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Obama: Are children natural learners? Or, must they be forced to pay attention?

KW: Jerry Mintz is the Director of the Alternative Education Resource Organization (AERO), based in Roslyn Heights, Long Island, New York. AERO has many functions, including being a national gathering place for information about co-operative schooling, alternative schools, democratic schools and homeschooling.

Jerry wrote a Letter to the Editor about Obama’s school speech and sent it to Newsday. It was published today, though with a lot of the meat taken out of it. Still, Newsday did put the phrase “natural learner” in it, which is a mind-expanding idea. Newsday link is: here.

Full text of letter by Jerry Mintz (as distributed by AERO):

To the Editor:

The message from President Obama as published in today’s Newsday is both ironic and self contradictory. He starts out by saying that every student has something they are good at and that they have a responsibility to pursue that. This sounds like he understands the learner-centered approach that innovative educators have found to work in a very powerful way. It implies that he understands that children are natural learners.

But then he immediately segues into the opposite paradigm, one that assumes that children are naturally lazy and need to be forced to learn. He refers to homework and doing what the teacher says to do and what HE expects.

He can’t have it both ways. But I already discovered the problem earlier this year at the Education Writers Association Conference when I asked newly appointed Education Secretary, Arnie Duncan, if the Obama administration would get rid of No Child Left Behind. I told him that alternative educators feel that it completely interferes with a learner-centered approach. After hemming and hawing he finally said, in an almost stream of consciousness, “Well, the name “No Child Left Behind” has become pretty toxic. We’ll probably change the name!”

It was a devastating admission but was not covered, that I know of, by any of the hundreds of reporters in the room. One reporter from the Boston Globe did congratulate me on getting him to admit his planned subterfuge.

And they DID, in fact, change the name but keep NCLB. What is it about the “Race to the Top” initiative that encourages students to follow their own dreams and develop their special talents? Nothing! It is not encouraging of an individualized, personalized approach. It encourages standardization and “teach to the test.”

If President Obama and his administration really believe that students should pursue and develop what they are good at, they would end NCLB and RTTT and find ways to give students and their schools and teachers the resources they need to truly follow their interests, their talents and their dreams.

Related story at onthewilderside: Kimberly’s Random Thoughts On Obama’s School Speech

One Response

  1. Just like the Armageddon that would befall us in the year 2000, the speech that was suppose to indoctrinate our youth. Now who was spreading the baseless lies…..hmm…..oh ya, “Fake News”. Is anyone real surprised? Too funny.

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