What Parents Really Want to Tell Teachers: What You Do Hurts Our Children

12 September 2011 Categories: children's rights, public school

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Human Needs (Image by Factoryjoe)

Many parents are shaking their heads at the audacity and insolence of the CNN article, What Teachers Really Want to Tell Parents by Disney-and-Oprah-endorsed teacher, Ron Clark. His article is dangerous because it represents how the majority of traditional school teachers view children, parents and teachers’ roles as authorities over children’s lives. In my post, What Teachers Really Need to Hear From Parents, I challenge Ron Clark to consider the dehumanization of children and the undermining of the parent-child bond in the institution he represents.

Most parents in industrialized societies are conditioned by their own schooling to be obedient and unquestioning of their children’s schools and the so-called authorities therein. A frightening majority of parents are unaware that most everything that traditional school teachers do is developmentally inappropriate and even harmful for youth of all ages. However, a growing movement of parents are parenting through awareness, consciousness and connection to their children’s needs. Many of these parents are opting out of public and traditional schools are are seeking refuge for their children in child-centered and democratic schools or through homeschooling and unschooling. As a mother of an unschooling teen son, and based on the years of complaints I have heard from parents and their children about traditional schools, I have compiled a list of  concerns and presented them to teachers in the context of their own education:

1. In college and Grad school, Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs was an elementary principle that you learned. Maslow stated that if basic physical and emotional needs are not met, a child cannot properly attend to higher level functions such as learning. Yet, despite your “education”, you hurt our children’s bodies, emotions, minds and spirits every day in the name of routines, rules and “classroom management”. Here’s how:

2. As “trained professionals”, you seem to be ignorant about the basic functioning of the human body. You deny our children their right to eat when hungry, causing their blood sugar to drop and putting them at risk for fatigue, nausea and mood instability. You deny our children their right to use the toilet when needed, causing them intense pain and desperation and putting them at risk for urinary and gastrointestinal dysfunction and damage. You deny them  hydration, causing them to dehydrate and putting them at risk for headaches, mental fog, lethargy and medical problems. You deny our children physical activity at their will, causing them distress and putting them at risk for hyperactivity, challenging behavior, inability to focus and obesity, weakness and medical problems. You also act oblivious as to how preoccupying and awkward sexual development can be in a school setting for our teen boys and girls, putting them at risk for shame, distress and early sexual activity.

3. You are responsible for referring our children to the mental health system to be labeled as “learning disabled”, “mentally ill” and “special needs”. Our children are prescribed  powerful chemicals that alter their natural neurological functioning and do harm to every system of their bodies. You do this rather than deal with the fact that children need touch, movement and play and are not meant to be away from their families all day or learn in the conditions you force upon them. (In 19 states, you actually legally assault our children! It is unconscionable that you have failed to learn from your Master’s-level training that violence physically and psychologically traumatizes children.)

4. Through your studies in college and Grad school you should be aware that  play is the very means by which all mammal children learn. You are aware that children learned for millennia through play and community interaction and that many of our world’s greatest minds were minimally or not schooled. You also observe every day how children long and beg to play and will, at all ages, risk getting into trouble to steal a moment of play. Yet, you refuse to allow our children to do as nature drives them to do- Play, move, jump, run, climb, explore, create and have fun. You seem to take the joy out of everything you give children to do and then you punish them when they act like children.

5. You know that one of the most dreadful times of the day for parents and children is homework time. You know that our children have been cooped up all day, away from their families, homes, friends, the outdoors, our communities and their interests. Yet despite the research that indicates that homework is not beneficial for children, you make our evenings at home a nightmare by forcing our children to do reading, paperwork and projects for you. You seem callous to the tears, tantrums and distress our children suffer every night and the helplessness we feel to be able to give them the time they need to be kids.

6. You are aware from your training that there are at least seven forms of human intelligence and at least three modalities of learning. You are aware that most children, especially our boys, are kinesthetic, hands-on learners. Yet you insist upon keeping children sedentary, all doing the same work, in the same auditory, linguistic or mathematical manner. You are aware that this sets up many children, especially our boys, for failure. You view most of our boys and our children who are artistic, musical, kinesthetic, creative, athletic, introspective, extroverted, quirky or perseverant as underachievers, lazy, learning disabled, mentally ill, behavioral problems or having “ADHD”. You view their passions as “hobbies” that do not count as “academics” and you rule out seeing that their “hobbies” are often more intricately academic than anything you are “teaching”.

