I spent the other morning in my son’s Montessori classroom. It’s a beautiful, old-school room with high ceilings, large windows and plenty of space, which is good because it’s filled each day with twenty-eight 3-, 4-, and 5-year-olds. No small task.
I’ve been in Montessori classrooms before, yet I was still surprised when the day was never officially called to order. Instead the children took off their shoes, found some work (or not), and began their day in twenty-eight different ways while their two teachers, Ms. Luz and Ms. Allison, surfed in between them to check in and gauge where each child was at on that particular morning – hungry, happy, angry, sleepy.
According to Martha Graham (and courtesy of my friend Renee Rollieri, whose inspiration from this quote led in part to the founding of the Blue School in New York City):
The greatest thing she ever said to me was in 1943 after the opening of Oklahoma!, when I suddenly had unexpected, flamboyant success for a work I thought was only fairly good, after years of neglect for work I thought was fine. I was bewildered and worried that my entire scale of values was untrustworthy. I talked to Martha. I remember the conversation well. It was in a Schrafft’s restaurant over a soda. I confessed that I had a burning desire to be excellent, but no faith that I could be. Martha said to me, very quietly: “There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all of time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and it will be lost. The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine how good it is nor how valuable nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open. You do not even have to believe in yourself or your work. You have to keep yourself open and aware to the urges that motivate you. Keep the channel open. … No artist is pleased. [There is] no satisfaction whatever at any time. There is only a queer divine dissatisfaction, a blessed unrest that keeps us marching and makes us more alive than the others.“
I read an interesting Op-Ed about education in today’s Washington Post, in which the author wrote the following: “The proper role of government is to ensure the provision of essential services, not always to provide those services itself.”
Leaving aside the author’s particular perspective on K-12 education reform, I’m curious: How many people out there agree or disagree with this general statement as it pertains to education reform? Is the “provision of essential services” a proper understanding of the proper purview of government — one in which a widening circle of choice could in theory not just be the privatization of public education, but moreso a reframing of how government can help support the highest number of high-quality public educational options? Or is the proper purview of government always to provide those services itself — especially when the services in question pertain to the education of our nation’s young people?
There was a good conversation last night on the new prime time MSNBC Chris Hayes show about the Atlanta Cheating scandal. Still waiting to see if the investigation in DC ever gets as extensive as this — and, if it does, to what extent it exposes similar willful ignorance:
I can’t reconcile the deep sense of community that filmmakers Amy and Tom Valens have captured in their 10-part video series about a year in the life of a public school in Boston, with the painful public clashes we’re witnessing in Chicago – where 54 of the city’s schools will soon be shuttered.
Indeed, although the nation’s attention is fixed on the historic fight for marriage equality in the U.S. Supreme Court, a part of us is dying in the Windy City – and no one in the mainstream media seems to care.
As educators, what are we to make of the ongoing tragedy in Steubenville, Ohio – a community in which one teenage girl was raped and publicly humiliated, two teenage boys are being shipped off to juvenile detention, and two other teenage girls are now under arrest after threatening to beat and kill the victim?
There are two recent cultural inflection points you’d be wise to check out if you care about the future of education: the first is Sugata Mitra’s acceptance speech for receiving the TED Prize, in which he outlines his plan to “build a school in the cloud;” and the second is ed/tech writer Audrey Watters’ article warning of the potential consequences that could follow an uncritical acceptance of Mitra’s vision.