You have to listen to it or read it at least: a Valedictorian Speaks Out Against Schooling.
And thanks
to David Truss, who I follow on twitter (http://twitter.com/datruss) for writing about it on his web site. You can read the whole speech there: http://pairadimes.davidtruss.com/unstandardized/

I came to tears twice listening to this speech. Being a mother of 3 kids, and especially struggling to help my youngest, the 8 year old, get something positive of this system - it is understandable (no?).
First time here:
“While others sat in class and doodled to later become great artists, I
sat in class to take notes and become a great test-taker. …And quite
frankly, now I’m scared.”
Second, here:
“We are anything we want to be – but only if we have an educational system that supports us rather than holds us down.”

Tags: education, public, reform, system, valedictorian

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Or-Tal,

I have a confession to make. Twice I started a response to your comment on my blog post about this, regarding your son, (as you also shared above). Twice I deleted it rather than posting it. I wanted to say that I hope one day very soon no parent would ever have to say, "I am fighting to salvage my 8 year old boy of this system, aimed at suppressing anything that’s unique about him."

I also wanted to say that the system, as messed up as it may be, is filled with caring, thoughtful educators that got into this business with dreams that they would, and could, create a positive learning environment for ALL students... and that a collective 'WE', will change the system. And while I do have faith that we are working towards that, I also do not know the hardships you and your son have personally met nor do I know what stands in the way?

I truly believe we are heading towards a meaningful education for all, but telling you that felt condescending or maybe patronizing is the better word. Then I just saw your tweet: "@datruss I also added a discussion on @FiresideNing http://bit.ly/aBuwFT #edchat cause it's worth talking about :) #edchat", and I realize that yes, it is worth talking about and so I thought I'd come here by the fireside to chat;)

What I'd like to say is that it drives me crazy that parents and educators end up in adversarial roles when both sides are (or at least should be) on the same side... the side of the child. I just don't get it? Watch Heidi Hass Gable's video, "What I want for my children". Are we not all hoping for the same things?

Something else that drives me crazy is our messed up budgets that give schools money by the number of students they have. So small elementary schools struggle, while they are filled with the greatest of potential to have profound and life-altering impact on struggling students... an ounce of prevention as the saying goes!

And finally, on a positive note, I still believe that no matter your situation, there must be someone at your son's school, or in his school district that you can find as an advocate... Seek out those that understand that you are all on the same team. I believe that even in the worst system, you can find good people, good educators that care for and want the best for your child.

I wish you both luck and perseverance!
~Dave.
Hi Dave,
Glad you came by the fireside ;-)
I live in Israel, in a city called Ramat-Gan. One of the major items on the mayor's motto is education. I have met with the captains of education in the city and I know they are all doing their best to drive education here into the 21st century (I even wrote about it here).
Yet the reality is as follows:
->There are between 30 to 40 students per class, on a single teacher.
->The curriculum is dictated by the ministry of education.
->It is dictated with a list of text books and work books that the students are required to go through.
->A day at school is made of 5-7 classes, each 45 minutes long, in which students sit on a chair, next to a desk, listen to the teacher and fill in the blank spaces in the practice books.
->In a 5 classes day the students get 2 recess times: first one is 20 minutes, second is 10 minutes. That's their only play time.
->The Israeli Ministry of Education has made adjustments to the curriculum in the last years - and not for the better: topics that were deemed unnecessary and a matter of choice for the school headmasters include Music and Art.

These are the cards they are dealt. How each individual headmaster or teacher is playing with those cards is a different question. But the problem is there's little room to play: they are all still tested in standardized tests at the end of the year and have to prove that they have gone through the dictated material. What room is there to recognize the individual students and his needs?