7. You take our children away from us. They will be children for less than two decades out of a long adulthood, but you steal those critical years from us. Our children are touch and love starved all day in school. Your academic training taught you the vital importance of parent-child attachment and how a disruption can cause psychological problems. But you disrupt the parent-child bond by infringing upon our family time, causing emotional disconnection to deepen with each year. You subordinate children, causing them to form and focus on toxic peer networks. You can do little to protect our peer-tormented children because you have set yourselves apart from children, like another species. By the time our children are in their mid-teens, they are so depressed, angry and overwhelmed with busywork, pop-culture escapes and peer expectations that society has to write books to try to convince us that “pulling away” is natural in the teen years when in fact, it is not.

8. You talk to us as if you know our children, their needs and what is best for them better than we do. We assure you, you do not! Despite learning about Maslow, Bowlby, Ainsworth, Montagu, Harlow, Gardner and others in college and Grad school and despite your own common sense observations about children, you seem to do everything opposite of what our children need. Then, you gravely misjudge and punish their distress signals and define their humanity by their behavior.  You treat our children without respect, empathy, compassion or love unless they behave according to your rules and expectations. You seem oblivious to their pain, vulnerability and distress.

9. You cause so many of our most creative, spirited children to hate learning and to lose their passion, creativity, interests, motivation and their charismatic or poetic personalities. Everything you expect takes their attention away from what they were born to do. You replace that with some federal agenda to do homogenized work, pass one-dimensional tests and seamlessly usher children into taking their “place” in the economy, either as perpetual students, workers, laborers or drop outs. Children processed by your system have no time to make up all of the living they missed from preschool through high school graduation. From there on, unless they find themselves, they will have a life of perpetual work and consumption until they die.

10. Know that a growing movement is showing us that our children do not have to live this way. There are joyful, free ways for our children to learn; ways they can play, thrive and feel happy, safe and good in their own skin… Ways they can manifest lives of passion, creativity and ingenuity in their own ways… We also want you to know that you do not have to be a part of the school system. If you truly love children, you could help us raise awareness to how the education system harms children. You could work in a democratic school or become a caring mentor to children in need. If you agree with us that the system does not allow you to meet our children’s needs, then work to restore childhood back to our children.

 

75 Responses to “What Parents Really Want to Tell Teachers: What You Do Hurts Our Children”

  1. Nancy Flanagan 12 September 2011 at 10:30 am (PERMALINK)

    There are lots of important ideas in this post. But beginning your blog by claiming that Ron Clark’s (admittedly wrong-headed) post represents what a majority of teachers feel negates a whole lot of your message. You are not calling for dialogue here. You are accusing and overstating–so the opportunity for discourse is cut off.

    It’s also worth noting that most sins you’re identifying here as things teachers do and believe are actually directives from school policy and school authorities, trained in “management” of human beings. There are lots of teachers who would gladly change their practice to reflect more family time, open access to restrooms and snacks, more free-play time for younger kids, more project-based learning, etc. But the testing machine and the media’s love affair with highly structured schooling models forces teachers who want to keep their jobs into practices they don’t endorse.

    “Working in a democratic school” is a pipe dream for many of us. You can help that happen by not attacking teachers, and helping us build those schools.

    Author
    • Laurie A. Couture 13 September 2011 at 8:55 pm (PERMALINK)

      Nancy,

      Many terrible crimes against humanity have been committed under the excuse of , “I was just following orders.” Children are hostages of the system, teachers are not. No teacher has to work in that system or do those inhumane things to children in the name of “policy”. I wonder if Stanley Milgrim’s study on obedience to authority is taught to prospective teachers? Milgrim’s study showed the dangers of the “I was just following orders” mentality and the lengths people will go in hurting helpless people under their power in order to “follow orders” from their own higher authorities.

