I feel a sigh of relief. One lesson down of a day that feels like its going to last eternally.

All the students run out of the classroom pushing and shoving each other. The hallway fills up with children and a loud, almost unbearable cacophony of voices. The kids are bumping into each other, some start wrestling, and others take out their albums with soccer stars or stickers to trade with other kids. Someone starts crying. Everyone puts on their coats, some grab a soccer ball and we all walk out into the yard. The rules stipulate that the students must be outside during recess. Today I would much rather be snuggled up somewhere inside with a book. I long for the peace and quiet of my bedroom. In the yard, there’s not much to do. There are two broken hockey nets that the kids use for soccer. There’s a faded hopscotch patch that the girls don’t use anymore.

Mostly the kids just run around or walk around. It reminds me of one of those prison movies that I saw one night when my mom was sleeping. In the prison movie the inmates would walk around in the yard, play cool and tough and would make deals and break out fights with each other while the guards look the other way.  It’s the same in our schoolyard, except that we are children and the guards are teachers. Someone is always getting picked on and I try my best to make sure I don’t get noticed so that I’m not next. Some girls are whispering about another girl that walks away crying. An older student knocks down a boy with funny looking legs that can’t walk straight. They laugh. I look away.

The noise is reaching its heights when the bell rings. I’m almost grateful the recess is over and I drag myself to yet another classroom, yet another lesson. One of the teachers is real nice and I like the lesson, but it is so short and many of the other students didn’t read the book we had for homework so we don’t get far. I try to talk to her about what happens next in the book cause I found it so interesting and I have a question I’ve been waiting to ask her since last week. But she hushes at me and instead goes over everything again so that the other students can keep up. It’s the third time I’ve heard it. I draw doodles on my book.

And so it continues until lunch. I go into the cafeteria that is again filled with the buzzing and deafening sound of voices. I feel starving now. At the cafeteria I look around to see who I can sit with, it’s like playing chess in my mind. If I sit with that girl, the other kids might think I like her, but she got bullied last year and I don’t want to be next. That kid used to be my friend but everyone hates him now so I’m not going to sit there. There’s that cool kid that everyone looks up to, but he’s such an asshole. Last time I sat next to him he stole half my lunch and I was hungry the rest of the day. So I sit alone.

The lunch is cold and soggy. After I’ve eaten it I feel a little fuller but its like the food doesn’t really fill me up. So I go to the vending machine. They put up these machines all over the schools with soda and candy. Then the soda and candy companies came and gave us some pens and other material. So I have a soda. Afterwards my teeth itch but I feel a little bit more awake.

After lunch we have a test. I can barely understand the questions and I can’t sit still. I keep looking up at the clock. Tick tock. It feels like the time is moving faster than normal. I try to concentrate on the questions on the test but the kids behind me keep talking and whispering. The letters on the test look all mushed together and I can’t focus. I guess and hope that I got enough right to pass. I count the time till the bell rings.

All I want to do is to go home to my nice cozy bed, play some computer games, watch some series and sleep. The bell rings. I take the buss home. When I come home my mom is again running around in the kitchen looking stressed. When we sit down to eat, she asks me how my day was. I say: “Fine”. I go to my room and close the door. I exhale.

This story might seem thought provoking, unrealistic even. Much of it might not resemble what your child experiences on a daily basis; some might be worse in real life, some might be better, but what I would like to show with this story is how the current education system is not an optimal learning environment for any child.

As I mentioned earlier, what I’ve realized as a teacher is that most parents know very little about what school is really like. Obviously all parents have gone to school themselves, so they do have some reference and probably remember much of what I’ve described here from their own experiences – and yet there is this hope and faith that the education system will effectively take care of their children, when in all honesty it will not.

Obviously as teachers we do what we can to provide your child with the best possible education, but at the end of the day we have no choice but to conform to the standards and conditions we are met with. We don’t have time to talk to your child individually. We don’t have time to even get to know your child enough to effectively teach them in a way that works best for them. I certainly wish we did. But we don’t decide how many students are to be jam-packed into one class. We don’t decide what curricular to teach. We don’t even decide what principles to teach according to. We’re given standardized tests to hand out to students because that’s what the current establishment sees as the best way to optimize the current education system, to get your children to achieve better… for the sake of the economy and the competition on the global market.

The question I would ask myself as a parent is: is that enough? Is that all I want for my child? Am I satisfied with that? Can I honestly say that the education I received as a child sufficiently prepared me to face life as an adult? What would an education system look like that truly prioritized the learning and wellbeing of my child?

To answer this question, in the next post, I’d like to invite you to join me in another thought experiment.

This time we will imagine what school would be like if the wellbeing and expansive potential of our children was a top priority in the education system. We will imagine what school would be like if the status quo of our society changed its governing principles from competition in the global economy to a system of mutual support, a system where each citizen is supported by society as a whole to thrive. We will imagine what happens to a child’s education when parents take active part in their learning process – and we will discuss how this has the potential to, not only change the life of each individual child, but in fact the world as we know it. So stay tuned.

If you are ready to get involved in a political and economic change of paradigms and thereby also a change of our education systems, I invite you to investigate the Equal Life Foundation’s proposal of a Guaranteed Living Income System. This proposal suggests a groundbreaking change in political paradigms that doesn’t ‘take sides’ but instead presents a completely new approach to solving the problems we are currently facing in this world.

Re-Educate yourself here:

A couple of weeks ago I was part of the panel on a Live Google Hangout about the Common Core standards initiative. I definitely recommend watching it.

The Ultimate History Lesson with John Taylor Gatto:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YQiW_l848t8

PROPAGANDA | FULL ENGLISH VERSION (2012)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6NMr2VrhmFI

The Century of the Self
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s7EwXmxpExw

Psywar
http://metanoia-films.org/psywar/

The Trap
http://archive.org/details/AdamCurtis_TheTrap

The Power Principle
http://metanoia-films.org/the-power-principle/

Human Resources: Social Engineering in the 20th Century
http://metanoia-films.org/human-resources/

The Story of Your Enslavement
http://youtu.be/Xbp6umQT58A

Blind Spot
https://vimeo.com/30559203

Inequality for all documentary:
http://www.putlocker.to/watch-inequality-for-all-online-free-putlocker.html

The Four Horsemen:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5fbvquHSPJU

On Advertisement and the end of the world:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_8gM0Q58iP0

Third World America – Chris Hedges
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=drZE65_134g

