Show 449: Education in Crises?

Education in Crises?

With nationwide battles between the State and the Teacher’s Union on how we teach our children, the only voices heard seem to be conservative and centrist. There doesn’t seem to be anyone representing the children, themselves. But progressive voices do exist, and we will speak with two of them concerning the current crises in American education.

Kate Burch is Principal of  Harvest Collegiate High School which was her master’s thesis at Teacher’s College Columbia University. She graduated from Harvard with high honors in history and literature. She taught at an alternative school, Humanities Prep, for many years. In 2007 she spent a year in Ghana on a Fulbright from Yale and developed lessons about Africa to bring back to the classroom.

Alfie Kohn is an American author and lecturer who has explored a number of topics in education, parenting, and human behavior. He is considered a leading figure in progressive education and has also offered critiques of many traditional aspects of parenting, managing, and American society more generally, drawing in each case from social science research. Kohn’s challenges to widely accepted theories and practices have made him a controversial figure, particularly with conservatives and those who defend the specific practices he calls into question, such as the use of competition, incentive programs, conventional discipline, standardized testing, grades, homework, and traditional schooling.

Show 317: The Texas Textbook Controversy II

One-Hour Special: The Texas Textbook Controversy II

Matthew LaClair spoke with controversial figure Don McLeroy, a Christian literalist and Creationist member of the Texas Board of Education, and with another Republican member of the board, Bob Craig.  They discussed the Texas Board of Education’s curriculum changes that are likely to pass this May which, as the New York Times explains, “Stress(es) the superiority of American capitalism, question(s) the Founding Fathers’ commitment to a purely secular government, and present(s) Republican political philosophies in a more positive light.”

SPECIAL NOTES:

As promised, here are the links to the proposed high school curriculum, the proposed middle school curriculum, and the proposed elementary school curriculum.

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Special Repeat: An Interview with Alfie Kohn

Special Re-airing of an Interview with Alfie Kohn

Beyond the majority of narrow faith-based and traditional thinking about want motivates humans to learn about, and contribute to the world around them, what we find is that much of the way we presently educate and raise our children is based on beliefs that are simply false.

The traditional beliefs upon which we’ve built our entire system of education assume that unless children are threatened and/or bribed into learning they would never become able to contribute what society needs from them. The evidence however challenges this cynical view and suggests that human beings are natural learners born with an intrinsic drive to know their world around them and to contribute to it.

Despite this, in schools and homes everywhere, teachers and parents utilize ever intensifying extrinsic means of motivation – punishments and rewards – such as high stakes testing and cash incentives. The consequence of using such tactics is that we are disconnecting children from their natural inclination to be curious about their world – and greatly diminishing their chances of ever experiencing one of the most important benchmarks of living a fulfilling life – the life long joy of loving to learn.

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Show 241: Susan Jacoby, author of The Age of American Unreason

With reading on the decline, scientific and historical illiteracy on the rise, and a mass media dedicated to the dumbing-down of our minds, it is crucial now more than ever to understand just how we got to this point and what we can do about it. This Sunday, Susan Jacoby will discuss her new book “The Age of American Unreason” to enlighten us on the aforementioned trends. Jacoby dissects a new cultural phenomenon at odds with our Enlightenment traditions that has at its core a disdain for logic and evidence, a triumphalist religious fundamentalism, a mediocre public education system (at best), and the triumph of infotainment. Jacoby’s analysis describes and points out this anti-intellectualism and anti-rationalism for what it is and what it has cost us as a society.

The Age of American Unreason is Susan Jacoby’s eighth book. Jacoby’s “Freethinkers: A History of American Secularism” (2004), was hailed in The New York Times as an “ardent and insightful work” that “seeks to rescue a proud tradition from the indifference of posterity.” Among her other books are “Wild Justice: The Evolution of Revenge,” a Pulitzer Prize finalist in 1984, and “Half-Jew: A Daughter’s Search for Her Family’s Buried Past.”

Show 210: Stephen Prothero – Religious Literacy

From Publishers Weekly:

(Stephen) Prothero (American Jesus), begins this valuable primer by noting that religious illiteracy is rampant in the United States, where most Americans, even Christians, cannot name even one of the four Gospels. Such ignorance is perilous because religion “is the most volatile constituent of culture” and, unfortunately, often “one of the greatest forces for evil” in the world, he writes.

Prothero does more than diagnose the problem; he traces its surprising historic roots (“in one of the great ironies of…history, it was the nation’s most fervent people of faith who steered Americans down the road to religious illiteracy”) and prescribes concrete solutions that address religious education while preserving First Amendment boundaries about religion in the public square. Prothero also offers a dictionary of religious literacy and a quiz for readers to test their knowledge.
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Show 197: Alfie Kohn

This interview was originally aired in part on February 2, 2007.

From Wikipedia: “Alfie Kohn is an American lecturer and author in the fields of education, psychology and parenting, residing in Belmont, Massachusetts. He is an outspoken critic of American work place management, public education and parenting techniques. Kohn having been an educator himself has written many books on education. Probably the most comprehensive being The Schools our Children Deserve. However he has reserved the most attention from his stance on the trend toward pervasive standardized testing and excessive homework. He has written several books attacking “common sense” notions about competition, rewards, and parenting.

“On the home front, Kohn has challenged parents in Beyond Discipline: from Compliance to Community and Unconditional Parenting: Moving from Rewards and Punishments to Love and Reason to give up the “because I’m the Mom” mode of parenting and switch to a cooperative, loving, guiding form of parenting which places children on more equal footing with parents.”

His latest book is called The Homework Myth.

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Show 192: Fund Drive Show: “Our Children; Our Future”

Fund Drive Show: “Our Children; Our Future”

As the Culture Wars persist in America, what affect are they having on our children? How are parents steering their children in or around the battles between Right and Left and between Fundamentalist Religion and Secularization? And how are our notions of human nature and childrearing itself framing what and how our children learn – in school and in summer camp?

These are the questions we will be asking our very special guests on the next Equal Time for Freethought – our Fund Drive Special – Our Children, Our Future, as we look to understand where we may be going wrong, and how we might move in a more progressive way to secure our children’s futures, and indeed the future of humanity?

Our guests will be Rachel Grady and Heidi Ewing, directors of the Oscar Nominated documentary, Jesus Camp; noted education specialist and author of numerous books on human nature, education and parenting, Alfie Kohn; and High School Senior Matthew LaClair.

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