      Every teacher has the choice to leave the system rather than perpetuate it. They have no right to hurt children whether they are following policy or not. If they don’t like what they are forced to do then they should all stop doing it. If every teacher subverted the system (do teachers still assign Civil Disobedience by Thoreau anymore? Maybe they should re-read it) then the system could no longer enforce inhumane policies against children. Now that would be a REAL education that teachers could give their students- fit for a democracy!

      Laurie

      Author
    • Violet 15 September 2011 at 12:47 pm (PERMALINK)

      No teacher may hide behind school policy, Laurie If you cannot teach my child without abusing him (denial of physical activity is abuse) then quit. Your ethics and moral obligations trump your need to pay the mortgage at the expense of my kid.

      Author
    • Tony 28 April 2012 at 1:31 pm (PERMALINK)

      These things mentioned here are crucially important, but they are only a few. Teachers also encourage in their students contempt for the beliefs of their parents; they have substituted current events (politically motivated current events) for a systematic study of history and geography; they have abandoned the study of grammar (they themselves do not understand the subject and regularly ‘teach’ students things that are downright bogus); they have turned the study of math into a nightmarish and senseless conglomeration of words and formulas; they preach a destructive moral relativism; they have abandoned the study of English literature for what is current and faddish … the list goes on.

      I’ll put it this way. There are only two things wrong with our public schools: everything they teach our children, and everything they don’t.

      Author
      • Laurie A. Couture 28 April 2012 at 2:25 pm (PERMALINK)

        Tony,

        I hesitate to applaud your response because I am concerned from key words you’ve used that you support “teaching” and controlling children as long as parents are doing it. I disagree with all unsolicited teaching and I disagree with the industrialized cultural paradigm of controlling children. My son respects my principles and values because my primary focus is on meeting his needs and nurturing our relationship. Our family principles are based on love and compassion, but I don’t impart that as a “lesson”, but by treating him with love and compassion. How we treat children is how they will treat the world.

        I’d suggest being less concerned about the classic academics and more concerned with the fact that children are lacking play and hands-on learning in public school.

        Laurie

        Author
    • G. W. 11 September 2013 at 3:04 am (PERMALINK)

      Where are these democratic schools?

      Author
      • Laurie A. Couture 11 September 2013 at 10:51 pm (PERMALINK)

        G. W.,

        You could do the research yourself, or, if you wish to hire me for consulting, I will provide a list for you of the democratic schools in the USA and around the world.

        Laurie

        Author
    • Justin 5 May 2014 at 8:22 pm (PERMALINK)

      Let’s be pragmatic for a second. We let our children learn from home at their own pace and interests. We lead our children we don’t manage or disrespect them. It works.

      Now that you know I believe in treating our children like equal humans they are, lets get serious. Schools exist and operate the way they do because an apathetic and consumer driven cities don’t care to exercise their God given rights. In one voting cycle everything could change. You want to blame someone in a democratic society for public institutions then blame the citizens. Choose to vote for school choice. Then parents can speak with their vouchers and schools will listen.

      Someone also asked about a school that is democratic. I believe Bright Works is a good example.

      Author
  2. Sara 12 September 2011 at 11:25 am (PERMALINK)

    Laurie, all of your points are spot-on, save for this one:

    “You treat our children without respect, empathy, compassion or love unless they behave according to your rules and expectations.”

    I say this because even if you DO behave according to the rules/expectations, you can still be treated without respect, empathy, compassion, and love. I was a stressed out overacheiver who worked hard to please my teachers, a straight-A student who became very depressed from playing this horrible game (granted, I also had a job, siblings to care for, many extracurricular activities, and at least six to eight hours of homework a night from my advanced classes), and many of my teachers were still rude or downright hateful to me. One bullied me in front of class and announced I needed mental help; others told me hurtful things aside from the other students. I was also lied to, belittled (by a favorite teacher), and even discouraged to be creative (by another favorite teacher). A few of my teachers are my heroes, for sure; but most of my past demons are also teachers.

    I left school so confused and hurt and just exhausted, and I thought I was “smart” because of my stupid grades. Silly me; I was only good at school. We are unschooling our daughter.

    Author
    • Laurie A. Couture 13 September 2011 at 8:47 pm (PERMALINK)

      Sara,

      I agree with you and so sorry to hear about the abuse you suffered- Far too many traditional teachers do not treat any children with love, compassion, empathy and respect- What I meant is that if they do manage to receive any of those qualities of love from a teacher, the child must follow the teacher’s orders and rules, otherwise they receive punishment and disregard.