More articles about parenting and education in a Guaranteed Living Income System:

http://livingincomeforall.wordpress.com/2014/04/03/parents-need-a-living-income-now/

https://livingincomeguaranteed.wordpress.com/category/parenting/

http://economistjourneytolife.blogspot.com/2014/01/day-259-living-income-guaranteed-and.html

https://livingincomeguaranteed.wordpress.com/2014/04/04/the-self-perpetuating-cycle-of-homelessness-and-living-income-guaranteed/

Watch the hangout about Education for a New World in Order: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zlj5wGCRnSU

 

 

Why Smaller Classes are Essential for The Success and Well-Being of Your Child. 94

Why Smaller Classes are Essential for The Success and Well-Being of Your Child. 94

Small class sizeIn this post I discuss how class sizes are one of the biggest, yet most overlooked problems in the current education system – both when it comes to facilitating students academic achievement as well as nurturing their overall wellbeing and development on a personal level.  The questions I raise in this post has to do with the priorities we make within the education system, and so for our children and ultimately for the future of humanity. They are questions I suggest that every parent, teacher and concerned citizen considers for themselves, because although it seems trivial, this is an example of the disintegration of our education systems through a hostile takeover by the corporate world, that we’ve come to take for granted as ‘the way it is’. But it doesn’t have to be.

I will begin by sharing recent experiences I had within teaching here in Sweden to exemplify how grave this problem is and how it can be seen having tragic consequences in the seemingly trivial events of our children’s daily lives.

Recently I was teaching a three-year old student in a preschool. While we were playing, he found a tiny Lego wheel on the floor and joyously said, “It belongs in the Lego box!” So together we walked out of the playroom and with determination he marched towards the Lego box in the other side of the room. Meanwhile, one of his regular teachers had heard that we were going to the Lego box and promptly stopped him in his tracks, telling him to go and clean up where he had played first. I saw that she had misunderstood his intentions and I explained to her that he was simply on his way to put the Lego piece back in the box. It was interesting because I could see that she was rather embarrassed over having gotten strict towards him in assuming that he was just leaving what he’d been playing with to now play with something else. The more important question is: what did the boy learn from this experience?

To see the consequence of this type of misalignment between the teacher and the student, let’s look at another example, this time with an older student that has already been conditioned through the education system for a number of years:

I was walking down the hall at another school with a teacher when a 6-year-old student came in from the outside. As soon as he saw the teacher, he quickly started explaining how he was just going to the bathroom and that he was not wearing his shoes indoors. Already before she had even opened her mouth, he was already preparing himself to get in trouble, assuming that he would get in trouble, even though what he was doing was perfectly fine. Situations like this happen all the time in schools all over the world, and as trivial as they seem, they have the consequence that many children become timid and afraid of adults, always feeling like they’ve done something wrong, even if they haven’t. This on the other hand creates distrust, resentment and a desire to rebel within the children, perpetuating a self-fulfilling prophecy where the children become that which the teachers expect them to be. And as adults, who do these children become? Followers or leaders? Strong, independent human beings that take responsibility for their own lives or apathetic, confused teenagers that never really grow up?

When teachers become snappy with students and when they make quick judgmental assumptions about children in general, it is not because these teachers are ‘bad’. What many outside the school system might not realize is that there are so many students and so much going on at one time that the teachers simply can’t see everything or direct every situation. Therefore they come to rely on assumptions about how children tend to act. This is not optimal, it is not even acceptable – but it is the education system and the conditions we have accepted for our children.

An example of how a teacher can be so overwhelmed that she compromises her ability to effectively teach, was a situation where I was waiting for a 1.grade student while standing in the class where the teacher was teaching the rest of the students. The students were moving around, making noise and there was a general sense of confusion. The teacher (who is new) stood in the doorway and she yelled at a student for walking out of class saying that he couldn’t do the assignment and that she could do it. She told him that it was disrespectful and that it is his own responsibility to learn. As he walked out the door, another student came up behind her with a timid look on his face holding a paper. He quietly asked what he was supposed to do and she brushed him off and told him to go back to his seat. This was significant to me, because the student had simply asked a question, but because the teacher was already involved with a conflict with another student, she took her irritation and frustration out on this student, who went back to his seat with a despondent look on his face. Mind you, these are 7 year olds we are talking about.

Now – what I would like to clarify is that none of these examples has to do with teachers being ‘bad teachers’. Granted, there are teachers who aren’t necessarily meant for the teaching-profession, but the reason why I share these examples is to show that one of the biggest problems for teachers today is that there are simply too many children in the classroom. It affects the teacher’s ability to teach effectively.

I have furthermore seen for myself how these seemingly small mistakes, where teachers make assumptions or rush to conclusions, can create big consequences for a child’s life and self-development, especially when they are repeated on a daily basis over and over again. And the bigger the class is, the more students the teachers have to oversee, the easier it is to make assumptions and ‘small mistakes’.

In my line of work I see many different schools throughout the week and in reflecting over which schools are more effective in their approach towards children, I’ve been surprised to see how it is not necessarily that certain schools have higher standards or better teachers, but simply that they are smaller. I for example go to a public school in a rural area that has the exact same budget and curriculum as any other public school. But a big difference is that it is about the third of the size of other schools. All the children know each other and they know all the teachers and the teachers know them. Unlike most schools, the school was built in 1997 and was designed by an architect. Most schools here in Sweden are either archaic buildings from the 60’s and 70’s that are drawing their last breaths or are designed ‘economically’ to hold large capacities of students. Classroom sizes may seem like a small detail that shouldn’t affect the actual learning environment, but it does – greatly so.

No teachers can effectively teach 20 or 30 students at once, let alone 50 or 60, as is the case in some countries. Furthermore, the younger the child is, the more supervision and support is needed and I would go as far as saying that any child’s optimal learning environment would be based on one-on-one lessons, at the very least no more than 5-10 students in the classroom. (This may sound controversial and for those interested in reading more about this, I wrote a blog post about this as well which you can find here.) Unfortunately most of us are so used to the cramped and smelly classrooms housing at least 30 students that we don’t even consider the possibility that it could be different, let alone that it should be different.

Some researchers claim, as for example the ones quoted in this[1] article from The Economist, that classroom sizes doesn’t matter as much and that raising teachers salaries is a much more equitable way to optimize education. They used the example from primary schools in China where there can easily be up to 50 students in a class. The problem is that the supposed ’effectiveness’ of such classes is based on strict discipline and a model of teaching where children are expected to be passive recipients of rote learning and memorization techniques, models that may produce great results in grades, but that leaves very little room for the students self-expression, creativity and critical thinking skills to flourish. Other studies such as the one mentioned in this[2] article claims that ‘teacher quality’ is more important than smaller classroom for students overall academic performance, but fails to consider that an education that does not only provide students with the best possible learning environment, but also supports them to grow and develop on a personal level, requires both the best teachers and smaller classrooms; one certainly should exclude the other. Unfortunately, this kind of thinking comes from an outlook on education that first and foremost looks at keeping budgets down while ensuring students academic performance.