Not to show off, but I have 3 kids who are unique. All 3 are gifted kids with burning desire for knowledge. Each is more interested in another area and works in a different method.
My daughter (16) is going after science and has learned how to use the system to advance.
My second son (12) is an artist - the system is giving him a difficult time, but I see how he came to terms with it and is evolving in two parallel channels - his own, and the school's.
My youngest son is only 8 but he is rebellious. The system doesn't work for him at all. He has studied on his own far more than he had studied at school. School depresses him and oppresses him. He feels it's a waste of time and is craving play time. He is looking for logic in every school assignment - and hasn't found it yet. His teacher in grades 1-2 was very kind and loving, but had no idea what to do with a child like that. I am doubtful that any other teachers would know what to do with him. I am trying to move him to a Waldorf Education school after I visited and learned of one in our city - I believe this will be the ultimate solution for him - but getting in is a long a tedious process.
In the meantime, it's my job, as the parent, to help my kids and communicate with their teachers to try and make the best out of the class they are currently in.

I think in an ideal world each student will have a choice of schools to choose from, in accordance with their individual needs and interests. In an ideal world schools would start from discovering what the student is bringing into school and then complete his or her natural gifts and interest with needed knowledge. At the moment it's the other way around: schools come with a list of demands - and the students have to adjust and accommodate to the system's requirements. Leaving very little if any room for individuality.
It was 17 years ago now, but I believe I have been to Ramat-Gan! If memory serves me correctly you have a large stadium there and I either went to opening or closing ceremonies (or both) for the 1993 Maccabiah Games in that stadium, (I was on the Canadian Water Polo Team). I have only one blog post where I share a few of my experiences in Israel, but it is one of my favourite posts: Two Wolves.

The educational system you are stuck with seems very challenging for gifted children. Given the circumstance it seems that an alternate system such as Waldorf would be your best option. In sharing Heidi's video, I watched it again. I had forgotten that she quoted me in it, (she later teased me that she only quoted two people, me and Gandhi... could I have any greater honour bestowed upon me;-). Anyway, the quote was "It's about creating an environment where every child can thrive." And that really is what we all want... our children, our students to thrive. Well, Or-Tal, your children may not have had the ideal schooling to thrive, but from what you have described, I can tell that they have a mother that more than compensates for the lack of what their schooling provides!
Loving this discussion... I wrote to Heidi, asking her to join Fireside and post her video here. We could use that as a centerpiece for talking about the parent-teacher relationship, something that deserves our attention and reflection.
Or-tal, thank you for this great discussion forum!
I share your concern. The Waiting for Superman movie that will begin showing in the US in late September focuses on the public education system. I think they would do well to add links to Fireside and some of the blogs on my blog list, in addition to what they already have on their site.
Thanks Dave and Daniel for your comments.
Dave, I have indeed taken upon myself to fill in the gaps for my kids education environment. But this gap is becoming too big even for me ;-)
I am a working mom, I am an entrepreneur working on a startup venture. This is a very demanding job, and while I support and enjoy my kids quest to learn, I can not replace a proper education system.

We are 5 days away from the beginning of a new school year, and I have an 8 year old kid, going to 3rd grade, who already announced "I am very sad that I have to go back to school", and added in a totally serious face, "I think it's a waste of time and I simply don't like it".
hi All...... hope this finds everyone well......

This is an interesting read.... always enjoy Rifkin.....

Jeremy Rifkin: The third industrial revolution some highlights......



My sense is that the failure runs very deep. The problem is that those leaders are using 18th century Enlightenment ideas to address 20th century challenges. I advise a number of heads of state in Europe and over and over again I see how these old ideas about human nature and the meaning of life continue to cloak public policy. The Enlightenment view is that human beings are rational, detached agents that pursue our own self-interests and our nation states reflect that view. How are we going to address the needs of 7 billion people and heal the biosphere if we really are dispassionate, disinterested agents pursuing our own self-interest?

My belief is that when energy and communications revolutions converge it creates new economic eras and changes consciousness dramatically by shifting our temporal and spatial boundaries, causing empathy to expand.

For instance, wherever there were hydraulic agricultural societies based on large-scale irrigation systems, humans independently created writing. That's fascinating to me. Writing made it possible to manage a complex energy regime. It also changed consciousness--transforming the mythological consciousness of oral cultures into a theological one. In the process, empathy evolves. The range of oral communication is limited--you can't extend empathy beyond kin and blood ties. With script you could empathize further with associational ties, you broaden your frame of reference.

