Tuesday, September 8, 2020

Infiltrating the education system with the arts

 Infiltrating the system with the arts!

“The arts have been a mainstay in societies throughout the world and throughout history. They are not only used for the esthetic value but for a means of communication. If you look at everything from rap and folk music to classical and pop the artist tells a story about them and their community. The concerns are expressed just as if they were written or given in a speech.”  - “Stop Politically Driven Education”, Cap Lee.

John Lennon penned “Give Peace a Chance”, which became an anthem for the peace movement in the seventies. “We shall Overcome” was the rallying cry of the freedom movement of the sixties.  “Oh Freedom” was a statement made by the Igbo tribe from Southern Nigeria as they refused to enter the new world as slaves, instead they walked into the water to “take them home” to a better place. The message there was “Before I’d be a slave I’ll be buried in my grave and go home to my Lord and be free.” That message evolved from the Igbo Landing in 1803 and resonated for more than two centuries to tell the story of their quest for freedom.

A strong message resounds in many forms of the arts.  Comedians like George Carlin and Stephen Colbert make statements through their comedy to get all politicians to sit up and listen.  Paul Robison spread his message through the arts.  He stated, “As an artist I come to sing, but as a citizen, I will always speak for peace, and no one can silence me in this.”  Martha Graham was quoted as saying “Dance is the hidden language of the soul of the body”.  A message is sent every time a dancer sets foot on a stage. The artwork “The Scream” may express how many of us feel today.  The list goes on and on. To the day he died, Einstein insisted that the reason for his success was that he played the violin. According to G. J. Withrow, his lifetime friend, Einstein worked on his theories while improvising on the violin. It helped him think.

Plays were shut down in many countries when they were provocative in nature in the eyes of the dictators, yet they kept on persisting. “The Suicide” in 1928 was written by Nikolai Erdman. It talked about Russians taking back their lives from Communism. It took Stalin one performance to understand what it advocated, and he banned it. It continued playing on under the name “Dying for It” and could not be silenced. Recently the Broadway play “Hamilton” became a history lesson as well as a message for the future.

Artist of all kinds possess political power.  Rock musicians for example, possess a power that state authorities cannot ignore, a power that cannot be arbitrarily repressed.  Artists can be stopped but their music and their plays, their art and especially their recorded presentations cannot. Pete Seeger was blacklisted from performing, especially on television because his song “Waist Deep in the Big Muddy” talked about the Vietnam war.  Tom and Dick Smothers had him on their television show anyway and later quit the show due to restrictions demanded of them by the network. But Seeger’s music carried on to this day.  Paul Robison was blacklisted everywhere in the US, so he went to foreign countries where he was treated like a king, so the U.S. government took away his passport. They may have stopped him for a time, but his music and thoughts continue to this day. 

Throughout history, the arts have been a mainstay in the process of communication. The history of the world can easily be found in the songs, the writings, the paintings, in dance and the list goes on. From paintings on a cave wall to a play, to an opera, to the songs of Pete Seeger, Bob Dylan, and the New Freedom Singers, and the comedy of George Carlin, stories have been told. Now it is time for the students to have that experience.  What if students wrote their own plays with a strong message and performed them.  Or how about writing and performing their own songs and artwork, and dance, and comedy and on and on.  What a skill to be developed. They research, read, write, and most of all, think!  What a new concept for the education curriculum.  How about bringing in artists from all areas to educate through the arts?  The possibilities are endless, and the message is strong. 

The arts can say what the politicians cannot silence!

For more great ideas go to www.wholechildreform.com and check out my new book.

Thursday, August 20, 2020

Systemic racism pushes kids out of school. Who's responsible? Look in the mirror!


Systemic racism is embedded in schools so deeply that it is hardly noticeable to the trained eye of educators and parents alike.  It is this current system of education that drives many students to drop out of school and often pushes them into the school to prison pipeline.

Following the systemic structure of yesterday, todays education system continues to rank and sort students.  The losers are then chosen by an outdated system skewed to assure they are permanently left behind.

The reality is while some children have a clear path to learning, others have devastating roadblocks that slow the learning process. According to Dr. Kara Fitzgerald, “when something stressful or threatening happens, it’s not just our brain that is involved. We have to recruit everything from the immune system, to the fat system, to the heart. … And they are kind of altering multiple systems to deal with hard life.”  And add to that those who have to learn English as a new language.  Yet, those students are mandated to perform in the same way in the same time frames as defined by our current version of eighteenth-century education. A system that was never designed to serve all children.

It is extremely important, however, to understand that as students enter the classroom, educators have no idea whether a child is afflicted or not.  We must realize that those in certain zip codes, or of a certain race or gender or any other group subject to stereotypical beliefs are not all the same.  Low expectations are the curse that drives children out of school.  To stigmatize children by demeaning a certain zip code is unconscionable. Within any zip code are those who have roadblocks but also those who have a clear pathway to learning.  As educators we may no longer assume anything.

Too high expectations also force children into failure or even worse, passing without learning, leaving them to flounder once they enter today’s society.  It is damaging to force children beyond their abilities.  To assume every child will learn the same simply because we have high expectations is a fool’s mission.

