Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Together We Can Stop This

Not content with reducing young children to tears with their cruel, abusive policies, it seems that the Obama administration's preferred approach to increasing pressure from parents and students to end high stakes standardized testing in public schools is to double-down on their bad ideas. They already use these grotesquely flawed tests to judge children, to make career decisions about their teachers, and to even shut down entire schools. Last week, it was reported that they now plan to leverage tens of millions in federal education funds to use these tests to punish and reward teacher education programs. Make no mistake, it's all about the high stakes testing for these guys. Forget the fact that every study ever done on high stakes testing, including studies funded by the US Department of Education, have found the tests deeply flawed as a way to evaluate teaching and learning.

And they are coming after preschool next.

When both political parties and the corporate elite, from Bill Gates to Wall Street hedge fund managers and gigantic, international "education" corporations like Pearson Education that think nothing of turning a profit off the tears of young children are against you, it will inevitably be a long fight. But there are signs we are winning. More states are risking putting their federal funding at stake by withdrawing from the No Child Left Behind arm twisting, but most effective, and encouraging, I think has been the growing movement among parents to opt their children out of the whole mess.

In New York City, where high stakes standardized testing has a head start on most of the rest of the country, there are many schools where 50-70 percent of the students are sitting it out. Of course, in some places schools are retaliating by forcing these students to "sit and stare," a cruelty that only underlines the abusiveness at the heart of the misguided policies of our financial and political elites. You might want to send your kid to school on test days with a copy of Leaves of Grass.

I am urging everyone I know to opt their children out of these tests. Together we can stop this.

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Tuesday, April 29, 2014

The Way They Learn Best

There is a lot to dislike, even hate, about the Common Core federal curriculum, perhaps starting with the fact that supporters insist that it is not a curriculum when it really is, right down to step-by-step, rote scripts that dictate both what and how professional teachers should be teaching. And let's be clear, the entire curriculum, including these insulting scripts were not developed by teachers with decades of classroom experience, but rather by people who have the hubris to think they know what they are doing simply because they were once students. It's like me thinking I can tell a doctor how to do his job because I've been a patient or a career criminal believing he can be a courtroom lawyer because he's been a client.

They start from the fallacy that education is about vocational training, assume that all children learn the same things in the same ways on the same schedule, then make the same mistake about teachers, who, like experienced professionals in other fields, spend their careers learning and refining their own unique ways to reach the children in their care.

The goal of education is citizenship, to practice and acquire the aptitudes, abilities, and motivation to live productively and meaningfully within communities of all kinds, be they workplaces, churches, political parties, institutions, artistic and athletic endeavors, or even communities of our own creation, all of which are equally vital to our civilization's future. This attempt to distill "education" down to a few core subjects (primarily math and literacy) taught in a rote manner leaves our world impoverished, a few, perhaps, better educated, and the rest still left ignorant about what kind of learners they are.

A few days ago I watched a boy who seemed contemplative, or maybe just bored, wandering around our outdoor classroom. He came across our homemade ladder, which was lying on the ground, with several inches of one end hanging over a ledge created by one of the tree rounds that line our sandpit. He stepped on the ladder and, balancing on the rungs, made his way to the end. I could tell by the caution with which he moved his body that he was testing the stability of the cantilever. He bounced on it slightly and the other end rose a bit, making the "ground" beneath him unstable. Cautiously, he regained his balance. Another tree round, some three feet away caught his eye. He had the idea of making the jump. I knew that if he was going to attempt it, he would need to forcefully push off from where he stood, which he had already determined was an unsecured launching pad.

On his first attempt he missed his target badly, although he had managed to propel himself that distance without the ground having given way beneath his foot. He climbed upon his destination stump, then balanced across the tops of the others until he was back to the ladder, where he repeated his process. This time, he launched himself more forcefully, at a slightly different angle, nearly making it to his goal. He repeated the pattern two more times, and on his fifth attempt succeeded. He repeated it one more time as a proof. He then raced off to gather up some friends who queued up for a turn. He merely showed them how he did it, then left it up to each of them to figure it out for themselves.

I had witnessed a self-taught lesson in physics, math, physical education, and social skills from a boy who explored many things about the way he learns best: caution, trial-and-error, repetition, incrementalism. He learned this thing that he had chosen to learn at his own pace and in the way that suited him; a unique human being, not a product to be put together on an assembly line.

