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    March 17, 2013 by Tunya

    Today freedom has different enemies.

    It must be fought for in different ways.

    It will take very different qualities of mind and heart to save it.

                                                   – John Holt (1923-1985 home education pioneer)


  2. Education Choice is NOT School Choice

    May 23, 2016 by Tunya

    School Choice OR Education Choice

    Why should education simply be a choice between one institution and another? 12 years of being contained and restrained and induced into an institutional mindset. Deinstitutionalization is what we talked about in the 70s after Ivan Illich did his book, articles and conferences on “deschooling” society.

    Please note, he was not only talking about deschooling schools, but also fracturing the institutional mindset of society as a whole.

    Well, it’s come to pass. Nevada is the education choice model to follow. It is the first actual universal model to put the responsibility back into the biologically rightful holders of the duty for education of the young — the parents.

    While Nevada is still not over the legal hurdles it faces, here is the Handbook for Parents —

    Note page 3 — “ . . . innovative thinkers from all political backgrounds have proposed concepts that turn school choice into education choice — the ability for parents to truly control their child’s K-12 education.”

    Surrey, BC, is experiencing the very same conditions that prompted Nevada’s new model — budget problems, immigration of many new school-age children, disaffection with use of portables. This what I wrote to the Globe and Mail and Vancouver Sun to their coverage:

    New Model For Education Funding

    In announcing millions of dollars for schools construction in Surrey the BC Premier stated that a new funding model may be needed.

    Interesting that in Nevada last year practically the same circumstances were at play — immigration squeeze placed a big demand for school spaces and there was a huge need for portables. Nevada chose to offer an alternative funding structure for parents to choose from: They could apply for Education Savings Accounts. Many parents signed up and would qualify starting after May 1 this year. They could spend the money for private schools or tutors or a whole host of other mix-&-match possibilities.
    The beauty of ESAs is the unbundling of education — it does not have to happen at a full-time school. Flexibility is a great spur to innovation, especially for meeting individual needs and talents of students.

    We did have our foot in the door of such a plan already in Sept 2014 during the teacher strike. Finance Minister’s office paid out $40 a day for 13 days in Sept. For 180 days of a school year that would be $7200. That would be a good incentive for parents to find (or create) education services and probably be able to use already existing community spaces.


    [ comment to SQE Mondauy 23 May, '16 ]

  3. Discovery continues its masquerades

    May 11, 2016 by Tunya

    The Mantra Persists — Discovery In It’s Many Masquerades !

    “ . . . children in rows bad, teachers who talk bad, today’s kids will have 17 jobs in 5 industries, content and knowledge bad, schools kill creativity, project-based learning is the future, kids need 21st C competencies and be ‘engaged’ — or so the mantra goes. We have it here in Canada as well, right now!

    This reminds me of the 1980 quote from the Aquarian Conspiracy: “Discoveries about the nature of the mind, unfortunately, have been like the slow-spreading news of armistice. Many die needlessly on the battlefield, long after the war is over.”

    Just how many of our children are the casualties of today’s continuing education wars. A dozen years ago Richard E Mayer said, “The debate about discovery has been replayed many times.” After discovery came experiential learning, then problem-based learning, then inquiry learning, then constructivist instruction. Other terms also populate this thrust — and they should be collected and brought forward for the needed work ahead. 

    Mayer, in his paper “Should There Be a Three-Strikes Rule Against Pure Discovery Learning? The Case for Guided Methods of Instruction” says:
    “An important role for psychologists is to show how educational practice can be guided by evidence and research-based theory rather than ever-shifting philosophical ideology.”

    The division, the disagreement, the actual “war” lies in a quarrel between practical people who want the education job done and political people who see schools as training for changing the world (or something like that, you know, “social justice”, etc.).

    To differ slightly with Mayer, I, as a grandparent, don’t think psychologists alone can tackle this job. Many parents are getting impatient, and so too are a lot of teachers. Thankfully, cognitive psychologists ARE leading the way in delineating effective methods in pedagogy. But the matter has come to the point of knowing that withholding critical information is doing untold harm in this world. No medical breakthrough would ever be left dormant as long as this unrevealed education knowledge has been left to fester.