It is time to break through the fog and see clearly the reality that all children are not the same.  According to Dr. Howard Gardner, “the biggest mistake of past centuries in teaching has been to treat all students as if they were variants of the same individual and thus to feel justified in teaching them all the same”

The damage begins when a child fails a course or does not learn to the same standard at the same time as others. The system then fails them and retains them in the same grade knowing that every retention leads to a delayed graduation age? When students realize they will be in school at least until age twenty, dropping out is assured. 

Understanding the damage continued failure causes students, many educators head down a more destructive path and pass students with a D- thus moving them ahead without learning, totally unprepared for their future. Those are the fundamental choices the system leaves with educators.

From the base of a broken system of failure comes a wide range of systemic issues that forces the racial divide to grow.  The dominoes begin to fall as one concept is piled upon another to maintain a failed system of education.

The systemic destruction begins with the facade that grade levels are an indicator of academic achievement.  As evidenced by a wide range of student skills in every grade level, they are not and have never been a true indicator of achievement. Yet the students are all taught as one.

The most devastating of failed concepts is the farce of letter grades.  Parents are told their children are average, by giving them a C.  However, they aren’t told what “average” means simply because a letter grade does not describe what children have learned.  More important, grades are easily used to cover up what children have not learned so they can move to the school to prison pipeline without being noticed.  

As students return from the long virus “vacation” it will become evident immediately that their skills are all over the board.  During this long time off some students will keep up with distance learning, some will not have the equipment necessary to keep up and others will have a variety of obstacles in their way. 

Now is the perfect opportunity for educators to prepare for the wide variety of skills students possess.  This means design a system that truly respects the intelligence and abilities of all children. 

When you, the reader, look in the mirror will you scream RACIST?  Or will you commit to changing the system of education? 


There are no neutrals here!

Go here for solutions  www.wholechildreform.com

Friday, May 15, 2020

Creating small class size through innovation

As students return to school it is evident that their health and safety be maintained.  Essential to this is small class sizes to allow sufficient space between students.  Social distancing is literally imposible with 30 students and more in a room. However, there are creative ideas that could help achieve the goal of a safe environment.

First, of course, is to creatre small class size with an emergency increase in the school budget.  This is ideal but unlikely.

Another thought is through a team teaching concept we used at Milwaukee Village School.  We teamed two teachers, a special ed teacher and an educational assisstant with 60 students.  All for educators were simply called teachers.  The special education teacher would serve general education students as well as those with special education needs based on their individual needs.  There are many students regardless of "labels" that have the same needs.  This would also work with two teachers and two educational assistants.

The educational assistants in many states can do the same things certified teachers do under the direction of the teacher.  Educational assisants could over see a project, a computer lab, a review group, a discussion session reading clubs as defined in my books at www.wholechildreform.com and many other activities.  The ideas are endless.

Additional small spaces could be located throughout the building as well as in nearby facilities to assure for social distancing.

Another thought is to utilize community learning centers such as those run by the TMCA and other groups.  While one group of students could attend school on M, W. F, T. TH, alternate days could be held in a separate facility where they could be involved especoally in activities such as art, music, debate, physical education, dance, dramatic arts and many more.  Again the possibilities are endless.

A meeting with educators and community organizations would allow the development of many more ideas as well as a framework for implementation.

Adding a nurse to every school would not only support a healthy environment but also one additional teacher of health education.  This is well needed at this unique point in time.

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

When the confirmation bias becomes dangerous!


According to Science Daily “Confirmation bias is a phenomenon wherein decision makers have been shown to actively seek out and assign more weight to evidence that confirms their hypothesis or ignore or under weigh evidence that could disconfirm that hypothesis”. This is understandable to a degree, but when politicians have lied or deceived over 10's of thousands of times and when they have echo chambers that top that number, one would think that more people would catch on. But yet the deception continues while we continue to shake our heads in disbelief.

Let's look at some of the scary realities:  

It is beyond obvious that Communist Russia is interfering with our elections.  It is in the Mueller report, and guess who else supports this reality:

1. Central Intelligence Agency
2. Office of the Director of National Intelligence
3. F.B.I.
4. National Security Agency
5. Justice Department
6. Department of Homeland Security
7. House Intelligence Committee
8. Senate Intelligence Committee

President Trump: On Putin, "He said he didn't meddle. He said he didn't meddle. I asked him again. You can only ask so many times," 

"Every time he sees me, he says, 'I didn't do that,' " Trump said. "And I believe, I really believe, that when he tells me that, he means it."

We look at pictures of Los Angeles on a normal day and see the pictures now, when the city is shut down, and see the difference. Do normal minds really believe that the tremendous amount of polution seen with our own eyes is not harmful?  When extreme weather exists right before our eyes. When droughts are happenning world wide and icebergs are melting at a record pace, do we still not see the reality?

Some quotes:  

President Trump:   "The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive."

"When will our country stop wasting money on global warming and so many other truly "STUPID" things and begin to focus on lower taxes?"

Senator Inhoffe: Once compared the Environmental Protection Agency to the Gestapo, and brought a snowball onto the Senate floor to ‘disprove’ global warming.