      Wonderful that you are unschooling your daughter! :D Yay!

      Laurie

      Author
  3. David Loitz 12 September 2011 at 1:23 pm (PERMALINK)

    Hi,
    I think you are right to call out Ron Clark’s article and as a teacher I had quite a problem with Clark’s assessment of the Parent/Teacher relationship. That being said, I don’t think you are completely fair to teachers or caring adults who work with children in a school setting. Many teachers have no choice but to follow the rules of their school, they have no choice in doing what they think or know is right way to help learning. Often Parents get in the way of holistic learning environments because they “expect” a certain type of schooling for their children. I know of many teachers who have been “moved” to a different school based on parents disagreeing with their “no homework” policy…. or teacher being called out for not providing the basic because they decided to do project based learning or more holistic minded meaningful work… The problem is complex.

    I think it might be more useful to offer suggestion on how to pragmatically develop a meaningful parent/teacher relationship that acknowledges the wisdom of the many “teachers” in the children live, from classroom teachers, to parents, to the environment, to society, to the community and just life itself.

    The main complaint I have with both your piece and Ron Clark’s is the over generalization of this complex relationship of trying to help the growth and development. We need to be willing to say, what we want our relationship to be instead of always stating what we don’t want. There is much to not like about our current system, but when we focus on the negative qualities, we divert energy that could be used to start transitioning towards a more positive relationship, be it in school or out.

    Thank you for sharing this.

    David Loitz

    Author
    • Laurie A. Couture 13 September 2011 at 7:46 pm (PERMALINK)

      David,

      Thanks for commenting. I agree that by compiling years of observations working in the schools, hearing from distressed children and their parents as well as the distress my own child suffered in public school prior to me adopting him (and of course unschooling him) and my own experiences, I met Ron Clark’s article by trying to condense everything into one. I was frustrated by his article in a time when schools are becoming increasingly prison-like, to the point where children are so distressed that they become depressed, angry and apathetic. They are held hostage to a system that offers no options. I felt it was time that the realities of many, many public school classrooms were laid out on the table. In my book I have a special section for what I call, “Gem teachers”, teachers who are caring and loving, and I challenge them to subvert the system rather than perpetuate it.

      Laurie

      Author
    • Violet 15 September 2011 at 12:48 pm (PERMALINK)

      You always have a choice, David. If you can’t teach my kid without doing harm, then find another job, please.

      Author
      • Shana 16 September 2011 at 9:41 am (PERMALINK)

        You have a choice of public school, private school or homeschool. I do not believe many of the people posting have ever worked in a school setting or with a group of children. Just as adults have “rules” to follow–speed limit, criminal laws, etc……children have to learn to follow rules to be able to function in society. They aren’t going to grow up and reach age 21 and magically start following laws and being responsible adults if they are not taught how.

        Author
        • Lisa68 27 April 2012 at 11:54 pm (PERMALINK)

          Shana – There is nothing in the above article that has anything to do with your reply.

          What does the school setting have to do with learning to function in society? I know many kids who are in school, and aren’t learning that (many – I’m tempted to say all – of them don’t have good examples at home). I never followed rules very well at school, but I wasn’t a problem, because I knew not to be disruptive. I broke all kinds of rules, but I didn’t get caught.

          Learning to raise one’s hand and ask permission to use one’s own bladder has nothing to do with being a law abiding citizen. Learning to follow arbitrary rules that make no sense has nothing to do with understanding that one could kill a fellow citizen (or oneself!) by driving too fast. Learning to stand in line, answer “present/here”, and make sure one is in the classroom by the bell has nothing to do with learning not steal or destroy property or sell drugs.

          And, I learned to obey the law and how to be a responsible adult at home, not at school. School never gave me the chance to fill any function except that of obeying rules. I didn’t learn to be responsible by doing what I was told. I’ve never met anyone who learned that particular lesson in that particular fashion.