None of the other children he had gathered together were able to make that jump, and most wandered off after only a single attempt. As a teacher I don't see that as failure: this was not the way they were going to learn these specific lessons about the physical, intellectual and social world. Indeed they may never learn the specific things this boy taught himself, but they, being unique humans, unique learners, will be motivated to learn the things they need and want to learn in the way they learn best.

Ultimately, the weakness of the sort of rote learning embedded in Common Core, is that it isolates children into their own, narrow "career track" whether it suits them or not, one that defines their fellow classmates as competitors, a distinctly sociopathic world view, one destined to ultimately kill motivation and curiosity, which, after all, are the key characteristics of a well-educated citizen.

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Monday, April 28, 2014

Interesting Times

A couple months ago, I wrote about the Washington State legislature's rejection of a bill that would have mandated the use of student standardized test scores to evaluate teachers, opting instead, in a collective and bipartisan manner, to approve an updated version of our state's homegrown teacher-principal evaluation system. At the time I mentioned that this act would jeopardize our state's No Child Left Behind (NCLB) federal funding. Well, last week the other shoe dropped.

Washington State was informed today that the US Department of Education has revoked our No Child Left Behind waiver. Under the terms of the revocation, Washington State will not lose resources; rather, we will lose some flexibility on how to use $40 million of the approximately $12 billion we spend in our K-12 schools per year.

It's not a backbreaker, but it's clearly a shot across the state's bow.

Not long ago, I was invited to speak to a group of early childhood educators in Spokane, which is in the "red" part of our state. I've spoken to audiences in Greece, England, Australia, Canada, and New Zealand over the course of the past couple years, but in all honesty, I was far more nervous for this event than for any other. I mean, after all, I am essentially a "hippie" from the most liberal legislative district in the liberal city of Seattle. We've just elected a socialist to our city council, for crying out loud, one who ran on raising the minimum wage to $15 per hour, unseating an established Democrat who would wear the label of "radical" in most places. I was going to speak on the topic of democracy and education, which is, by nature, a political discussion and while it had gone over well with more liberal audiences, I was a bit sweaty palmed about the reception I would receive from an audience I'd been cautioned would be more conservative, especially when I trotted out my observation that corporations are "dictatorships set up in the midst of our democracy."

A funny thing happened. This audience did not laugh or gasp in the same places as previous audiences, but they did laugh and gasp, frequently. In fact, by the time I was 15 minutes into my talk, I was seeing far more nodding heads than I'd ever seen. When we took a break, one audience member came up to me to say, "I can't believe they let you even speak aloud in this state. You're saying the things I've been trying to say for years." Another said, "I can tell you're a liberal, but you're one of the smart liberals." And yet another commented, "I disagree with unions about everything, except this. The teachers unions are right on about what's happening to our schools."

The bipartisan rejection of this federal government demand during the 2014 legislative session is a strong and unifying message that our state fully embraces our constitutional 10th Amendment guarantee to develop, fund, and administer our state's education system as the citizens of the state of Washington and their elected representatives determine, not as federal officials deem it appropriate.

Although this was written by a Democrat, the evocation of the 10th Amendment is at the heart of the conservative objection to Race To the Top (the current Obama initiative), Common Core, and the rest of the US Department of Education (USDE) agenda. My own objection, and the pushback from the left, has largely been about the developmental and pedagogical failings of what I call the corporate reform agenda (because it was developed and implemented by and at the behest of Bill Gates, Wall Street investors, and the for-profit education industry), and the not so well disguised efforts to bust the teachers unions. One of the great frustrations to me about NCLB (a Bush initiative that still has the force of law) is that it was conceived to circumvent the 10th Amendment: in a time of economic uncertainty no state has to take the money, but if one does, it must abide by the conditions set by the USDE, which is essentially the implementation of this unproven, untested corporate agenda. In other words, it violates the spirit, if not the letter of the law.

Of course, what ultimately unites us, right and left, is our concern about our children. No one is happy that anything that doesn't have to do with math or literacy, such as the arts, humanities, physical education, and even such time honored events as kindergarten year-end performances are being cut in the name of the insane goal of getting five-year-olds "college" and "career" ready. No one is happy that these young children are being robbed of their love of learning, that they are stressed out and bawling over developmentally inappropriate materials. No one is happy that our children are spending their days prepping for high stakes standardized tests instead of actually learning. No one is happy that the Common Core curriculum (and despite what they say, it is a curriculum) provides teachers with corporately written, federally "approved" scripts for teaching, not only dictating what professional teachers should be teaching, but how.

