kitchen table math, the sequel: end whole childism

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

end whole childism

from the ASCD:

The Whole Child: Healthy. Safe. Engaged. Supported. Challenged.

Notice: not taught, not instructed, not successful.

We urge public officials to pass resolutions to support the whole child.

Expect more. Get more.

That last sentiment is certainly true. Public education in the U.S. is a half-trillion dollar enterprise. That's half-trillion dollars in public funding. If "we" decide to educate the whole child at every level, not just in middle school, "we" could maybe double that.

I believe the term for this kind of thing is empire-building.

Here we go: A Whole Child Resolution Toolkit complete with sample Letters to the Editor.

I'm going to have to start writing and posting sample letters to the editor. The sample letter tactic works, by the way. Ed and I wrote and posted letters to the NIMH concerning autism research a few years ago. It was tremendously effective. Parents flooded the NIMH with variants of the letter Ed wrote; sometimes they simply signed the letter with their own names and sent it verbatim. We were told later on that the NIMH was so panicked that people were "running through the halls." I always got a kick out of that image -- why exactly would a person employed by the NIMH run through the halls under any circumstances short of a terrorist attack?*

OK, that's going on the to do list. Tex has a couple of great letters; Barry's written some terrific ones; Vicky just copied me on a letter to her school....


A whole new project!

Just what I was needing.....

Still, I think it's a good idea. We can put together a collection of Letters to the Editor & Emails to the School Board/Principal/Superintendent etc.

My email: cijohn @

We can construct a Liberal Education Toolkit!

extra credit

Share your story here.

I think I'm going to do that.

* For the record, I'm not "anti-NIMH." Not remotely. I was, however, extremely distressed by the NIMH's record of de-funding behavioral research in autism in favor of strictly biological research. Bad idea.


Anonymous said...

We can construct a Liberal Education Toolkit!

Luceeee? Are you op to som'thin'?

Catherine Johnson said...


It's Ricky!


SteveH said...


I studied their site and I can't figure out how it works. They try to get us on board with their happy-sounding agenda when we don't have any details. They don't ask for money directly, or even indirectly, as far as I can tell, but they want us to write letters. Where does this influence (money) come from?

If a parent signs on as a supporter, do they ever see the details of what this group is doing? The site is clearly misleading and vague. They never say how this works and what they do behind the scenes.

Does anyone know?

By the way, the site screams: LOW EXPECTATIONS. i.e. There are no fundamental flaws in the education system, so let's lower our expectations. Math and reading will turn kids off to learning, so lets focus on everything else. With their flexible graduation requirements, kids will be happier and fewer will drop out. Success! They can join Lucy on the (now computerized for the 21st century) candy production line. Maybe they can call it a computer operations job.

Anonymous said...

They can join Lucy on the (now computerized for the 21st century) candy production line. Maybe they can call it a computer operations job.

!Oh, so THAT's hwhat she's op to!

Instructivist said...

I checked to see what ASCD means by "engaged". It turns out that all roads lead to progressive ed, e.g. real-world goals, cooperative learning and project-based learning.

"...and who don't see the connection between what they're learning in school and their real-world goals,..."

It's a bit too much to expect babes to have clear ideas about their "real-world goals". It's a narrow view of learning.

It makes sense that for students to learn at high levels, they must first be motivated to learn and interested in their studies. Students who are bored by their classes, who don't feel motivated to achieve, and who don't see the connection between what they're learning in school and their real-world goals, are unlikely to do well academically.

Too many American children are not engaged in their learning. For example, one of every three high school students drops out of school - one in two for African American and Hispanic students (Education Week). Of these, nearly 7 in 10 (69%) say they weren't inspired or motivated to work hard, and 66 percent say they would have worked harder if they'd been challenged more (Civic Enterprises/Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation). Also, 7 in 10 employers say high school graduates don't have a strong work ethic... nearly 4 in 10 say they have poor teamwork skills (Committee for Economic Development).

To ensure that all students are adequately engaged, ASCD recommends, at a minimum:

Students may participate in a wide array of extracurricular activities
Schools provide opportunities for community-based apprenticeships, internships, or projects
Teachers use active learning strategies such as cooperative learning and project-based learning

concernedCTparent said...

Cooperative learning and project-based learning has successfully DISengaged my son. This high achiever is on the verge of checking out thanks to all this edu-malarkey.

VickyS said...

"...and who don't see the connection between what they're learning in school and their real-world goals,..."

When kids are given a comprehensive, content-rich education (rare, nowadays), their world expands, and as a direct consequence their goals expand. If you ask a 12 year old about his real world goals, and gear your teaching toward those goals, you've limited him forever.

Anonymous said...

Project learning has been great here. Our school does it right - quality open-ended projects with enough time given that the student can delve into the material as far as he wants. Typically the projects culminate with oral presentations. Everyone participates and does a good job.