In alignment with my direct experiences from working in schools, many studies does however accredit small class sizes to students academic achievement as well as to their overall wellbeing on a personal level. To show the overwhelming evidence of the importance of class sizes, I’ll refer you to a large selection of studies done in recent years showing exactly this.[i]

Anyone who has tried teaching or directing a class of more than 10 students knows what a challenge it is, and how difficult it is to make sure that each student is given individual attention to suit their needs. Instead teachers are forced to provide students with standardized lessons that is supposed to at least fulfill the academic needs of the majority of a class and it might teach most students how to read, write and do math at a basic level – but the question is how low a standard we will accept just to keep the budgets on education down? Simply because something works on a marginal level, it does certainly not mean that this is optimal – and as a society we ought to look ourselves deep in the mirror and ask why it is we’re not providing our children with the most optimal learning environment possible? Why are we accepting non-supportive learning environments as the norm and even more so: why do we believe that simply because it is the norm, it is automatically the most optimal? With smaller classes, optimally no more than 5 students pr. teacher, each child will be able to be supported on an individual level, which in turn will enable the teacher to assist the child to develop their full potential, based on their individual natural learning ability.

If we truly valued our children’s lives and with them, the future, wouldn’t we want to create the best possible learning environment? And how can we even pretend to answer that question with a solid ‘YES’ when we so blatantly accept our education system to be subject to a hostile takeover by the corporate system?

At the Equal Life Foundation we are proposing real long-term solutions, solutions that involve parents getting much more involved in their child’s education. We are also proposing solutions that will enable parents to take more active part in their child’s education, thereby relieving the pressure on the education system to live up to the task of raising and educating our children, a task that it is in no way equipped to handle. There is absolutely no reason why all children should not be given the best possible education available – and when the sole argument against this fact, is money, we know that there is something utterly wrong with the way we prioritize in this world. This is not a responsibility that solely falls upon the politicians to sort out. It is in fact the responsibility of all of us, because it is our future that is at stake, the future of our children, of this planet, and of life, as we know it. Get involved today, investigate the education system in your area, expose the denigration of the school-system and join us as we embark on this virgin-voyage to, for the first time in human history, create a life we can actually be proud of.

[1] http://www.economist.com/news/international/21616978-higher-teacher-pay-and-smaller-classes-are-not-best-education-policies-new-school

[2] http://blogs.edmontonjournal.com/2013/12/10/excerpts-from-the-pisa-report-on-class-sizes/