The national narrative has lately focused on the rash of Republican governors and other elected officials objecting to Common Core, with the media attempting to cover the story as if it's just another fight between Democrats and Republicans, but from the way it looks here on the ground, outside the Beltway, it's a true, albeit sometimes uncomfortable, alliance of American parents and teachers who want what's best for their children.

I've written before about the Chinese curse/blessing, "May you live in interesting times." These times are interesting indeed.

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Friday, April 25, 2014

Playing Community

Although I'd more or less been watching all along, the project was well under way before I recognized it. A bunch of boys, starting out as independent or duet players, had wound up with a large, single train track resulting from a fad to "connect together" and now they were all figuring out how to play with their creation. There was a group of 8-9 of them, jamming their bodies together, crawling across one another, jostling, each pursuing his own interest, but within the context of this train playing community, the project-based workgroup, that had spontaneously emerged from their collective efforts.

Most of them had assembled their own long trains and were attempting to maneuver them at the same time on the same tracks.

A couple of the guys were more prickly than others, barking out commands and objections, waiting, sometimes futilely sometimes not, for the others to react as they wanted. Others were more bent upon keeping the track together, stopping frequently to re-erect a bridge or re-link a connection. A couple were all about collecting "favorite" train cars, a couple were social lubricators bouncing from place to place, filling in wherever there was an empty space, while some kept the "story" going, talking generally to the group about what they were doing, holding the vision for the group, making train sound effects. And all of this within a small, fragile space.

"We need more curvy pieces over here!"

"Hey, that's part of my train!"

"I'm stuck between your train and your train, we either have to back up or go forward."

"Aw, the bridge is knocked down."

"Beep, beep, you're sitting on the track!"

It struck me as a more sophisticated version of the classic preschool puppy pile, a writhing knot of boys negotiating, arguing, asserting rights, ideas, complaints, and solutions, not necessarily politely, but effectively, efficiently even. The best part, I think, was that for them I wasn't even there: this was their project, their world, and each was playing a chosen role while reacting to the chosen roles of the others, then changing as the need arose only to fall back to a default position when the moment passed.

Not long ago, the sharp words they often used with one another, the commands, the assertions of rights,  might have escalated into hitting and tears. Voices and bodies were still bossy or whiney or even angry, but no one seemed to take them personally, but rather as simply part of the communication or personality, an expression of emotion mixed in with the actual words. They listened to one another even when they didn't agree. They knew which friends they could simply nudge out of the way and which would need verbal coaxing. They followed and lead, but only to a point; only as far as their individual consciences or creative visions allowed. 

There were were many instances when as a younger, less experienced teacher I would have leapt in with all my teacher politenesses and techniques to guide and goad, yet yesterday as I sat on a bench at the edge of our checkerboard rug, letting things go several rounds beyond civility, I realized that my intervention would not only have been unnecessary (unless mere courtesy was the goal) but would have, in a moment, broken up the entire project, scattering the boys back into fiefdoms. I regretted how often in the past I'd rendered children incompetent by stepping in too soon.

These guys have been playing together in spaces like this, with limited resources like this, for many months now and it shows. It has, in fact, been showing for some time. They know one another, care about one another, and the history they've created together has shaped itself into a genuine community.

A couple nights ago I was in a meeting in which the subject of community came up. Someone laughed about a neighbor who was forever taking the lead in making things happen, quoting her as explaining her motivation, "I just like playing community with other people." Maybe it was that expression that allowed me to see what was happening there amidst the trains yesterday.

Later in the outdoor classroom, I walked in on another project that was well under way involving most of the same boys. This time they had wrangled a plank of wood to the top of our small climbing frame. The concept had started as a kind of catapult that launched buckets of water, but by the time I was on the scene, they had replaced the small plastic bucket with a large galvanized steel muck tub. They were working like a line of ants transporting containers of water from the pump, up the ladder, and across the walkway to fill the tub, negotiating, arguing, asserting rights, ideas, complaints, and solutions, not necessarily politely, but effectively, efficiently even, just as they had earlier on the checkerboard rug.

