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  1. FREEDOM

    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. Sedition, Mean-spiritedness in school decision making ? ? ?

    March 24, 2015 by Tunya

    Mean-spiritedness Or Responsiveness — What Guides School Decision Making?
    The decision by the Nanaimo School Board to designate a K-7 elementary school as Departure Bay Eco Academy does not come without political overtones.
    In a statement to the press Board Chairman, Steve Rae, said, “We're hoping this kind of thing draws kids back from the private system.” Thus one must wonder if this move was based on educationally sound principles or adopted as a recruiting tool to boost enrollment.
    Unfortunately in BC right now, if one follows the social media, we would note a persistent undercurrent of activism trying to undermine the rather harmonious relationship currently in place between the public and independent systems in education.
    This Nanaimo decision reminds me of what happened in Maple Ridge School District 15 years ago.
    In their effort to appear responsive the Maple Ridge school board decided to survey parents as to their preferences. The survey form clearly stated the results would “help plan the future direction” and listed 10 choices including “other” or “None of the above”. The models listed were:
    – Traditional (emphasis on basics, discipline, parent involvement)
    – Progressive (children learn by discovery, less emphasis on grades)
    – Environmental
    – Self-directed (emphasis on independent learning)
    – Fine Arts (e.g., music, art, drama)
    – Skilled trades
    – Sport academies
    – Technology academies
    When the results were released a month later the media headlines picked up on the leading result — Support for traditional school. The tally was 63% for traditional, 53% for fine arts, 32% for sports academies, 31% for progressive, and 28% for environmental.
    But the politics soon kicked in. The “progressive” school of thought (the predominant philosophy operating in BC public schools) rallied against the conventional parent point-of-view (which is generally your back-to-the basics, traditional expectations) and guess what? It was an environmental school that was the new program!
    It is really too bad that parent choice and voice are so dismissed by those who push a totalitarian progressive approach. In Nanaimo it was parental choice of private schools that was the target. In Maple Ridge it was the parent voice showing a preference for traditional schooling that was skillfully thwarted.
    I think it’s time that the provincial government, through new laws, provided a level playing field for all parents in BC. There should be a uniform code of behavior that applies equally to both the public school sphere and the independent.
    There is a little known clause in the Independent School Act that forbids the practice, promotion or fostering of “social change through violent action or sedition”. In simple terms sedition is the subversive undermining of the peace and authority of the established social order. It’s time that the Public School Act had a similar clause applying to the 89% of schools that are public. Families should not be under constant bombardment from activists who would deny education alternatives in our free province of BC!

    [newsstory here http://www.nanaimobulletin.com/news/297057261.html?fb_action_ids=10152705813416437&fb_action_types=og.comments ]

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  3. URGENT: Parents & Education Reform

    March 23, 2015 by Tunya

    Australia Needs To Enlist Parents In Urgent Education Reform

    It is so clear to me — even though I am in Canada and thousands of miles away from Australia — what needs to happen.

    Within the space of one year Australia has had THREE reports that sharply indicate what has to happen.

    The three reports:

    – Review of the Australian Curriculum — reporting after 6 month consultation across the nation
    – Action Now: Classroom Ready Teachers — report on current teacher training
    – What Makes Great Teaching? Review of Underpinning Research — research report on evidence

    I believe the spur for this level of activity was the growing concern with the previous national curriculum, which was loaded with New Age and 21st Century Transformation narratives. As Nick Cator wrote, Jan 14, 2014, in The Australian: “Do we want educators or evangelists? Do we send children to school to ‘create texts that inform and persuade others to take action for sustainable futures’?”

    The recommendations are enumerated in all reports and remain to be acted on. Will it have to come down to a heavy-handed approach for indicated changes to happen — legislation, removing accreditation from training outfits and lifting the licenses of teachers? Or will there finally be some common-sense that will magically appear?

    Given that the industry of public education itself has been too often resistant and even dismissive of all this avalanche of evidence and public expectation it’s time to really bring in the troops — the consumers.