  • [i] Zyngier, David. (2014). Class size and academic results, with a focus on children from culturally, linguistically and economically disenfranchised communities. Evidence Base, issue 1, 2014.  In this research summary, the author examined class size reduction and its effect on student achievement by analyzing 112 peer-reviewed studies, and showed that the overwhelming majority of these studies found that smaller classes have a significant impact on student achievement and narrowing the achievement gap. The author writes, “Noticeably, of the papers included in this review, only three authors supported the notion that smaller class sizes did not produce better outcomes to justify the expenditure.”
  • Schanzenbach, D. W. (2014). Does Class Size Matter? National Education Policy Center Policy Brief. “This policy brief summarizes the academic literature on the impact of class size and finds that class size is an important determinant of a variety of student outcomes, ranging from test scores to broader life outcomes. Smaller classes are particularly effective at raising achievement levels of low-income and minority children.  Policymakers should carefully weigh the efficacy of class-size policy against other potential uses of funds. While lower class size has a demonstrable cost, it may prove the more cost-effective policy overall.”
  • Achilles, C. M., et al. (2012). Class-size Policy: The Star Experiment and Related Class-size Studies. NCPEA Policy Brief, 1.2. “A reanalysis of the Tennessee STAR experiment found that small classes (15-17 pupils) in kindergarten through third grade (K-3) provide short- and long-term benefits for students, teachers, and society at large….poor, minority, and male students reap extra benefits in terms of improved test outcomes, school engagement, and reduced grade retention and dropout rates.”
  • Shin, Yongyun (2012). Do Black Children Benefit More From Small Classes? Multivariate Instrumental Variable Estimators With Ignorable Missing Data. Journal of Educational and Behavioral Statistics, 37 (4). An analysis of experimental data from Tennessee’s Student-Teacher  Achievement Ratio study show that, for Black students, reduced class size caused higher academic achievement in the four domains (reading, mathematics, listening, and word recognition skills) each year from kindergarten to third grade, while for other students, it improved the four outcomes except for first-grade listening in kindergarten and first grade only. Evidence shows that Black students benefit more than others from reduced class size in first-, second-, and third-grade academic achievement, substantially narrowing the achievement gap.
  • Dynarski, S., Hyman, J., & Schanzenbach, D. W. (2011). Experimental Evidence on the Effect of Childhood Investment on Postsecondary Attainment and Degree Completion. NBER Working Paper. “The study concludes that attending a small class increases the rate of college attendance, with the largest positive impact on black and poor students.  Among those students with the lowest predicted probability of attending college, a small class increased rate of college attendance by 11 percentage points.  Attending a small class also increases the probability of earning a college degree, and to shift students toward earning degrees in high-earning fields such as science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), business and economics.”
  • Bascia, N. (2010). Reducing Class Size: What do we Know?. Ontario Institute for Studies in Education. Reviewed research base and analyzed statistical data collected by the Canadian Ministry of Education between 2003-04 and 2007-08. Involved field research in eight school districts, 24 schools, and 84 classrooms. Classroom observations were undertaken at each primary grade level, from K-3. All teachers were surveyed in each school. Parent surveys included representation from every school district in Ontario. “Nearly three-quarters of the primary teachers reported that the quality of their relationships with students had improved as a result of the smaller class size, and two-thirds said their students were more engaged in learning than before class size reduction…Many parents of children enrolled in smaller classes reported that their children appeared to be learning more and were more comfortable at school.”
  • Heilig, J.V., Williams, A. & Jez, S.U. (2010). Input and student achievement: An analysis of Latina/o –serving urban elementary schools. Association of Mexican American Educators (AMAE) Journal, 48 -58. Examined readily available input variables in Texas Ed. databases in three of the four largest TX districts (Houston, Dallas and Austin) in 419 schools that are majority Latina/o over 4 years (2005-2008). Evaluated variables such as school funding expenditures, tests scores, ethnicity, and teacher certification, teacher-student ratio and degree obtainment to identify any impact on student achievement in urban elementary schools. “Most powerful predictor of changes in reading and math in all models was decreasing the student teacher ratio…. Essentially, decreasing the student teacher ratio by 1 percentage point would increase the percentage of students proficient on the TAKS by 3% for reading and by 4% for math (p54).”
  • Jepsen, C., & Rivkin, S. (2009). Potential Tradeoff between Teacher Quality and Class Size. Journal of Human Resources, 44.1. This paper investigates the effects of California’s billion-dollar class-size-reduction program on student achievement;….”[T]here is little or no support for the hypotheses that the need to hire large numbers of teachers following the adoption of CSR [class-size reduction] led to a lasting reduction in the quality of instruction,” according to the study. “Overall, the findings suggest that CSR increased achievement in the early grades for all demographic groups….”
  • Konstantopoulos, S., & Chun, V. (2009). What Are the Long-Term Effects of Small Classes on the Achievement Gap? Evidence from the Lasting Benefits Study,” American Journal of Education 116.  A summary of the effects of smaller classes on the achievement gap through eighth grade.  Effects significant in all tested subjects, and for those in smaller classes for four years, very substantial. “The results … provided convincing evidence that all types of students (e.g., low, medium, and high achievers) benefit from being in small classes (in early grades) across all achievement tests…. in certain grades, in reading and science, the cumulative effects of small classes for low achievers are substantial in magnitude and significantly different from those for high achievers.  Thus, class size reduction appears to be an intervention that increases the achievement levels for all students while simultaneously reducing the achievement gap.”
  • Babcock, P., & Betts, J.R. (2009). Reduced Class Distinctions: Effort, Ability, and The Education Production Function. Journal of Urban Economics, Vol. 65, pp. 314–322. Empirical findings indicate that class-size expansion may reduce gains for low-effort students more than for high-effort students, Results here…suggest …that larger gains for disadvantaged students may have occurred because small classes allow teachers to incentivize disengaged students more effectively, or because students are better able connect to the school setting in small classes.
  • King, J. (2008). Bridging the Achievement Gap: Learning from three charter schools (part 1), (part 2), (part 3), (part 4). Columbia University (Doctoral Dissertation).  “School size and class size are linked to the five key cultural values ….: a culture that teaches effort yields success; a culture of high expectations; a disciplined culture; a culture built on relationships; and a culture of excellence in teaching. Small classes and small overall student loads allow teachers to spend more time working with individual students to help them track their own progress and develop their skills – thus reinforcing the principle that effort yields success. High expectations are easier to maintain when teachers know their students well (because of small school and class size), can identify whether a student’s poor performance on an assessment reflects deficiencies in their effort or their understanding, and can respond accordingly.”
  • Lubienski, S. T., et.al. (2008). Achievement Differences and School Type: The Role of School Climate, Teacher Certification, and Instruction. American Journal of Education, 115. Multilevel analysis of National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) mathematics data for over 270,000 fourth and eighth graders in over 10,000 schools finds that smaller class size is significantly correlated with higher achievement.
  • Magnuson, K.A., Ruhm, C. & Waldfogel, J. (2007). The persistence of preschool effects: Do subsequent classroom experiences matter? Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 22(1), 18 – 38. Using data from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study-Kindergarten cohort (ECLS-K), it has been demonstrated that children who attended preschool enter public schools with higher levels of academic skills than their peers who experienced other types of child care. This study considered … the types of classrooms in which students who did not attend preschool “catch up” to their counterparts who did. The findings suggested that most of the preschool-related gap in academic skills at school entry is quickly eliminated for children placed in small classrooms and classrooms providing high levels of reading instruction. Conversely, the initial disparities persisted for children experiencing large classes and lower levels of reading instruction.
  • Ready, D. D., & Lee, V. E. (2006/7). Optimal Context Size in Elementary Schools: Disentangling the Effects of Class Size and School Size. Brookings Papers on Education Policy, pp. 99-135. Study finds that class size rather than school size makes a positive difference, and suggests that “if children remained in the same elementary school for five or six years … differences would be very substantial: a roughly 10-point advantage for children in small over large classes by the end of sixth grade, or 4.5 months of additional learning.”
  • Unlu, F. (2005). California Class Size Reduction Reform: New Findings from the NAEP. Princeton University. Study found that California’s fourth grade students who were in reduced class sizes in grades K-3 had substantially higher scores in math on the national assessments (NAEPs), of between 0.2 and 0.3 of a standard deviation, compared to closely matched students who were not in smaller classes.
  • Finn, J. D., et. al. (2005). Small Classes in the Early Grades, Academic Achievement, and Graduating From High School. Journal of Educational Psychology. “For all students combined, 4 years of a small class in K–3 were associated with a significant increase in the likelihood of graduating from high school; the odds of graduating after having attended small classes for 4 years were increased by about 80.0%. Furthermore, the impact of attending a small class was especially noteworthy for students from low-income homes. Three years or more of small classes affected the graduation rates of low-SES students, increasing the odds of graduating by about 67.0% for 3 years and more than doubling the odds for 4 years.”
  • Dee, T. (2004). Teachers, Race, and Student Achievement in a Randomized Experiment. Review of Economics and Statistics. Study showing that student/teacher racial differences appear to negatively effect student achievement in regular size classes. Yet in small classes, students learn more, and racial disparity between teacher and student has no significant effect.
  • Barton, P. (2003). Parsing the Achievement Gap. Educational Testing Service.  Despite the fact that class size reduction has been shown to narrow the achievement gap, this study reveals that schools with large numbers of black and/or limited English students are more likely to have classes of 25 or more.
  • Institute of Education Sciences. (2003). Identifying and Implementing Educational Practices Supported by Rigorous Evidence: A User Friendly Guide. U.S. Department of Education. Class size reduction identified as one of four K-12 education reforms proven to increase learning.
  • Krueger, A. B., & Whitmore, D. M. (2002). Would Smaller Classes Help Close the Black-White Achievement Gap? from: Bridging the Achievement Gap, Brookings Institution Press. “Our analysis of the STAR experiment indicates that students who attend smaller classes in the early grades tend to have higher test scores while they are enrolled in those grades than their counterparts who attend larger classes….Moreover, black students tend to advance further… from attending a small class than do white students, both while they are in a small class and afterwards. For black students, we also find that being assigned to a small class for an average of two years in grade K – 3 is associated with an increased probability of subsequently taking the ACT or SAT college entrance exam, and 0.15-.20 standard deviation higher average score on the exam.”
  • Fidler, P., Phd. (2002). The Impact of class size reduction on student achievement.  Los Angeles Unified School District, Publication No. 109. “The purpose of this study was to examine the impact of class size reduction (CSR) on achievement among 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade students with different numbers of years of participation in CSR…. We believe that CSR will help to increase student achievement, especially for students who need it the most: low SES students, limited English-speaking students, and those students in inner-city schools…. It can be concluded from the results of this study that CSR does help to increase language achievement gains, especially for ELL students.”
  • Biddle, B., & Berliner, D. (2002).  What Research Says About Small Classes and Their Effects.Wested. “When it is planned thoughtfully and funded adequately, long-term exposure to small classes in the early grades generates substantial advantages for students in American schools, and those extra gains are greater the longer students are exposed to those classes.”
  • U.S. Department of Education. National Center for Education Statistics. (2000). School-Level Correlates of Academic Achievement: Student Assessment Scores in SASS Public Schools. NCES 2000-303, by Donald McLaughlin and Gili Drori. Project Officer: Michael Ross. Washington DC. The most authoritative study showing the importance of class size is in all grades, analyzing the achievement levels of students in 2,561 schools, as measured by performance on the NAEP (national) exams.  After controlling for student background, the only objective factor found to be positively correlated with student performance was class size, not school size, not teacher qualifications, nor any other variable that the researchers could identify. Student achievement was even more strongly linked to smaller classes in the upper rather than the lower grades.
  • Grissmer, D., et. al. (2000). Improving Student Achievement: What State NAEP Test Scores Tell Us. RAND. “States with higher per-pupil spending, lower class sizes and more pre-K have higher achievement levels. Disadvantaged children are the most likely to gain benefits from such programs.”
  • Pritchard, I. (1999). Reducing class size: What do we know? U.S. Department of Education. A comprehensive and wide-scale analysis of CSR analyses, experimental studies and state initiatives. “Researchers have used various techniques to study how class size affects the quality of education.… Overall, however, the pattern of research findings points more and more clearly toward the beneficial effects of reducing class size.
  • Bracey, G. (1999) Distortion and Disinformation about Class Size Reduction. EDDRA. Critique of Hanushek’s analyses of class size reduction.
  • Cromwell, S. (1998). Are smaller Classes the Answer? Education World. Thorough analysis of contemporary research articles evincing the benefits of smaller class sizes.
  • Achilles, C. M. (1997). Small Classes, Big Possibilities. The School Administrator. “Perhaps the idea of small classes for students in the early grades is so commonsensical today that educators don’t consider it a challenge. Yet education’s leaders must look beyond the surface variables to understand the systemic, domino-effect possibilities of class-size changes.”
  • NCTE: National Council of Teachers of English. (1996). Statement on Class Size and Teacher Workload: Elementary. Guideline for NCTE’s position on educational issues is in strong support of smaller class sizes, complete with facts and challenges. All of the major professional organizations in the field of composition recommend course sizes of no more than twenty students for K-1, based on the literature on class size and writing.
  • Mosteller, F. (1995).The Tennessee Study of class size in the early school grades. (1995). The Future of Children, 5.2. Formidable results from the historic large-scale experiment for early grades, Project STAR. “After four years, it was clear that smaller classes did produce substantial improvement in early learning and cognitive studies and that the effect of small class size on the achievement of minority children was initially about double that observed for majority children….”
  • AEU Fact Sheet Number 1. (1995).Class sizes do matter. Australian Education Union. Fact sheet with evidence from class size research projects and reading list for the general public.
  • Boozer, M., & Rouse, C. (1995). Intraschool variation in class size: patterns and implications. NBER Working Paper, No.5144. “We find that not only are blacks in schools with larger average class sizes, but they are also in larger classes within schools, conditional on class type…it appears that smaller classes at the eighth grade lead to larger test score gains from eighth to tenth grade and that differences in class size can explain approximately 15% of the black-white difference in educational achievement.” – Source: http://www.classsizematters.org/research-and-links/