We seem internally driven to create community and that's what communities are all about: people working together to solve a problem or create an opportunity. It's within communities both large and small, whether we call them workgroups or committees or crews or congregations or teams, that we spend most of our time outside our homes. It's really what we do with our lives if you think about it, getting together with other people to figure things out.

When the muck tub was full, everyone stepped back. I don't know how they had decided who got to pull the cord that they'd tied onto the board as the launching mechanism, but the entire community took a moment of silence. The cord was yanked and instead of soaring over their heads as they'd imagined, the heavy tub slid sideways from the board and banged off the concrete wall drenching it with water.

The first words I heard were, "That was cool!" Then, "Let's do it again!"

Just playing community with other people: that what it's all about. Let's do it again.

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Thursday, April 24, 2014

Mister Rogers And Darth Vader: A Conversation

As those who know me are aware, I admire Mister Rogers, so when gift giving opportunities come up, I'm often the happy recipient of some sort of related merchandise, like a t-shirt or book. One of these items is a device called "Mister Rogers In Your Pocket." There are six buttons, the pushing of which will bring up snippets of one of his songs or a catch phrase. It seems kind of campy out of context, but for those of us who grew up with him, and strive in our way to emulate him, it isn't a bad way to be reminded of what it's all about.

I don't know if this is true everywhere, but for some reason Star Wars is huge at Woodland Park this year in both our 5's and 3-5's classes. It begs the question, can Mister Rogers and Darth Vader co-exist in our classroom? It's been a sort of metaphorical tug-of-war all year long. I've even gone so far as to invent my own Star Wars character, Darth Marcus, by way of providing me a mouthpiece to counter some of the more sociopathic things that seem to come from the mouths of the various other Darths. It's my way of asserting the idea that love transcends.

My friend Liam received "Darth Vader In Your Pocket" in his Easter basket and we both had our pocket companions with us in class yesterday. As we played with our toys, Mister Rogers and Darth Vader had the following conversation:

"If you only knew the power of the Dark Side."

"Discovering truth will make me free."

"I am your father."

"Please won't you be my neighbor?"

"I find your lack of faith disturbing."

"I think I'll make a snappy today."

"The Force is strong with this one."

"It's a beautiful day in this neighborhood, a beautiful day for neighbor."

"The Force is with you young Skywalker . . . but you are not a Jedi yet."

"Do you ever talk about love with someone you care for? I hope you do."

"You have failed me for the last time."

"I like you just the way you are."

Is Darth Marcus really Mister Rogers?

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Wednesday, April 23, 2014

The Value Of Hard Work

A while back, I read a post on someone else's blog about their version of a play-based curriculum. I'm sorry I don't recall where, but the first reader comment is what has stuck with me. It was from someone who purported to be a teacher and was quite critical, asserting among other things that "this is what's wrong with this country." The commenter's point was that we fail kids when we imply that everything should be fun, that in fact most things worth doing or learning weren't fun, that success in life comes from learning about working hard, especially when required to do things we don't want to do.

I teach very young children, of course, which kind of inoculates me against these critiques, but it's an argument that those of us who publicly advocate for play-based education hear a lot. This always strikes me as a kind of window into a particular world view, and I'm tempted to trot out the great philosophical bookends of the 17th century, Thomas Hobbes and John Locke, placing the naysayers in the "man is essentially evil" camp, while proponents of play-based education form the "man is essentially good" crowd. And I think that it does at some level drill down to these fundamental and opposed understandings of humanity, a debate that continues to be carried out today through our politics.

Usually, it's phrased as a question: Everything you say about the value and benefits of a play-based education sounds well and good, but how do the children ever learn about the value of hard work?

I see "hard work" every day in our classroom, even among the very young children I teach. Sometimes the work is so hard they break down in tears or flare up in anger, especially when applying themselves, through play, to learning to interact with the other people. I watch them struggle as they repeatedly address a piece of paper with scissors, brows furrowed in a display of concentration, or strive to slow themselves down to the pace of calm meditation in order to place a dot of liquid from a pipette on just the right spot. When a child sits down to assemble a puzzle, it's not all "joy," it's not all "fun," but it is all play, and if the puzzle is one of those "just right" puzzles, it is hard work.  

"Play" and "hard work" are not opposites: in fact, they can be seen as synonyms. Anyone who has ever played hard also knows how to work hard. There may be aspects of our play that we dislike, that are not "fun," but we do them because they are steps in the process we are teaching ourselves, the challenge we are undertaking. And young children tend to play hard, throwing themselves wholly into it, immersing themselves into it as they see fit, to the degree they feel comfortable, up to the point of their interest, until their driving questions are answered.