    I saw a recommendation in the curriculum review that really made sense — getting parents genuinely involved. I don’t know the particulars intended, but these are some of the means by which parent muscle can be brought to bear: parental choice of schools between progressive, traditional or other philosophies; handbook on parent rights; handbook on student rights; curriculum outlines in clear language; workshops for parents on pursuing individual student educational needs; standardized accountability measures to keep schools on task; rebates for out-of-school tutoring expenses; tax credits for private schools, school-based management; etc., etc.

    In the days of the one-room school house if the teacher did not teach the expected basics the parent board fired the teacher and recruited another. That’s the kind of clout that parents too long colonized by their “masters” need to regain if children are to be educated in their lifetimes for a challenging world.

    I just wish that we in Canada (North America generally) had such clear signals as shown in the three reports by which we could go about cleaning up our education swamp.

    [The Australian story referred to is here — http://www.educationviews.org/traditional-forms-teaching-comeback/ ]

     


  4. Disease Metaphor For 21st C Learning Experiments

    March 4, 2015 by Tunya

    Mr Education Minister — Stop The Education Blight Before It’s Too Late

    People who study tree rings can tell a lot about a tree’s history. They can even tell if stunted growth results from such deprivations or assaults as fire, drought, disease, insect infestations, etc.

    Now, in education, we do not have such growth rings to help us gauge defects visited upon children in schools — whether from acts of omission or commission.

    However, observers do have some measures such as accountability testing which can place a student at, below, or above an expected grade-level. Unfortunately, due to extreme lobbying by fearful educators, evaluations are being seriously curtailed.

    But, once in a while a brave soul from within the system will speak out and then we get some anecdotal information — even if it’s labeled “an opinion”.

    Here is Carol Burris of New York, a High School principal with a number of awards for outstanding achievement saying about the 21st Century Learning plan called Common Core in the US — “Common Core will lead to misery, not higher achievement”:

    “ . . . I am truly worried that we may lose an entire generation of students. The Common Core was hastily imposed and never field-tested.”

    http://hechingerreport.org/common-core-will-lead-to-misery-not-higher-achievement/

    Should we in BC pay attention to education developments elsewhere? YES, loudly YES ! Because education transformations, or “shifts” to 21st Century Learning are popping up in various parts of the world. And, lo and behold, the narratives are THE SAME — collaboration, competency, inquiry-learning, etc. — that definitely point to some concerted global effort along some predetermined plan !

    In BC we just recently (29 January 2015) experienced a FORUM where one of the key speakers said this about BC’s Ed Plan/Personalized Learning:

    “This is a pivotal moment for BC . . . if we can continue to work together in this way we can build on how far we've got and really accelerate and sustain this — we'll achieve what nobody else has yet achieved and that is to transform the system across the whole province… to enable all young people to have the skills and knowledge to be successful in the 21st Century . . . I wish you all the very best.” – David Albury, a leading coordinator with Global Education Leadership Program (GELP UK) consulting in BC.

    Now, Mr Minister: Why is BC being targeted more than any other of these world projects to be the first to fall — hook-line-and-sinker — for this plan? People in all these other nations (US, UK, Australia, NZ) are having second thoughts. Why should we be speeding ahead without broad knowledge or buy-in by public and educators? Are we that gullible?

    In view of your concern for efficiencies, Mr Minister, I would suggest a ‘HOLD” on this project, with millions of dollars already budgeted, so that there can be a proper REVIEW.

    Both for sake of economic savings and for the rescue of our children and grandchildren from this blight of untested educational experimentation I urge you to put a stop to the acceleration and get us back to the basics of education and what parents and public want.

    To Colonist (in moderation) ,My Facebook 04 Mar 2015


  5. Education — Coercive? Totalitarian? Fascist?

    February 25, 2015 by Tunya

    [People familiar with the field of education know that among the leading lights speaking up for less coercive styles was John Holt. His books in the 70s showed intense sympathy for students — How Children Fail, How Children Learn, etc. I talked with Holt in ’72 and wrote up this meeting here: https://gaither.wordpress.com/2011/02/17/john-holts-conversion-to-home-education/
    As I keep updating information, and finding old files, I recognize there are dark sides to this industry that need focus. This update about John Holt’s fears will be included in a book I’m working on. TA]

    John Holt’s Prophetic Voice

    It’s 2015 and in most of the Western World — particularly UK, US, Can, Aus & NZ — the education field seems to be infected with something called “transformation to 21st Century Learning”. In the US it’s called Common Core with similarities shared with other countries — shift to competencies such as collaboration, critical thinking, enquiry learning, constructivism, etc. — generally away from skills and content. Part of this move is because of technology — why teach knowledge when it’s just a mouse click away?