          Author
        • Laurie A. Couture 28 April 2012 at 11:27 am (PERMALINK)

          Shana,

          Children learn the norms of society through adult modeling, not by being forced into unnatural environments like school. Being forced for years to endure punitive, oppressive environments teaches blind obedience and leads to much of the aggression, violence and apathy we see in the world. The disrespect, bullying and antisocial behavior of public school children in contrast to homeschoolers, unschoolers and children in democratic schools is testimony to that. You might want to research the Stanley Milgram studies of learned obedience. If you want children to grow up to be compassionate, “good citizens”, then the recipe is love, a secure parent-child attachment all through out youth, positive adult modeling, children being free to direct their own choices and lives and children being treated with respect and compassion.

          Laurie

          Author
  4. Homeschooling Works 12 September 2011 at 4:49 pm (PERMALINK)

    Great post! Reading this and I am thankful that my children have not been to school or day care. I new these things in my heart all along but I now have more words to express it. We have be unschooling my kids whole life but have chosen a home based Charter which does allow me the freedom to use the curriculum in a way that best suits my children and I am always learning more about the unschool approach. We do not have a strict schedule or long drawn out hours of busywork as you say. My children love art and Mario Bros and their play and art consists of mostly this right now, although we have a variety of things we all like to do. We are able to be with our kids and never miss a beat, they get to learn along side of us and we are learning from our children as well. I think that school is just so unnatural and it is true that many great thinkers were not schooled or had very little schooling. I will share this post on my FB and blog. As soon as I can I want to get your book, I can’t wait to read it! All the best to you and your family! Joanne Utke

    Author
    • Laurie A. Couture 13 September 2011 at 7:48 pm (PERMALINK)

      Joanne,

      Thanks so much for your support! School is terribly unnatural and the fact that teachers don’t realize this is frightening to me.

      Laurie

      Author
  5. Megan 12 September 2011 at 5:47 pm (PERMALINK)

    I don’t disagree with you that there is something wrong with the system, but I find it both shortsighted and disrespectful that you place the blame solely on the system.
    I read Clark’s article with interest, and I’m sure that somewhere in your response is some common sense, though I feel like it’s buried under your generalizations and name-drops.

    1. It IS difficult for us teachers to do our jobs when parents make excuses for their kids on a regular basis. That said, we aren’t out to get anyone; if a student isn’t finished a small homework assignment, I know that I’ll overlook it for a day or two as long as it’s a reasonable reason. I won’t, however, accept an excuse note from a parent that says “Johnny went to the basketball game last night, that’s why he didn’t get his homework done”, because no kid I teach would ever have so much homework that they couldn’t do it in less than a half hour.

    2. We NEED parents on our side, or at the very least we need them to not undermine the work that we do. When we set deadlines and guidelines in our classes, there is nothing worse than a student telling us “I won’t be here next week; I’m going to Hawaii.” because the expectation is that WE will provide work for the student, or will at least allow them not to do certain assignments while they miss class for a holiday. We have a job to do, and parents who take that away from us are just as responsible as we are for the disruption in learning.

    3. Because we spend time with your kids, we know them (though probably not as well as you do). So when we call home to let you know about something that Johnny did in class (positive OR negative), we have a reason to. It’s tough to worry about getting fired for saying the wrong thing when all you’re doing is letting a parent know that their son didn’t hand in his homework, or that their daughter was caught cheating on a test.
    We saw it. We were there. Trust us.

    As for your response, I understand that you have concerns about the structure of the system, but the system we have now has evolved from a school system that existed when you went to school. We’re working on it. It’s not like there’s an endless supply of money to redevelop curricula and retrain teachers to adopt a more progressive model. Instead, we are forced to work with few extra resources (other than those we pay for ourselves), and are dealing with increasing class sizes, as well as more demands on our time, and are expected to churn out kids who are proficient in everything that the state (or province, in my case) says the should be by Grade 12.

    As for teachers not understanding the burdens that our students shoulder – lady, you have no idea what we know that parents don’t know. For every student who comes to talk to a teacher about their personal life, there are 5 more who are afraid that we are going to call home so they won’t tell us. We know when things are going poorly. We can tell when someone is in distress. And those of us with half a brain and an ounce of compassion in our bodies do everything in our power to help. Being what amounts to a surrogate parent for so many kids takes a huge emotional (and sometimes physical) toll on a teacher. But those of us who care continue to bear those burdens for them, so that we can see them happy and healthy.