And this is where Hobbesians tend to interject: Ah, but what about the hard work of doing things they don't want to do? How do you teach them that through play?

The short answer is: you don't. 

There is only one kind of "hard work" we must do in life that we don't want to do: that is the hard work an external force imposes on us.

When it's not freely chosen, it's always "hard work," for everyone, all the time. When a man is, for instance, starving, he'll do almost anything for food, including the most degrading or routine work, including begging. The modern-day Hobbesians might say, "That's not work." Bull. It may be the most difficult work of all in our society, made even more excruciating by those who will heartlessly yell, "Get a job!" Those legions of children in third world countries who spend their days combing through landfills in search of something, anything, they and their families can use for survival are working harder than any of us have ever worked in our lives. The work of mere survival is the most grinding, soul crushing, hard work there is. And if this is what the critics are talking about, then god save us all.

Thankfully, most of us, most of the time are not merely surviving, yet most of us have found ourselves at one time or another working in jobs we hate, in which "superiors" tell us what to do. This is, I think, the kind of "hard work" many of the critics are talking about; this is the shut-up-and-do-it, nose-to-the-grindstone, mind-numbing future for which they would have us training children. This kind of hard work, in fact, is hardly different than the work of survival in that the only reward is the paycheck, perhaps a pat on the back, because it sure isn't the work itself. I'm here to tell you that if all you're in it for is the paycheck it better be one hell of a paycheck, which, not coincidentally is rarely the case with this kind of work.

And then there's the question of how one would go about teaching this kind of hard work. The only way I can see to do that is to turn oneself into that kind of boss-them-around superior. Sorry, I'm not taking part in that: I will not be part of pre-grinding those noses and pre-numbing those minds, just so some future superior has a more malleable underling to boss around. 

But no, they then say, that's not what I'm talking about. I'm talking about the work ethic; the idea that you have to work hard to get what you want out of life. How will they ever learn that if all they do is play?

That requires no special effort on my part because it's built into play and simply cannot be taught through a system of external rewards and punishments.

The anonymous commenter wrote: "When something is challenging it ceases being fun, therefore they check out." Boy, that hasn't been my experience at all in a play-based curriculum. In fact, for most kids, most of the time, it's just the opposite. 

A child may not exactly enjoy the hard work of re-building the foundation of her block structure over and over again to get to the point where she can, say, attempt to create a cantilevered addition, yet she will repeatedly do it in order to make yet another attempt. And she may well ultimately reach a point at which it has all come crashing down so many times that she concludes her idea is impossible, at least for today, and walk away, not wanting to build that foundation one more time, but she has persevered until she has concluded her current efforts are for naught. That doesn't mean she's given up forever, only that she has acquired the wisdom to know that she needs to move on, to learn more before trying that again. This doesn't mean she hasn't learned the value of "hard work," only that she is figuring out that without "smart work," it's just work.

Tackling freely chosen challenges is what play is all about. What I suppose Anonymous is referring to is when children, all people really, are saddled with challenges they care nothing about, like a classroom assignment, or when the reason they have to "care" is the fear of some sort of punishment, like a bad grade. That's when it's not fun, that's when it's merely hard work undertaken for a "paycheck."

The "work ethic" is not about following orders; it is about following passions. What about the heavily tattooed skateboarder I watched the other day, repeatedly attempting to teach himself a trick, running full speed, dropping his board under his feet, then attempting to ride up the railing of a footbridge? I must have watched him attempt it 30 or 40 times before my dogs (who I was walking) insisted we move on. Each time he either fell or otherwise failed to live up to his self-imposed standard (although it all looked incredible to me). Yet each time he picked himself up and trudged back to his starting point again and again. I don't know if he ever satisfied himself, but I doubt he'd have ever worked so hard if the motivation was something as meager as a paycheck or avoiding punishment. In that case he likely would have stopped at "good enough." No, this was the work ethic writ large and no teacher taught it to him: he learned it through play.