 

 

 

 

 

Emancipated Learning and the Self-Empowered Student. 93

Emancipated Learning and the Self-Empowered Student. 93

Students Thinking of GoalsIt is a new school-term and the beginning of a new year in the world of teachers and students. In our world it is not New Years Eve that marks the most prominent transition from the old to the new, but the end of summer and the progression into yet another grade in, what for many students feels like the never-ending hamster wheel we call school. For teachers, the beginning of a new term gives us the opportunity to reflect on our teaching methods and curricular and to start over, with new students and new material and sometimes, with an entirely different perspective on life and learning.

Since I started working as a teacher, I noticed how demotivated the older students were and how the ‘spark of life’ that is so prominent in them when they are younger, slowly but surely starts dying out until what is left is the apathetic, withdrawn, passive aggressive and illusive human being that we call an adult. School is an artificial construction based on abstract simulations of reality, but it is not a part of reality itself – at least not the students´. An educational philosopher, whose name escapes me at the moment, once said that school is the only place in the world where what you do doesn’t’ matter or has any significant purpose in the world. What is produced in school is for the school – and that includes the student. Obviously we can come up with all sorts of existential and evolutionary explanations for why children have to go to school, but I assure you that the burden of the survival and advancement of our species is the farthest thing on children’s minds – at least on a conscious level.

To them, they go to school because their parents tell them to, because the teacher’s says so and because society is built that way. School becomes a place that children are forced to go to every day where they learn things that they do not see as having any connection to their reality. Obviously they understand that they have no choice and it is not like they are singlehandedly going to start a revolution in the classroom, so they do their homework, reluctantly and they sit still and pretend to listen to the teacher, reluctantly. This is perhaps the worst possible environment when it comes to the scientifically proven best conditions a human has to be in to learn, and yet we manage to shove just enough information into their heads so that they can advance to the next grade and the next. Many of the things students care about are considered irrelevant and obstructive to adults just as the questions kids ask are seen as interruptions and sabotage. From the age of seven the downward spiral begins, where the sprightly, curious child with a lust for life is forced into the sharp industrial cookie-cutter of the school system and as a someone who teaches students throughout all the grades, I see this devolution taking place on a daily level.

So I decided to do something about it and I realized that one of the reasons students become so demotivated and why they lose their passion for life, is because school is not their own. I realized that for children to be engaged on a genuine level school has to be meaningful to them and it has to be something they decide to do for themselves. This is not an easy task, because obviously there is no way to get around the fact that school is mandatory and that the children has little to no say in the matter. So I looked at how I could support the students to rather change their perspective on going to school, so that school becomes something they do for themselves.