    Whatever is indeed happening — few really know because so much is untested — yet being implemented in wholesale ways. Some critics express the opinion that these “paradigm shifts” are being imposed by stealth and without common consent. Fads come and go in education but this time there’s a coercive streak that’s just beginning to be talked about.

    In all the writing about John Holt and his mission to help parents and students toward meaningful learning it was rarely mentioned that he had an underlying concern about totalitarianism. Sure, he promoted non-compulsory education, learning centers, home education, alternatives, etc. But for their own sake, not as escapes from fascism!

    But Ron Miller, in his book — Free Schools, Free People, 2002 — mentions that “Holt explicitly suggested that the alienation bred by authoritarian education could well ‘prepare the ground for some native American brand of Fascism’ “.

    Noting that so much of Common Core and the rest of 21st Century Learning depends so much on central control it is enlightening to read Miller’s impression of Holt’s “prophetic voice” in forecasting ”an efficient social machine managed by a privileged elite. Holt foresaw the coming of the New World Order, and he did not like what he saw.” (pg 89)

    Without getting the book, you might be able to get a 6 page magazine article off the Internet or from a research group that is entitled — John Holt: His Prophetic Voice, Education Revolution, Autumn 2002, pg 28-33.

    Today, I truly intended to just update information on this thread, but felt that this aspect of Holt’s mission should be brought forward because I also perceive this cultural hazard. In the article I wrote in 1987 that I provided a link to in the above story I warned about the “predatory state”.

    The link to my article — Home Education – The Third Option doesn’t work, but can be obtained at: https://independent.academia.edu/TunyaAudain#

    To get Parent Rights and Their Children’s Education (1977) — http://www.parentsteachingparents.net/page/3/?s=parent+rights


  6. Phonics Issue Revisited

    February 18, 2015 by Tunya

    [For people absolutely green to the issue discussed here — there are basically two main styles of reading methods being used in schools today;  PHONICS which is sounding out letters approach (decoding) and building a vocabulary & WHOLE WORD which is memorizing lists of words and finding meaning in the context of the written material.]

    Revisiting The Phonics Issue

    There’s been a renewal of interest in phonics as an effective method to teach reading. Actually, it goes way beyond interest — TWO national governments, UK and Australia, are bringing in mandates to ensure that reading is truly taught, not “caught” as some educators are wont to say. After the latest curriculum review in Australia one news headline read: “Education minister orders universities to teach phonics or face losing accreditation.”

    After all — most people do agree — without reading confidence a student’s academic career is essentially stuck.

    It’s important to understand the phonics issue because the education field itself has been stuck due to this standoff. About reading methods, two camps have emerged — phonics and whole word — and we have seen hundreds of books and articles and many decades of fierce arguments. However, parallel to the reading division, there is also the division in philosophy of education — splitting into traditional and progressive camps. Therefore, in political polarized terms — it’s RIGHT vs LEFT — settling more-or-less into a phonics/traditional/right vs whole word/progressive/left dichotomy.

    Unlike other fields such as medicine or science such disagreements would quickly be resolved by evidence and proofs of practice and not sink to ideological quarrels that disrupt standard practice.

    In education, this toxic soup harms its clientele. The fallout is the high rate of illiterates in our communities and prisons and the embarrassing reading remediation classes in universities.

    Illiteracy is still a scandal in developed countries, which should not by any account be tolerating such sabotage of essential services. With medical malpractice clients die and their relatives sue. With education malpractice crippled clients have no legal standing.

    Without going into the long tedious background of the reading wars one slice of history alone will suffice to distill the issue.