    I am a gardener and am constantly uprooting invasive weeds. That is the imagery that inspires me to want to help in this task of getting the proper pedagogy out there. I came across an incredible article that increases my fears even more, and that is a 25 year chronicle of the very revered “scientific method” itself being attacked by “constructivists” . Academics out there should be able to get this paper easily and I got it months ago when it was still free — 25 Years of Journal Editorship, Michael R Matthews.

    The comforting part in Matthews article is that he has found at least one constructivist cheerleader who has “abandoned the constructivist paradigm as a useful theory for articulating and explaining knowledgeability and changes in observable behaviors . . . because it turned out to be plagued with considerable contradictions.” Ominously, however, Matthews points out that there is now a journal devoted to cultural studies in science as a mutation of the constructivist direction.

    I am wondering if this embrace by Willingham of the social and cultural is aligned?

    [published in SQE and Filling the Pail, Disrupting The Culture ]

  4. Parent Voice, choice and academies

    May 11, 2016 by Tunya

    Academies and Parent Voice Are Both Good Social Policies In Education

    The UK is following good advice regarding schools being accountable to the Ministry, thereby bypassing the self-interests that dominate schooling. Why this is happening is not peculiar to the UK alone. It is in other Western countries (Canada, USA, Australia, New Zealand) that schools have become the captives of self-interests and a dominating political/philosophical agenda generally called “progressive”.

    This post correctly identifies that parents generally have a different agenda for schools: “For progressivism to become a mass phenomenon, most ordinary parents had to be pushed out of educational decision making, because the vast majority of them stubbornly clung to conservative notions about hard work, discipline and knowledge acquisition.”

    Again, I say, this has been the common experience in the aforementioned Western nations. In the USA the response has been the gradual growth of alternative models such as charter schools, vouchers and education savings accounts. But, the opposition is vehement because vested interests are not primarily in the field for the best interests of the child.

    Government is well advised when it pays attention to the academic results the academisation model delivers. Here is a quote that supports the return of voice and choice to parents from Berkeley Law professor emeritus John E. Coons, 2002:

    > "There are a lot of benign effects of school choice but, for me, choice is family policy. It is one of the most important things we could possibly do as therapy for the institution of the family, for which we have no substitute. The relationship between the parent and child is very damaged if the parent loses all authority over the child for six hours a day, five days a week, and over the content that is put into the child's mind."

    > "What must it be like for people who have raised their children until they're five years old, and suddenly, in this most important decision about their education, they have no say at all? They're stripped of their sovereignty over their child."

    > "And what must it be like for the child who finds that his parents don't have any power to help him out if he doesn't like the school?”

    > "It's a shame that there are no social science studies on the effect of choicelessness on the family. If you are stripped of power—kept out of the decision-making loop—you are likely to experience degeneration of your own capacity to be effective, because you have nothing to do. If you don't have any responsibilities, you get flabby.”

    To Anthony Radice I want to say — What a profound post this is. I hope you pass it on to the powers that be in the Ministry and Prime Minister’s office.


    [comment sent to Anthony Radice, The Traditional Teacher on topic of how parent voice was pushed out for progressivism to spread, and how Academies in UK should return more local voice as opposed to establishment, unions, ed faculties, local boadrs, etc. ]

  5. inquiry into school board “corruption” ?

    May 5, 2016 by Tunya

    Inquiry At The Highest Level Called For

    It’s not good enough for the Ministry of Education to probe into York School District’s selection and hiring process. The matter as exposed — a superintendent of public schools obtaining an extraordinary hiring package — should be at the level of government itself. Notably, what should be examined is whether the school board system is appropriate for current needs and whether recurring problems in other boards as well are signaling a system which has outgrown its usefulness. The economic wastage and susceptibility to corruption keep popping up in other jurisdictions as well.

    Since the education of the young is the mission of the enterprise this should be the primary test against which these matters should be judged. Is there harm to children enrolled in this style of education delivery?

