The argument for Arts in education

98 per cent of children are positioned in the genius category of divergent (creative) thinkers as 3-5 year olds, but only 10 per cent remain in this category as 13-15 year olds, and only 2 per cent of 200,000 surveyed adults fit this category. – Robinson, 2001


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Rethinking the G.P.A. and what it means to be successful

Success is about being passionately good at one or two things, but students who want to get close to that 4.0 have to be prudentially balanced about every subject. In life we want independent thinking and risk-taking, but the G.P.A. system encourages students to be deferential and risk averse, giving their teachers what they want.

Creative people are good at asking new questions, but the G.P.A. rewards those who can answer other people’s questions. The modern economy rewards those who can think in ways computers can’t, but the G.P.A. rewards people who can grind away at mental tasks they find boring. People are happiest when motivated intrinsically, but the G.P.A. is the mother of all extrinsic motivations.

An article on the pitfalls of the G.P.A. system. Love that people are starting to rethink what being a “good” or “successful” student really means. I’ve seen so many kids that are “so smart” in a grades-focused academic setting graduate high school with no clue what they want to do next. Or, worse, those who graduate university, having completed the degree that their parents told them to do, and they are completely without passion or purpose for the rest of their lives.


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This is how New York schools are trying to help students learn English

Among the most significant changes is that schools must now have an English language teacher — like the woman drawing pictures at P.S. 160 — in the classroom for part of each week if even one student is learning English. In the past, students could receive English language instruction outside of the classroom, while spending the rest of their time in a regular class trying to puzzle out the words on their own.

Another shift requires schools and districts to create programs in which classes are taught in two languages. These bilingual programs will now be offered to students who are new to the public system, as long as there are enough children in one place who speak the same tongue.

An interesting article about how public schools in New York are trying to cope with the high numbers of students who are new to English. At least they’re doing something about it instead of turning a blind eye and hoping that the problem will sort itself out. Is this something Australia might have to consider for some school districts one day?


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What if students controlled their own learning?

Peter Hutton of Templestowe College in Melbourne talks about an educational model that allows students to individualise their education and share control in the running of the school.

I’m excited that people are talking about what does and doesn’t work in conventional schooling. We might be a long way from completely overhauling our approach and perceptions towards education, but at least the conversation has begun.

I’ve read comments about how this educational model might not work as well for unmotivated students who are still trying to figure out what they’re interested in, or who perhaps might need a little more structure and guidance.

I can see how that might be the case, but I also wonder if students might have a better idea of what they’re passionate about if they were given more flexibility to explore in primary school. How would it look to incorporate some of these principles in a primary school setting?


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“If I should have a daughter…” by Sarah Kay

It was what she said about raising daughters that grabbed me at first. And then she started to talk about spoken word poetry, which up till I watched this video was new to me, and even as a writer who never attempted poetry (and has no desire to), I couldn’t help but think: this is so cool. And then, I wonder if we could teach this in schools?


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‘Stop Stealing Dreams’: A TEDxYouth@BFS talk by Seth Godin

An oldie from 2012 that is so worth listening to. I love that people are starting to have conversations about school and education, or maybe they have been all along but I never realised it?


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Get ready for Generation Z

(While)

It’s also Generation Z, demarked by the end of the alphabet as we know it, that’s calling for the end of generational segmentation. It doesn’t ring true any more, [Adora] Svitak says: “It ignores a lot of the things that shape personalities and collective thinking.” It also ignores the fact characteristics are fluid throughout life. “Understanding shared Baby Boomer traits is easy because most of their lives has passed,” she says. “But anyone making generalizations about me will have to realize I will change many, many times.”

(But)

Research, though still in beta, points to the emergence of a stellar generation: educated, industrious, collaborative and eager to build a better planet—the very qualities exemplified by [Ann] Makosinski. In fact, in a manner typical of the need to neatly compartmentalize generations, Gen Z is already being branded as a welcome foil to the Millennials, born between 1980 and the mid- or late 1990s, who have been typecast as tolerant but also overconfident, narcissistic and entitled. Those characteristics weren’t an option for the first post-9/11 generation, one raised amid institutional and economic instability, informed by the looming shadow of depleting resources and global warming, and globally connected via social media.

And that gives me hope.

Read ‘Get Ready for Generation Z’.


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The problem with elite education today: 8 important points

Spent a good chunk of the morning reading one of the best articles I’ve come across in months. ‘Don’t Send Your Kid to the Ivy League’ by William Deresiewicz brings up some really important points about the system of elite education today, and his thoughts apply to kids everywhere, not just in the States. As an academically inclined Asian who grew up in an upper middle class family and who once harboured dreams of attending an Ivy League university (for no other reason than it sounded cool and exciting), this is familiar territory. Here are 8 important points from Deresiewicz’s article:

1. Our system of elite education manufactures young people who are smart and talented and driven, yes, but also anxious, timid, and lost, with little intellectual curiosity and a stunted sense of purpose: trapped in a bubble of privilege, heading meekly in the same direction, great at what they’re doing but with no idea why they’re doing it.

2. So extreme are the admission standards now that kids who manage to get into elite colleges have, by definition, never experienced anything but success. The prospect of not being successful terrifies them, disorients them. The cost of falling short, even temporarily, becomes not merely practical, but existential. The result is a violent aversion to risk. You have no margin for error, so you avoid the possibility that you will ever make an error. Once, a student at Pomona told me that she’d love to have a chance to think about the things she’s studying, only she doesn’t have the time. I asked her if she had ever considered not trying to get an A in every class. She looked at me as if I had made an indecent suggestion.

3. There’s something in particular you need to think about: building a self. The notion may sound strange. “We’ve taught them,” David Foster Wallace once said, “that a self is something you just have.” But it is only through the act of establishing communication between the mind and the heart, the mind and experience, that you become an individual, a unique beinga soul. The job of college is to assist you to begin to do that. Books, ideas, works of art and thought, the pressure of the minds around you that are looking for their own answers in their own ways.

4. Experience itself has been reduced to instrumental function, via the college essay. From learning to commodify your experiences for the application, the next step has been to seek out experiences in order to have them to commodify.

5. Perhaps it’s no surprise, when kids are trained to think of service as something they are ultimately doing for themselvesthat is, for their résumés. “Do well by doing good,” goes the slogan. How about just doing good?

6. The irony is that elite students are told that they can be whatever they want, but most of them end up choosing to be one of a few very similar things … Whole fields have disappeared from view: the clergy, the military, electoral politics, even academia itself, for the most part, including basic science. It’s considered glamorous to drop out of a selective college if you want to become the next Mark Zuckerberg, but ludicrous to stay in to become a social worker.

7. Is there anything that I can do, a lot of young people have written to ask me, to avoid becoming an out-of-touch, entitled little shit? I don’t have a satisfying answer, short of telling them to transfer to a public university. You cannot cogitate your way to sympathy with people of different backgrounds, still less to knowledge of them. You need to interact with them directly, and it has to be on an equal footing: not in the context of “service,” and not in the spirit of “making an effort,” either…

8. Instead of service, how about service work? That’ll really give you insight into other people. How about waiting tables so that you can see how hard it is, physically and mentally? You really aren’t as smart as everyone has been telling you; you’re only smarter in a certain way. There are smart people who do not go to a prestigious college, or to any collegeoften precisely for reasons of class. There are smart people who are not “smart”.


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