As I was discussing this with a 7.th grade student I used the example of doing dishes, which is something everyone has to do, but not many would volunteer to if they had a choice. But even with doing the dishes that is a chore many of us disdain, we can change our perspective – and through that, we can make dishes something supportive that we do for ourselves and even enjoy and have fun doing.

So I asked the students to write down their academic and personal goals. The assignment was divided in two parts. In the first part the students had to write their academic and personal goals and before starting with the assignment we discussed (especially with the younger students) the different definitions of what a ‘goal’ is and what it means to set goals for oneself. I very explicitly point out that it had to be THEIR goals, not their parents goals, not their teachers goals and that they shouldn’t write something just for my sake. In the second part of the assignment the students had to write what they were going to do to reach their goals and how their parents/teachers could help them to reach their goals. I deliberately wrote, “What am I going to do to reach my goal” rather than “What can I do to reach my goal” so as to emphasize the commitment the students were making to themselves. I was very curious to see, especially how the older students would approach the assignment and I expected that they might be oppositional towards it. To my surprise most of the students took the assignment seriously, especially when I said that the goals were to be their own goals and that they should rather not write anything instead of writing something insincere just to please their teachers and parents.

However I did also gain some insights that I had never expected to come out of this exercise. I’ll share two examples here that further emphasize the grave problems we are facing in our school systems when children have no ownership what so ever over what they learn.

A 7-year-old student in the 1th Grade had as her personal goal to get a cat. She couldn’t come up with any academic goals so we agreed that an academic goal she could set for herself would be to study and learn about cats. She was satisfied with that. It made me realize that academic goals cannot be separate from the personal goals if they are truly to be goals the children set for themselves, for their own sake. Consider it for a second, how absurd and meaningless does school not seem when we don’t even know why doing it or how meaningless life seem when we are told to go to school just so that we can grow up to survive? In bringing academic and personal goals together, the students learn that they can utilize the situation of going to school that is forced upon them, to actually support their true potential – and in turn embrace education as something they do for themselves and not for anyone else.

Secondly, a 13-year-old 7th grader said something profound when I discussed his goals with him. He said: “I don’t have any goals for myself. My teachers and parents decide all my goals. They set all the goals for me, so I don’t have to have any.” I asked him: “Okay, but how about simply setting a goal for yourself that is entirely your own?” He then said: “what if I said that my goal is playing computer games?” I said: “well, what’s wrong with that?” He said: “my mom wouldn’t like that.” I told him about a young man I know who’s only passion it was to play computer games and who now has embarked on a degree to become a computer game designer.

What was cool about this conversation was that through opening up the possibility of playing computer as a goal, as opposed to something he does that he knows his mother and teachers don’t approve of, he could for the first time start considering the point for himself. So as he reflected on it, he realized that playing computer isn’t really a goal he has. He said that, not me. Eventually we agreed that he would look at finding goals for himself that are his own to next week.

When students have no say or ownership over their education, it is no wonder that they become demotivated and apathetic, let alone that they don’t learn to take responsibility for their own lives and seeing their own potential. So this is what we will work with this term: makings education something that is real, relevant and meaningful in the students lives; something they do for themselves – so that they can take their life into their own hands at a substantial level. Isn’t that what we would all like for our children, let alone ourselves?

For more information on how you can become a catalyst of change, investigate the Living Income Guaranteed proposal.

More articles about parenting and education in a Guaranteed Living Income System:

http://livingincomeforall.wordpress.com/2014/04/03/parents-need-a-living-income-now/

https://livingincomeguaranteed.wordpress.com/category/parenting/

http://economistjourneytolife.blogspot.com/2014/01/day-259-living-income-guaranteed-and.html

https://livingincomeguaranteed.wordpress.com/2014/04/04/the-self-perpetuating-cycle-of-homelessness-and-living-income-guaranteed/

Watch the hangout about Education for a New World in Order: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zlj5wGCRnSU

How Much Reality Can a Child Handle? 87

How Much Reality Can a Child Handle? 87

How much reality can a child handleAs teachers it is our responsibility to teach children about life, about the world, about the history of human civilization and about the best practices that we as humans have come up with to co-exist effectively in this world. It is a responsibility that for all intends and purposes should not be taken lightly considering how we, through the education of today, are shaping the future of tomorrow.

I am continuing here from a series of blog-posts that I wrote about introducing children to real-life issues.

I Know the World. Do You? DAY 82

Connecting Learning to Real Life: DAY 81

Cultivating Social Change Through Education: DAY 80

In my work as a teacher I often find myself wondering, “how much is too much?” when it comes to introducing children to the reality of what is going on in this world. I once suggested to my colleagues that we should do a project about death and this was something that many of my colleagues thought would be too much for the children to handle. But what I saw within this was that we as adults tend to project our own fears, our own taboos onto children and so because we have an unresolved and emotional relationship with death as a theme, we assume that children would have the same. The thing is that children haven’t developed taboos or fears towards certain topics until these are imposed upon them from adults, either directly or implicitly through the adult’s own fears and emotional reactions. Another dimension entirely however, is the question of whether a topic is too abstract or complex for a child to understand and that the child would thereby be introduced to information that it simply isn’t able to effectively comprehend. This is something that is most certainly valid to consider, however it can also be intervened upon through an effective presentation of the information in accordance with the child’s current capacity of comprehension.

Time and time again I am surprised by how much children actually see and understand about this world, about human nature and the world systems. Yesterday for example I talked to a 6.grader, which at 12 years old understands that movies for children today are deliberately scripted so as to not introduce children to what is really going on in the world and thus keep them docile. We were having a discussion about a book that has been made into a movie and then an animated re-make of that movie, with the first one being done over 30 years ago and the second one only recently made. What he shared came from his own discernment and was not something that I or anyone else had coached him into saying. Considering the complexity in his perspective with an understanding, not only of a historical context of the production of movies, but also a conflicted relationship between adults and children, it is quite advanced for what we would normally expect of a 12-year-old. As I have mentioned in previous blog-posts, I also have a 10-year-old student who is already up to speed with the latest ‘conspiracy theory’ information on the Internet and on YouTube specifically. Unfortunately, this is something that is not recognized by the ordinary school system or by his teachers as being pertinent or relevant and therefore his research is mostly done without any form of adult participation with his buddies after school.