One of the nicest benefits of project learning is that a student can research and learn at his own level, instead of being stuck with grade level resources and expectations. This aspect keeps the above grade-level students very interested. Unfortunately for us, projects are not offered in full inclusion classes (along with book reports. literature circles, and all the other expectations of literate grade level or above students) we have learned to insist on non-inclusion sections whenever possible.

Cooperative learning has been awful. The egos and lack of civility of the parties involved as well as the huge spread in ability and motivation get in the way of learning, no matter if the teacher assigns roles and responsibilities or leaves it to the students. It seems to me that the students are way to young - perhaps once they can successfully handle a C.O.P.E. course or even the P.E. exercise of getting the group across the river with two pieces of cardboard one could consider cooperative learning. Anytime before is headbanging. But then again, maybe headbanging is needed for some of the dominant personalitites involved.

Barry Garelick said...

"...and who don't see the connection between what they're learning in school and their real-world goals,..."

So on the one hand you have math reformers claiming that math must be made relevant so students can make connections between what they're doing. But they also say math as it's taught in schools is not what mathematics is about, so students need to be given problems that are what mathematicians do. This means having them prove statements like "the sum of three consecutive numbers is always divisible by 3" prior to them having had any algebra to enable them to even have a fighting chance of setting up the problem correctly. The idea is to get students to develop mathematical "habits of mind" before being given the tools and skills for doing so. They are to do this by identifying "patterns" and making sense out of them because after all, isn't that what mathematics is about? Patterns?

Sort of like requiring students to give speeches in German by having them watch German movies to pick up general "patterns" of the language.

So math has to be relevant for students except of course when it does not.

Linda Seebach said...

Catherine said about sample letters to the editor, ". . . sometimes they simply signed the letter with their own names and sent it verbatim."

Don't even think about it. Maybe to government agencies it works, but at newspapers it's the kiss of death for you (you're a plagiarist) and for your pet cause. Editors call this sludge "astroturf," that is fake grassroots, and once a writer or a topic is flagged, that dimiinshes the chances that even innocent and original letters will be published. (Editors share copies of suspiciously turfy letters, you know.)

The Crimson Avenger said...

Catherine is absolutely right: this is a clear and explicit case of empire building, with a strong secondary benefit of deflecting criticism for a failure to teach within the current structure.

Something else that should be noted: the ASCD is now overtly working to train teachers in political activism. I've been getting advocacy emails lately, including an invitation to come hear Donna Brazile (Al Gore's former campaign manager) talk about effective lobbying.

It's beyond scary - and they're going to be successful, because their efforts are focused on a single aim (defend and grow the status quo) while all the reformers are (a) dispersed on several different reform issues, and (b) not politically astute.

SteveH said...

Topics at ASCD:

Brain & Learning
Building Academic Vocabulary
Character Education
Classroom Management
Curriculum Integration
Differentiating Instruction
English Language Learners
Environmental Education
Multicultural Education
Multiple Intelligences
Performance Assessment
Problem-Based Learning
School Culture & Climate
School Safety
Understanding by Design
What Works in Schools

All of that talk and very few details. But we all know what this means. They get to decide and you don't.

Is this some sort of mass educational hysteria? Do schools of education tell students that if they don't believe in this stuff, they should move on to another field? I'm serious. There was a case in our state where a college wouldn't give credit for a course in social work to a student who disagreed with the assumptions of the course. I think he wrote a counter-argument essay about a cherished theme of social work. They basically told him to get out of the field.

Anonymous said...


Your final anecdote reminds me of taking sociology as an elective. I argued with the professor ceaselessly. I was in the 'brain is a muscle' camp. He was in the 'brain is a passive bowl of jelly' camp.

My arguments were that the brain becomes what it is trained to be, while his (I guess the more classical soc thinking) were that the brain is totally a product of its environment, mush that haplessly flows along its stream.

I was shocked to get an A for the course because we never agreed on a single thing. I asked him why and he said, "You always supported your arguments and you were the only one engaged." Go figure!

SteveH said...

"I was shocked to get an A for the course ..."

I'll give you credit for going ahead with your arguments even though you expected the worst.

K9Sasha said...

PaulB, I'm impressed with you for standing up for what you believed in. I admit that I don't do that because I think the teachers are vindictive enough to give me a bad grade for disagreeing with them (and the whole premise of the Reading program). I was only honest with one professor. I don't know why I trusted him, but for some reason I did and I got an A in the class. In all my other classes I try to stay out of areas where we disagree (phonics vs. whole language is the biggie) and when I can't, I'll regurgitate the answer they're expecting. (Shaking head, looking at ground, muttering to self, "Spineless lump of jelly, I am.")