    In 1990 in the UK a cognitive psychologist, Martin Turner, issued a pamphlet — Sponsored Reading Failure — setting off a “brouhaha” about declining reading scores. Government, academics, the media and public were fully engaged and enraged.

    A year later without any substantial resolution or promise of good intent, Turner lamented the lack of uptake. A journal, Support For Learning, published Turner’s article, “Finding Out” (Vol6#3,1991) and in the preface to Turner’s article gave a brief summary of the “national controversy”, saying, “The accompanying publicity, and indeed hysteria . . . prompted . . . two investigations.”

    Turner basically enlarged on his earlier claims:

    – “. . . the decline has surpassed the most pessimistic expectations . . . The machinery of cover-up has creaked and groaned but the main point has been conceded”
    – “. . . one tragic insight is the extent to which what individuals think and say privately differs from what they feel free, against the prevailing orthodoxy to say in public. There is the ever-present and oppressive sense of threat.”
    – “the fourfold increase in the number of pupils with the significant underfunctioning in reading was . . . most apparent in the more affluent area, not as one normally expects, in a socially deprived area”.
    – “. . . there has been an undeniable de-emphasis throughout the 1980s on the actual skills of learning to read. A ‘progressive’ movement has attempted to influence teacher behavior away from phonic instruction and toward learning through ‘real books’”
    – “The rise of the new orthodoxy parallels exactly the decline in reading achievement.”
    – “. . . with all the publicity, little or no real curiosity has been evinced about what is really going on . . . Does nobody care to find out? “

    The next issue of Support for Learning (Vol6#4,1991) produced a response from another academic, David Wray — “A chapter of errors: A response to Martin Turner”. Again, the journal in its abstract to the article did some editorializing:

    [Martin Turner asserted that declining reading levels in primary school children were directly linked] “. . . to the widespread use of ‘psycholinguistic’ approaches. Readers were challenged to give an alternative explanation of the research findings. David Wray accepts the challenge. He is clearly angry . . . [Wray’s] investigations lead him to the conclusion that there is no relationship between teaching method and achievement. Indeed, poor levels of reading may well be due to matters largely beyond teacher control . . . Wray finally condemns Turner and others for their simplistic explanations . . . “

    Wray brought forth these responses:

    – “I have many times over the past months felt extremely angry at Mr Turner for sparking off such a wave of teacher-bashing . . . Demoralised personnel in an under-funded and over-extended service . . . need nurture and support, not gratuitous attacks.”
    – “ . . .the profession is under-valued, over-scrutinised and, particularly, under-paid.”
    – “ A second area which has come back into the headlines is social background . . . increase in poverty, unemployment, homelessness and a decrease in welfare provision . . . “
    – “But what about these teaching methods? . . . Turner, and other phonics apologists, continually make the claim that ‘the weight of research findings’ supports their position.”
    – “It should be fairly clear that approaches to the teaching of reading . . . demonstrate anything but ‘a narrow, impoverished view of reading’ in Turner’s words. Indeed, in the face of this, it would be a phonics-first approach which would be in greater danger of being narrow and impoverished.”
    – “Whole language programmes are clearly not built upon a ‘narrow, impoverished view of reading’. They are in fact, far more in tune with the findings of a whole range of research than are the methods seemingly proposed by Turner.”
    – “The teaching of reading is far too important and far too complex for simplistic analyses such as that of Martin Turner to be of any use whatsoever . . . “

    As a parent and grandparent, active in education reform efforts, I see no resolution to these two divergent claims to certainty in reading methodology. If I had a “say” I would wish to have a clear choice between approaches. I would expect that the teacher of any of my primary-aged future great grandchildren would be well-prepared to enable skilled, confident reading. I am reminded of William James’ observation of the infant’s start on this marvelous journey of deciphering the world and the need for discerning, guiding parents and teachers on that quest:

    “The baby, assailed by eyes, ears, nose, skin, and entrails at once, feels it all as one great blooming, buzzing confusion… (The Principles of Psychology, p. 462.)

    [posted on Webs of Substance blog 20150218 — https://websofsubstance.wordpress.com/2015/02/18/unbalanced-literacy/, EDUCAN and Education Consumers Clearinghouse.]