On a general note I find that the students I teach have a much greater capacity for comprehension and a much greater awareness of what is going on than adults give them credit for. We tend to have a certain expectation towards what children are supposed to be able to understand and comprehend at specific ages and we vehemently stick to these when we teach them, and even when we simply communicate with them or listen to them. What we tend to neglect the fact that children growing up today have independent access to information at a completely different level than we did as children. This means that our 10-year-olds and 12-year-olds on their own volition for example go online to find information to try to make sense of this world and themselves within it and along the way come in contact with information that most certainly has not been pre-screened to ensure that they in fact are able to effectively deal with the information and contextualize it in a commonsensical way in relation to their own life. This involves everything from hardcore porn to chat sites and commercials that is accessible to children but where no adult intervention or guidance is involved. What I have seen in my own work is that children often see adults as fake, as not caring, as making assumptions about them and their ability to comprehend the world around them. This creates the consequence that children do not share their perspectives, their concerns or fears with adults because they’ve already given up on adults in a way, they know that adults don’t see them for who they are as Beings. Instead many adults see them only as ‘children’, a category identified by size, age and gender that the adults then speak TO but not WITH.

What I have found with my students, in particularly the ones who are already interested in what is going on in the world is that their eyes light up and it is as though the suddenly ‘come to life’ when we are talking about real life events. So this is something that I am working on implementing into our lessons, to talk about the extinction of animals, about war, about poverty. But it is a fine line where one has to consider the maturity level of the child without making any preconceived assumptions. It is interesting though that it tends to be us as adults that do not believe that children are interested in reality. We often carry an assumption and a belief that fiction and fantasy worlds are so much more interesting to children that all they care about is Disney princesses and violent computer games. But what if their apparent disinterest in real life matters is simply showing that the reality we have been presenting them with isn’t in fact the ‘real’ reality? If we take a long self-honest look in the mirror we will see that we as adults often aren’t really here in fact. We are so busy in our minds being stuck in the ‘rut’ of every day living, while juggling our own desired fantasies and virtual realities that we come across to children as these ‘shells’ of something that was supposed to be a real living human being but that is nothing but a constructed personality putting on an act and expecting them to play along. Luckily many children do not fall for it, although unfortunately most eventually join in the choir of parroting personalities, going with the motions without really being present in real time reality.

What we can do as teachers is to introduce more real life themes into the curriculum and to as such bring the technical side of for example learning how to read and write together with current issues. This way we may stand as catalysts for children to become involved and engaged in the issues of the world in a way that is aligned to their current level of comprehension but without making preconceived assumptions. This requires courage on the part of the teacher, to not stay stuck in personal beliefs or opinions but to allow what opens up in the discussions with the students, to unfold unconditionally. Creating an interest in and a consideration for what is going on in the world is imperative because at the moment so many of us are lost in fantasy-realities and the real world is suffering because of it. This doesn’t mean that fantasy and fiction cannot still be part of a child’s education, but simply that there is so much more going on in reality that we aren’t making children aware of, most likely because we aren’t even making ourselves aware of it. But as I have seen with many of my students, children actually want to know what is going on – but they want the real story, not the manufactured censored version constructed to fit their assumed level of comprehension. So as a teacher, I am making it my commitment to find and develop effective ways to introduce children to what is going on in the world without making assumptions about what they can and cannot handle to hear and still take where they are and who they are into consideration. The school year is almost up so as part of my summer’s leave I will be planning next year’s term and the projects we will be working on in class. To prepare myself for this, I have asked my students what they want to learn about next term. I was not surprised to hear that many of the younger students want to learn about the game Minecraft (or rather: teach me about Minecraft) and so in relation to that I am considering doing a project about architecture. When asking a couple of my other students if there is anything they’d like to learn more about, an 7-year-old boy posed the question: “Where are babies before they are born?” and another 7-year-old student added the question: “How do babies learn words?” From my perspective these are important and rather existential questions and they would not have been asked had I not been open to take an interest in what it is that children are interested in. So because of this, we will be doing a project about The Body and will see how we can find relevant answers to these questions and as such educate ourselves – the children and I together – about this world and so ourselves within it.

If you are ready to get involved in a political and economic change of paradigms and thereby also a change of our education systems, I invite you to investigate the Equal Life Foundation’s proposal of a Guaranteed Living Income System. This proposal suggests a groundbreaking change in political paradigms that doesn’t ‘take sides’ but instead presents a completely new approach to solving the problems we are currently facing in this world.

Re-Educate yourself here:

The Ultimate History Lesson with John Taylor Gatto:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YQiW_l848t8

PROPAGANDA | FULL ENGLISH VERSION (2012)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6NMr2VrhmFI

The Century of the Self
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s7EwXmxpExw

Psywar
http://metanoia-films.org/psywar/

The Trap
http://archive.org/details/AdamCurtis_TheTrap

The Power Principle
http://metanoia-films.org/the-power-principle/

Human Resources: Social Engineering in the 20th Century
http://metanoia-films.org/human-resources/

The Story of Your Enslavement
http://youtu.be/Xbp6umQT58A

Blind Spot
https://vimeo.com/30559203

Inequality for all documentary:
http://www.putlocker.to/watch-inequality-for-all-online-free-putlocker.html

The Four Horsemen:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5fbvquHSPJU

On Advertisement and the end of the world:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_8gM0Q58iP0

Third World America – Chris Hedges
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=drZE65_134g

More articles about parenting and education in a Guaranteed Living Income System:

http://livingincomeforall.wordpress.com/2014/04/03/parents-need-a-living-income-now/

https://livingincomeguaranteed.wordpress.com/category/parenting/

http://economistjourneytolife.blogspot.com/2014/01/day-259-living-income-guaranteed-and.html

https://livingincomeguaranteed.wordpress.com/2014/04/04/the-self-perpetuating-cycle-of-homelessness-and-living-income-guaranteed/

Watch the hangout about Education for a New World in Order: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zlj5wGCRnSU

 

 

A Political Awakening of the Young Generation or a Return to 1950’s Survival Strategies? DAY 68

A Political Awakening of the Young Generation or a Return to 1950’s Survival Strategies? DAY 68

youth unemploymentA mother is planning the perfect future for her child. A mother wants her 9-year-old daughter to go to private school so that she can eventually marry a rich man and never have to work. Does this sound like a good idea to you?

