Schools Should Teach how to Dissent

The role of schools often gets debated in places where safety and wellbeing are in doubt. Some people argue all schools should do is make kids into workers with little concern towards student’s mental and physical health. On the other hand, many argue schools should be places where kids learn about the world around them for the sake of bettering oneself and society. To me it seems that now more than ever we should encourage education to be all about self and societal improvement (particularly since robots are taking all our jobs). Indeed, over at the Conversation they’re running a piece on the importance of teaching students to question the world in order to improve it.

It is only with the opportunity and capacity to dissent that we can determine if our laws and systems guiding us are good or just. Further, in order to invoke our right to dissent, citizens have to know how to dissent, which calls into play the role of schooling.

[Students] should learn the skills of dissent, including consciousness-raising, coalition building, persuasion, public demonstration and pursuit of traditional government avenues for change. This type of instruction is happening in some schools, but not systematically enough across all schools, as courses in civics and social studies have been cut in order to focus on testing and such. Students receive even less of this kind of instruction in poorer schools.

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Why the Parkland Shooting can Change the Gun Conversation in the USA

Out of the tragedy of the Parkland school shooting might come some good. You might be sceptical as Americans are used to schools being attacked by gunmen and we’ve heard before that the most recent shooting will change things. Indeed, school shootings are still so common that the Onion runs the same headline every time. Will the reaction to Parkland actually be different though? It looks like it.

FiveThirtyEight has taken a look into why Americans are complacent with students being shot in schools and the American love of guns. They note that people don’t equate gun violence with guns nor understand how better policy could solve America’s gun problem. The good news is that the reaction to the Parkland shooting is different insofar that the conversation around guns and gun control is more direct. The students from Parkland may represent a new movement for finally stopping gun-based violence in the USA. Indeed, it’s remarkable that two weeks after the shooting Americans are still talking about.

Change in America’s love affair with guns is happening. Companies that favoured the NRA are stopping their support and just today a large American sports store made it slightly harder to get guns. Progress is happening!

The characteristics of the Parkland shooting — and the response to it — mean that this incident could be positioned to overcome some of these psychological barriers. Slovic speculated that focusing on restrictions that target the AR-15 semi-automatic rifle used in the shooting, rather than guns as a category, might make it easier for gun owners to psychologically distinguish the gun used in the shooting from the weapons they personally possess. That could create some common ground that leads to banning or at least limiting the AR-15’s use.

The numbing effect of repeated exposure to violence is also enabled by a quick drop-off in media coverage, but the Parkland students’ vivid stories — combined with images, text messages and videos from the attack — could imbue the event with continued urgency and make viewers empathize with survivors in a new way. “Hearing directly from people who have experienced the trauma is understandably very powerful,” said Sandro Galea, a professor of public health at Boston University who studies trauma and firearms.

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More on the FiveThirtyEight podcast.

Teaching ADHD Kids Outside

Students with ADHD have a hard time focusing in a standard classroom which leads to a difficult learning environment. It doesn’t have to be this way though. In Finland outdoor schools are familiar and effective, and now in the States they are experimenting with outdoor schools. Outside Online took a good look a SOAR to see what the future of outdoor education could be in America while examining the benefits of nature-based schooling for people with attention disorders.

Olmsted, looking back on his life, identified the problem as the stifling classroom, not troublesome boys. “A boy,” he wrote, “who would not in any weather & under all ordinary circumstances, rather take a walk of ten to twelve miles some time in the course of every day than stay quietly about a house all day, must be suffering from disease or a defective education.”

The Academy at SOAR—which became accredited three years ago—is determined to find a better way. The school has just 32 students, 26 of them boys, divided into four mixed-age houses. Each kid has an individualized curriculum, and the student-teacher ratio is five to one. Tuition is a steep $49,500 per year, on par with other boarding schools, although you won’t find a Hogwartsian dining hall or stacks of leather-bound books. The school still covers the required academics, as well as basic life skills like cooking, but finds that the kids pay more attention to a history lesson while standing in the middle of a battlefield or a geology lecture while camping on a monocline.

“We started from scratch,” says SOAR’s executive director John Willson, who began working there as a camp counselor in 1991. “We’re not reinventing the wheel—we threw out the wheel.” The school’s founders didn’t have any particular allegiance to adventure sports; they just found that climbing, backpacking, and canoeing were a magic fit for these kids, at these ages, when their neurons are exploding in a million directions. “When you’re on a rock ledge,” Willson says, “there’s a sweet spot of arousal and stress that opens you up for adaptive learning. You find new ways of solving problems.”

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Children Should be Taught Philosophy

Studying philosophy has greatly influenced my life and I encourage everybody to also study the field and practice. Engaging in philosophy can improve one’s sense of self while improving their ability to discern which arguments have value.

Teaching critical inquiry through philosophy to children can have a very positive impact on them as human beings. We should have every kid engage in philosophy in their schools because kids are want to know about all aspects of what’s around them. That is what philosophy is about at its core.

Since then, training in various jobs has made me into various kinds of professional, but no training has shaped my humanity as deeply as philosophy has. No other discipline has inspired such wonder about the world, or furnished me with thinking tools so universally applicable to the puzzles that confront us as human beings.

By setting children on a path of philosophical enquiry early in life, we could offer them irreplaceable gifts: an awareness of life’s moral, aesthetic and political dimensions; the capacity to articulate thoughts clearly and evaluate them honestly; and the confidence to exercise independent judgement and self-correction. What’s more, an early introduction to philosophical dialogue would foster a greater respect for diversity and a deeper empathy for the experiences of others, as well as a crucial understanding of how to use reason to resolve disagreements.

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A New Zealand School Abandons Rules, Ends Bullying

Having zero tolerance policies in schools is a truly horrible way to treat children. It can blunt curiosity and punish severely for minor infractions, combine such oppressive control with bizarre rules (like no playing schoolyard games) and you’ll bored, agitated and disengaged kids. When children aren’t able to express themselves in more traditional ways (like play), they tend to lash out.

With all of that in mind, a school in Aukland decided to toss out the rules. The results were a decrease in bullying and an increase in attentive learning!

Instead of a playground, children used their imagination to play in a “loose parts pit” which contained junk such as wood, tyres and an old fire hose.

“The kids were motivated, busy and engaged. In my experience, the time children get into trouble is when they are not busy, motivated and engaged. It’s during that time they bully other kids, graffiti or wreck things around the school.”

Parents were happy too because their children were happy, he said.

But this wasn’t a playtime revolution, it was just a return to the days before health and safety policies came to rule.

AUT professor of public health Grant Schofield, who worked on the research project, said there are too many rules in modern playgrounds.

“The great paradox of cotton-woolling children is it’s more dangerous in the long-run.”

Society’s obsession with protecting children ignores the benefits of risk-taking, he said.

Read more at tvnz.

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