In the 19th century the printing press communications revolution converged with new energies: coal and steam. This led to the introduction of public schools and mass literacy across Europe and America. Theological consciousness became ideological consciousness. The same shift occurred in the 20th century with the Second Industrial Revolution, the electronics revolution, which gave rise to psychological consciousness.

Each convergence of energy and communications technology changed our consciousness, extended our social networks and in turn expanded our empathy.


Absolutely. Education is a total mess. Our educational model is based on Enlightenment ideas and progressive ideas of the 20th century--if human nature is autonomous, calculating and self-interested and if the market is the way we fulfill those interests, our education reflects that. We are taught that knowledge is a personal asset to achieve one's aims in the world--knowledge is power. If you share your knowledge, that's cheating.

It limits us to a more vocational idea of what life is about. We all become little drones. And as we go through education it grows narrower and narrower. But what's happening with the internet is that young folks are growing up believing that information is something you share, not hoard. That thinking is a collaborative exercise, not an autonomous one, and that spaces ought to be commons. That's completely alien to the Enlightenment ideas I grew up on.

I'm a big fan of interdisciplinary and collaborative teaching. If you're studying evolutionary biology, let a philosopher come in and talk about the way our concept of nature has changed over history. Allow young people to have so many frames of reference so they can be more open and more synthetic in their thinking. If we are a social animal and we live by our stories, then our stories are only made richer with more points of view.

Sharing knowledge is considered cheating, yet collaboration has been shown to improve critical thinking if it's done in a disciplined way. There was a doctor at UCL medical college in the 1950s who realized that if he brought all of his interns to a patient's bedside at the same time, the collaborative response got to a diagnosis quicker than if only one intern was there.

Education has to be completely reformed to reflect the new era of distributed knowledge. I'm currently in deep private discussions with some major educational associations in the US who want to put together a team of people to begin rethinking this.


Seems to me... we find ourselves living between 2 very different era's.... one that is old and one that is yet to be born fully. Our children will have a foot in both.

What i do with my kids.... watch them and learn from them.... get them thru schooling with as little damage as possible and not take it too seriously....

be well.... mike
Hi Mike,
thanks for this great read.
If "Firesidelearning" was a school I'd move mountains to get my kids in it ;-)
In some ways Firesidelearning is a school. Here's a set of links on my web site to resources teachers, parents, mentors and youth can use to expand their learning during non-school, or school, hours.

One discussion we all might collaborate on would be focused on finding ways to motivate kids to spend time on these homework help and learning sites, vs on games, i-tunes and Facebook. It's not the fault of teachers that kids don't use these resources more, although I believe educators could do a lot from pre school through 6th grade to encourage habits that would lead to greater use by more kids.
Daniel, this is basically my startup (my second startup). I think I found a way to make kids actually want to do this.
The problem is - I'll need quite a lot of money to establish this service - so I am building my first venture now... Goal is the same. Make learning fun, enjoyable, a goal in its own...
Now, there's an interesting comment, Or-Tal. A couple of follow-up questions then
1. Why would you move mountains to get your kids in it? (Other than our brilliance, wisdom and modest diversity (; )
2. Why not do just that anyway? (I know Shai has a presence here already) and see whether the community can add a 'schooling' dimension to its other existences. The neat thing about that is that there is already a structured platform here and if it grows the way you'd like, you've eliminated the need to build from scratch, to recruit and enrol all your participants from elsewhere.
But I don't want to divert your energy from your startup, or to divide your attention from your vision.
My dream is to build a school that's both here and everywhere, "grounded and connected.". I have a dream about that. And a design. Now my question is whether I should go ahead with it and have a wild ride in the last decade (or so) of my career, or keep going much as I am now, maybe writing a book (as our esteemed colleague Laura, has just done (again).
Thank you for the kind words about our network, Or-tal. I love it, too.

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