On February 12. 2014 a British mother Rachel Ragg published an article about the subject in the Daily Mail. Ragg talks about how she is planning for her daughter to go to Oxford to increase her chances of meeting a wealthy man because that is what she would have wanted for her own life. She talks about how most of the women she know who are juggling both career and children often are left miserable, poor or both and how being a stay at home mom would have been her dream life, had she only married a wealthy man. At the same time there is an irony in Ragg’s appraisal of the life of a stay at home mom, because when she boasts about the £3,000-a-term private school her daughter currently attends, it is the professional merits of its female alums she highlights: ”Cheryl Taylor, controller of CBBC, Kate Bellingham, BBC technology presenter and engineer, and Jocelyn Bell Burnell, the Royal Society of Edinburgh’s first female president.” The irony is that while all of these women attended this prestigious school, yet none of them went on to become a stay at home mom. (Source: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-2557949/I-spend-fortune-send-girl-private-school-shell-marry-rich-never-work-An-unashamed-confession-RACHEL-RAGG.html)

Now – while it would be obvious to discuss gender roles and a regressive return to the 1950’s way of viewing women, I will instead look at Ragg’s perspective from a consideration of where young people currently stand in today’s education system and job market. Because while I disagree with Ragg’s approach of wanting to force her daughter into the kind of life she would have wanted for herself without taking her daughter’s perspective into account, I do see that there is a strategic logic about her approach. Let’s have a look at why that is:

Even with a higher education it has become increasingly difficult to get a job and it doesn’t matter where you live in the world. But especially for the generations under 30 does this ring truer than ever. According to statistics done for the British parliament 920,000 young people aged 16-24 were unemployed in Britain between September and November 2013.
And a report by Richard Vedder, Christopher Denhart, and Jonathan Robe shows that “The proportion of overeducated workers in occupations appears to have grown substantially; in 1970, fewer than one percent of taxi drivers and two percent of firefighters had college degrees, while now more than 15 percent do in both jobs. (Source: http://centerforcollegeaffordability.org/research/studies/underemployment-of-college-graduates)

Another study done by researchers from Northeastern University, Drexel University, and the Economic Policy Institute, based on data from the Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey and the U.S. Department of Labor showed that “About 1.5 million, or 53.6 percent, of bachelor’s degree-holders under the age of 25 last year were jobless or underemployed, the highest share in at least 11 years. In 2000, the share was at a low of 41 percent, before the dot-com bust erased job gains for college graduates in the telecommunications and IT fields.

Out of the 1.5 million who languished in the job market, about half were underemployed, an increase from the previous year.“ (Source: http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2012/04/53-of-recent-college-grads-are-jobless-or-underemployed-how/256237/)

So while the youth of today not alone face great unemployment when they are uneducated, even those with higher education are at risk of not being able to enter the job market or having to take jobs for which they are (at least academically) overqualified for.

A little over ten years ago when I was a youngster coming into the job market we were coming out of the economic ‘golden era’ of the 1990’s where it seemed like all opportunities were open for us. We were therefore told to choose something that would make us happy and fulfilled, something that we were really passionate about. Little did we know that soon enough we would be unwilling participants in one of the greatest economic recessions in the history of the world and that our degrees in literature, journalism and sociology would become redundant. Little did we know that traveling around the world for a few years or island hopping around various fields of education would have the consequence that we would be too late to invest in property, making us eternal slaves to lease agreements on studio apartments. And the generations that came after us have only faced this even more extensively.

Is it therefore so odd that a mother’s biggest goal for her child is to ensure that she gets married rich?

Obviously it is not a very supportive perspective on one’s child’s future if their best opportunity is to marry rich because it is like telling them that any other skills they may have would be worthless. Sending them to demanding private schools without any expectation of academic achievement also isn’t very motivating for a child to do well at school. And thus the problem would come full circle. But at the same time there is also an element of realism in this mother’s approach whereas other parents might still tell their children to follow their dreams and passion in a world system with increasing competition where very few educational fields guarantees work after graduation.

We often talk about how a very small percentage of the world’s population is sitting on most of the monetary resources, but seldom do we consider that these people are all roughly speaking between 35 – 75 years of age. These are also the same people who are for example able to invest in the property market making it increasingly difficult for people under 30 to enter into the property market. And while it may be attractive for a few young women to strategically target a rich older man, it is also an indication of the severity of the situation we are finding ourselves in, if we have to regress to survival strategies deployed and archived more than 40 years ago (obviously only in wealthy countries). Young uneducated men are the most vulnerable group of unemployed and some statistics say that youth unemployment in Southern Europe have reached staggering heights of 50-60 percent.

So as is evident by now, returning to 1950’s gender roles might seem alluring and as an easy way out for some young women, it is certainly not a solution to the overall problem we are facing.

We are reaching a dangerously critical mass and with apathy and delusion accompanying the rocketing unemployment and student loan rates, it is of great importance that young people start coming together to develop a sustainable solution. Because we are currently supporting a small group of rich people in their efforts to maximize profits with the consequence that we are continuously at the brink of destroying the planet we live on just in the hopes that we might one day become them.

It is the first time in history that the young people coming into the world are facing a situation that is worse than their parents – and this can only mean one thing: that the older generations do not have our best interests at heart. Therefore it is up to us to ensure a change in paradigms. The good thing about all of this is that young people aren’t as stuck in their ways as the older generations. And this means that we’ve actually got a shot at establishing a new and improved way of living together on earth – if we pull our resources together and stand united in the aim of making sure that our children do not have to face a world that is worse off. It is up to us to be the example our parents so clearly never was.

Investigate the Proposal for a Guaranteed Living Income System – a proposal for a system that has the potential to fundamentally change the concept of ‘work’ from something that we do to survive to something that we do to support and expand ourselves to thrive and LIVE.

I also recommend reading the following blogs:
Parenting – Perfecting the Human Race Series
Natural Learning Abilities blog series – a MUST READ!
Automation is the Key to Effective Education
Education in the New World Order
Education – Equal Money Wiki
Education is a Human Right
Deconstructing the Root of All Evil
World’s best Education is based on Equality
The Fall of our Education System
Application of Knowledge, is it being Fostered in our Educational Systems? – Education Research Part 1

Additional sources:
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-21302065
http://www.forbes.com/sites/susanadams/2013/06/07/the-unemployment-news-is-worse-for-many/
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nC4N6aLb2jE
http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/uk-youth-unemployment-million-jobs-work-foundation-499067
http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/nearly-a-million-under25s-still-unemployed-despite-growth-8935723.html
http://www.theguardian.com/business/2013/nov/29/eurozone-youth-unemployment-record-high-under-25s
http://www.good.is/posts/young-educated-and-unemployed-a-new-generation-of-kids-search-for-work-in-their-20s