    Charles Pascal, a professor in the education faculty, University of Toronto and a former deputy minister, said the troubles in York “are a connection to the larger problem of governance of school boards”.

    “there is something unusual going on at that board,” he said in response to the Star stories. Maybe they are not that unusual, but par for the course. We should be worried.

    We read about a “culture of fear”, that some senior staff are leaving and that fear of retribution chills public discourse in York district. It should be examined if these kinds of behaviors taint other public education systems.

    I have one further point to add, not as yet mentioned (I think) and that is respect for the parent role in this school district. I was very disturbed that during the last primary teachers’ strike report cards were not completed at year-end. These progress reports are part of the “contract” between parents and government schools and in the School Act. How are parents to know if they’ve made a proper decision to enrol their child in a particular school?

    A news story at the time reported: “The report card is important to parents and students — it reflects student achievement during the year. The marks, learning skills and comments provide valuable information about student progress,” director of education J. Philip Parappally said.” As a senior executive of the board he should have been involved in an effort to have these declared as essential services by the Labor Relations Board. Was “attendance” still being taken by the teachers during this strike period? These are serious concerns for parents and a superintendent needs to back up parents in their role in education.

    A full inquiry at the highest level of the school board system — with York Region District School Board being Exhibit #1— is called for.


     [to SQE 05 May ]

  6. bystanders no more — Education reformers

    May 2, 2016 by Tunya

    We Need A Movement — Bystanders No More In Education’s Downfall

    As we join others in this Education Consumers Clearinghouse blog in showing our dismay about education systems’ dysfunctions we must also recognize that we stand judged. I’m as guilty as anyone for inaction, helplessness, sense of defeat and a strong desire to retreat entirely from the fray.

    Robin, who runs the blog — Invisible Serfs Collar — from which we have been reading, says her aim is to inform, not advise. By directing “sunlight” on these looming and menacing “transformations” in education she feels that that “is the best disinfectant I can think of”. After years of posting these alarms the latest is about psychological reshifting from natural biological imperatives toward anticipatory (preemptive) behaviors acquired through schooling practices such as group (collective) work and collaboration — all while the race continues toward greater use of data-gathering, robotics and artificial intelligence in “education” of the young (more like training).

    William feels duty-bound to bring forth warnings such as Robin’s to our attention — “our ‘educational leaders’ do not want children to learn how to read, lest they select texts that are not designed to create the new society.”

    Martin and Will bemoan the fact that schools are refusing to teach reading — comments seeming more like “shrugs”, “that’s the way it is”, “what can be done about it, anyway?” — rather than any call to action.

    Deborah, ever active as columnist and local politician, writes about rescuing her son from schooling disaster and informs us that her district has just added a third “behavior skills” containment center — my guess, more for avoiding embarrassing dropout figures than real help.

    My own response to this conversation — also helplessness and utter dismay that the dangers foreseen and forecast are not being taken seriously or counteracted. BUT, I can add two more sad, related bits of bad news:

    – Homeschooling is being used in Indiana as a punishment and way to push-out difficult students to avoid dropouts and “expelled” figures and perversely, to boost test scores by removing poor performers. The homeschooled students are then counted as “transfers” and not losses or a black mark to the system. —

    – There is to be in the next few years a massive world campaign to promote teaching of reading to children in developing countries. The work has been done — needs-assessment tools have been field-tested — protocols for community involvement have been mapped out, etc. What remains is for the Ministries of Education of the developing nations to then adopt the methods for implementing the reading programs. BUT, the literature involved already foresees a problem — “The reading ‘wars’ are alive and well in many low-income countries, often miring ministries of education and teaching centers in seemingly endless debates between the ‘whole-language’ and ‘phonics-based’ approaches.” (pg 11 of 1st edition , 2009, EGRA Early Grade Reading Assessment)

    My Question: Do we continue to agonize and bringing forth our outrages? Or, is there more that can be done? It’s not really bystander apathy that is displayed here but — even as people capable in our own little worlds — nonetheless in the world of education we are overwhelmed by a juggernaut that enfeebles us. Any good news? Any ideas for action?