I consider my time in the classroom with the children to be play. I could, I'm sure, earn more money doing other things, and I suppose there is in there somewhere the idea that I could, in fact, be punished by being fired by the parents for whom I work, but they hardly boss me around. Yet I feel I work quite hard, every day even without those external "motivations." I assure you that without the hard work, without the challenge, if this were to somehow become turnkey or rote, I would be miserable, even if my "superiors" offered me higher pay, even if they threatened to punish me. Sure, there are aspects of my daily routine that I approach with a kind of irritation, but like the girl building the block foundation over and over, I do it because I really, really want to see if I can make that damn cantilever work.

Play is always "fun," in the sense that it's freely chosen and freely engaged, but play is not the opposite of hard work. It teaches hard work and it does it so much better than neediness, rewards, and punishments, those external slave masters that ultimately suck the joy out of any endeavor. Play teaches hard work as an intrinsic trait, which is, after all the essence of any ethic, including the work ethic.

There is one line from that blog post commenter's criticism that I recall verbatim. It was his concluding remark: "If all I'd had to do at school was play, I would have loved school." 

That, my friends, is exactly the point: it's only when we play that we love to learn. 

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Tuesday, April 22, 2014

A Discontented Man

I saw a beggar leaning on his wooden crutch,
He said to me, "You must not ask for so much."
And a pretty woman leaning in her darkened door,
She cried to me, "Hey, why not ask for more?
~Leonard Cohen (Bird On A Wire)

I know that I am a privileged person: a middle class white male in America. Most people in the world have a lower standard of living than me, often very much lower. Although it may still hurt like hell, I know the pains of my trials, tribulations, tragedies and losses pale in comparison to that suffered by my fellow humans. My loved ones are near and healthy, I live in a nice home with plenty to eat and a job that makes me happy. I've really nothing to complain about, and yet I do.

I have all of this, far more than I need really, yet I want more. I suppose I could just relax and write it up to the "human condition," but I know, or at least reckon, it's possible to be content. At least that's what I've been told by artists, gurus, and religion. What they say sounds good and makes sense, even though achieving it usually means giving up on wanting. That's the hard part.

I don't ask for much. I mean, just a little more money would be nice, right? A little more sex? Yes please. A little more free time? That's all I really want for myself . . . And then, once I have it, I'll finally be in a position to be content.

Ha, ha, ha, indeed.

Man, I'd love to move through life in perfect contentment and I really think I could give up on the selfish stuff. I could live more simply. I could definitely do that, and my family has moved in that direction over the past three years, giving up the big house and long commutes for a small apartment in the city and transportation by foot, bike, and bus. I think I could ultimately even go so far as to give it all away and live a life of blissful poverty, but even then, when I do the mental experiment, I'm certain I would still have things for which to ask.

I know people who are working to move their lives in the direction of bliss, but one thing they all have in common is that they've pretty much gone on a media fast, especially avoiding anything that has to do with politics, taking comfort it seems from a kind of selfish cynicism. As anyone who has read here for long knows, I'm not about to do that. There is too much idealism in me. I love democracy, the idea of democracy at least, with all its inherent imperfections. I want to pass a better democracy on to my child and the children I teach. And if that's going to have any chance of happening it's my responsibility to engage as sincerely as I can. How else do we ever expect self-governance to work?

For instance, I very much want to stop the Obama administration's corporate-sponsored Common Core curriculum because it's anti-child, created by amateurs, and completely unproven. (They insist it's not a "curriculum," but it is, complete with detailed, step-by-step instructions invented by non-professional educators on how to teach.) I think it's a huge mistake to turn our children over to corporately run schools or to plague children with batteries of high stakes standardized tests. I know that it's wrong to pit child against child, teacher against teacher, school against school, and state against state in a race to the bottom. How could I ever be content as long as there is that?

I want to instead see our public schools adopt a child-centric approach, one that takes into account the actual research that's been conducted over the past century, stemming from pioneers like Jean Piaget, Lev Vygotsky, and John Dewey. I want instead to see our schools employ the methods tested and proven through such approaches as democratic free schools, Reggio Emilia, Montessori, Waldorf, outdoor schools, and a host of other progressive models of education. I want this and even though my desire robs me of contentment, I don't want to not want this because it's the best thing for human beings.

Am I asking for too much? Could I ask for more? The answer is probably "yes" on both counts, but if we could only achieve this, I'd finally be in a position to be content . . . Ha, ha, ha.

I can think of a dozen other things about which I feel the same. And cynicism doesn't comfort me.

I think I'm doomed to be a discontented man and, frankly, I'm choosing to be content with that.

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