Sunday, July 25, 2010

Caution: Experts at work (continued)

I have just discovered another blog, Coalition for Kid-Friendly Schools, started by a parent concerned about the craziness that is imposed on kids in our schools. I like these “indie” parent blogs. I have no illusions that a majority of parents would agree with me about most educational issues, but I’d be much happier in a system where parents were at the heart of educational policy decisionmaking, because parents are the people with the most interest in ensuring that kids are treated humanely and not used for other people’s benefit.

FedUpMom, the author of the blog, has posted several times about a program called “Whole Brain Teaching,” yet another authoritarian, behavioral-rewards-based, pseudo-scientific, memorization-and-drill product of the educational consulting industry -- this time featuring a whole set of hand gestures that the kids make in unison while reciting the program’s rules. Here’s a taste, from a letter that a teacher might send home with a child:

Help!!!!!!!! I need practice. Today at school I broke the circled rule(s). I agreed that all of these rules are fair and I am fully capable of following them. I would never do anything to spite my wonderful teacher or break one of the rules on purpose; therefore, I need you to help me practice.

Please have your child practice the rule at home for as long as you feel necessary. We have practiced at school already, but PRACTICE MAKES PERMANENT! Sign and return this paper tomorrow. If you have any questions, please give me a call or email.

My son/daughter practiced for _____ minutes at home.

Student _____________________
Parent ______________________
Date __________

You will be unsurprised to hear that the rules in question are: (1) Follow directions quickly, (2) Raise your hand for permission to speak, (3) Raise your hand for permission to leave your seat, (4) Make smart choices, and (my favorite) (5) “Keep your dear teacher happy!” If the student breaks a rule, he or she “practices” the rule during recess and lunch, and the note is sent home to the parents. The materials instruct, “If note doesn’t come back, kids practice in class until it does.”

Readers of this blog will already know my feelings about this program. The only point I’ll make again here: My disagreement with the marketers of this product is not an empirical disagreement about “what works.” It’s a normative disagreement about the basic values that should guide how we interact with children.

“Whole Brain Teaching, LLC” by the way, was previously marketed as “Power Teaching.” What a nice metaphor for the practice of dressing up authoritarian educational practices in scientific language.

..How can I comment?