Thursday, September 07, 2006

another reason for more open space in schools

Stephen Downes posts this excerpt and comments on Kindergarten Gulag:
The headline says it all, doesn't it? "Instead of story time, finger painting, tracing letters and snack, first graders are spending hours doing math work sheets and sounding out words in reading groups. In some places, recess, music, art and even social studies are being replaced by writing exercises and spelling quizzes."

I would add as well that a fundamental purpose of recess, arts and social studies is to promote freedom by enabling it - and so I wonder about this unfree generation of children now being raised. Remember, how we used to hear, that freedom and democracy may have flaws, but they are much better than any other form of government? I wonder when people stopped believing this, and how it is that they feel that a command economy is somehow better. Remember - the lessons we teach our children are based, not on the content we teach, but on how we act, how we behave. Authoritarian teachers raise dictators, even if they teach Rousseau.

"To promote freedom by enabling it" isn't that what Open Space is all about? I appreciate all the work done by open space colleagues to introduce OS into schools at any level. There is a collection of stories about this here.

And this is why i can't send my children to public school. But i still feel a deep unease and concern about the reasons underlying the way the school system has changed (and not changed) in the past 35 years. Out of seven of my children's friends who are starting school this year, only one is attending the mainstream public school here on Gabriola. With the funding structure of the public system, what does this mean to the future of public education? And i believe that future does matter--just ask someone from a country that has no public education system.

Some of the things i wonder about: Is the system being purposefully starved and left to rot in a backwater of unproven and inappropriate methodology? Is it hopelessly out of step with the needs and desires of modern parents for a reason--or is it just an accident of complexity? Is it worth saving? Is it possible to save? Is this the beginning of a two-tier system or even the leading edge of the demise of the right to public education, or the unfettered privatization of that system?

A real catch-22 for parents who care--not just about their own children's education, but all children's access to education (as my friend Keira has so passionately described to me--i know, you will blog oneday, in your best time).

So, while i reluctantly entrust my children to a semi-private learning environment, i ponder about a new publicly supported system of distributed learning networks--locally driven, globally linked. And a new social culture where parents and community are able to create the learning space our children are asking for. Any thoughts?

Just read my blogroll and there is more on the Great Canadian Homework Ban and links to some great resources at parkinglot.

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