Well some groups disagree:

American Association for the Advancement of Science

American medical association
American Meteorological Society
American Chemical Society
American Geophysical Union
American Physical Society
The Geological Society of America
US Academy of Science
US Global Change Research Program
International Panel on Climate Change 

Check out these quotes from the Coronavirus:

Ron Paul: “People should ask themselves whether this coronavirus 'pandemic' could be a big hoax".

Congressman Nunes:  “Let’s not hurt the working people in this country that are relying on wages and tips to keep their small business going,” .... “go to your local pub.”

Congressman Jim Jordan:  “I’m not too concerned about the Chinese virus. This is the worst economic crisis we’ve seen in 200 years. We’ve got to end the ridiculous ‘shelter in place’ orders. I’ve spoken to many senior citizens and they’re willing to take the risk and go back to work. If a few senior citizens die, I can live with that. Plus we won’t have to pay them their social security ‘handout."

President Trump:  “It’s going to disappear. One day, it’s like a miracle, it will disappear.”

Like Chico Marx in a Marx Brothers movie said: "Well, who ya gonna believe, me or your own eyes?"



It is time to, stop the epidemic!  Remember, everyone has a confirmation bias.  I work hard to rise above mine.  You must work hard to rise above yours.  If not now, when?  Isn't this the perfect time to rise above the confirmation bias?  

Go to www.wholechildreform.com for my book STOP POLITICALLY DRIVEN EDUCATION to see how we have been diminishing thinking in schools and how we can change the system so students can 


Monday, March 23, 2020

When Kids Get Back to School


These are unique times that require unique responses to education.  When kids get back to school, teachers will not know what level they are on or what priorities their education plan will take.  Their skills will be all over the board. 

The time has come to realize all kids are different, they learn at different rates, in different ways, with different background knowledge and different experiences.  And that is only the beginning.

To begin, educators must make every effort to gather information about every student.  This includes a small pre-test as well as additional class assessments.  These evaluations must not be in test form but be demonstrations of learning to assure we understand what the child can do.  i.e. science project

It is important to recognize that the big standardized test will be outdated and is too slow to get back to the teachers. Not to mention that it is only a snap shot in time and by itself is fundamentally useless. It should be discarded completely because educators have a better way!  

1. Before kids return , educators should gather information about every student from their past performance. This does not mean grade point averages or test scores. This means actual information.

2. Previous teachers should document goals achieved and goals to be achieved for every student.

3. Once students arrive, designated educators should give small pre tests in reading and math, one on one, to the students. This is not rocket science, educational assistants as well as social workers, psychologist and any educator without a class can do it. This is done one on one to assure accurate results. This information goes directly to the students new teacher.

4. All subjects should be assessed, however not by a written test. Develop a demonstration of learning that will help teachers plan for the student's future. A good example is a science project or a challenge in orchestra.

5. It is important to recognize that the big standardized test will be out of date and a new one will take too long to get back to teachers. Written tests are an artificial snap shot in time and are basically useless when compared to small assessments that go directly to teachers. The big test should be discarded completely.

6. Having gathered this information, teachers along with the student and parent should develop a MAP (My Action Plan) that guides the student toward their future.

7. This MAP will also be a guide to assess the needs of the students, It will work as a portfolio. Imagine handing that portfolio to the university rather than an artificial test.

8. The concept of pass and fail must be put on hold as now the focus is directly on student needs.

9. Most teachers are adept at differentiated instruction. For this, sufficient planning time must be made available along with small class size. These are non- negotiable.

There is plenty of time to develop these ideas while teachers are off due to the virus crises.  And of course they must be paid.  This is essential to education as a whole and will be mind boggling when complete.

As well, there are no more excuses not to reduce dramatically, class size.  Class size and planning time is essential to quality education and after the current crisis, the children will suffer dramatically without a plan of action that is realistic to implement.  This can be done creatively using educational assistants. Teachers should simply not return without a plan for planning time and small class size.

If not now, when?  The only way we can bring kids back to a full education, after this crisis is to pay attention to the needs of all students EQUALLY!


Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Opportunity for teachers

As many schools have closed, this now becomes an opportunity for teachers to take back your profession. When students return, administrators will be chasing their tails trying to fit kids into that little standardized box full of word games and math riddles.

They will not know how to deal with the time frames relating to the test. Get together with colleagues, be it in person or on line, and develop that plan to subvert the system for the benefit of all kids.

It is easy to say you don't have enough information to give a letter grade.  But you can make a statement telling parents what their child has learned and what they will be studying.

It is easy to say they are behind in reading.  But you can say "let's stop school two times a week for 45 minutes and put kids on their reading levels using every available educator to bring group sizes down dramatically".

It's easy to say you can't retain kids in their grade, but you can say "we will use failure as a learning tool to re teach kids immediately.

There are many more thoughts in my book as well as others.  This time off is an opportunity to show what teachers are made of.  Go to it!



3. READ MY BOOK ( www.wholechildreform.com ) FOR IDEAS.


5. PRESENT AND IMPLEMENT THAT PLAN. (administrators will not know what hit them)