    So when you say that we’re all doing it wrong, I take offense. I love my job, I love my kids, and I want nothing but the best for them. If that means a little tough love sometimes, they get it. If that means I let them cry, they get that too. Sometimes, it even means me travelling 3 or 4 hours to see a football game because I KNOW that being there is important to someone on that team. And if I can do all of those things, with over 200 kids every school year, along with actually doing my job, then parents can certainly do the same things with their kids.

    Author
    • Laurie A. Couture 13 September 2011 at 8:10 pm (PERMALINK)

      Megan,

      Your first point seems to have missed the point of my article. A child should not have to work someone else’s agenda. The child should be able to attend the basketball game of his own free will and not have to do busywork for you on his own time. Children and parents have a right to do what they want on their own time, hands down. When I first adopted my son and was preparing to unschool him, I placed him in a child-centered school temporarily while I set up child care for the hours I worked. I informed the teachers that he would be doing NO homework. Period. His home time was ours, used for bonding and attaching, being loved and having fun. Interestingly, the school researched my info and shortly before we left, they instituted a no-homework policy for all grades! How wonderful for teachers to put the needs of children first!

      The people who need parents on their side are the children. Teachers already have enough control of children and the power to cause children to be punished and even abused at home. The last thing children need is for their parents to align with teachers.

      I can assure you that there is no educator that could ever know my child and certainly not even close to how I know him. You do not know the tender parts of children, only the masks they wear to impress, get by or please. If you truly knew children you would know that that basketball game was important enough to do and that “excuses” are made in order to meet needs. If teachers truly knew children, they would not consent to doing all of the harmful things to them that they claim are school policies.

      And if you hear the burdens that abused and neglected children bear, and you care, then why do you listen to them on one hand and then turn around and force these children to do paperwork? Why not mentor them instead? Don’t you think they are distressed enough without being forced to perform irrelevant academic tasks when their lives are in disarray? I never could understand that- If a teacher knows a child has it hard, they make them sit with a pile of paperwork and do homework. “Sorry kid, you’re in pain, life is terrible for you, but too bad, you’re still going to do this work. Oh, and no excuses. That basketball game isn’t as important as school even though it is the primary thing that gives you joy.”

      I adopted my son when he turned 11. I remember the two weeks before my son moved in with me the school was completely callous to his needs. This little 11 year old child had waited all of these years for a forever family after being in multiple foster homes and two residential programs, and here his dream was coming true! He was having daily visitations with me and he knew at the end of the two weeks he would be moving permanently with me, to a new home and new state.

      At school, he said he was so preoccupied with both his joy of being adopted (and his fears of “what if this doesn’t come true?”) and he was also so excited for our visitations after school, that he could not do anything at school. The school said this was “no excuse”, that he would be expected to work up until the last day! I was not allowed to take my new son home earlier than the required two week visitation period, so he was stuck in those last two weeks of school. However, I called the school and suggested that they make the last two weeks fun for him- Have him shadow a teacher, be a helper, or do an artistic project about finding his forever family. The school refused all of my suggestions and would not make any accommodations for him. Their policies meant more than this child’s joy in finding a family! The day he moved in with me I spent the last three hours of the day in the classroom with him, expecting there would be a goodbye party for him- There was NOTHING. It was business as usual until the bell rang. It was clear that they were totally inconsiderate of his emotions and needs and that he meant little to them.

      To the contrary as an unschooler, when my grandmother/my son’s great-grandmother, was in the hospital dying, we literally sat at her bedside for four months. He was 13. We both had an intensely close relationship with her. Because my son is an unschooler, he was able to spend Nana’s last four months of her life with her, every day. He also learned so much medically and technically being at the hospital. He was with her late into the night at 11:10 PM when she took her final breath. He was able to attend her funeral services and spend days, weeks and months feeling and experiencing his grief at the loss of her and all of the losses that it activated form his past. If he had been in school, he would have missed those precious four months with her because he would have been locked up all day in school and then doing homework after school (I’m sure most teachers would not have accepted four months of “excuses”). If the school would have accepted him staying with her the night she died, and to attend the funeral services, he would have been expected right back at school the next day. Then, rather than grieving, he’d have to suck it up and do school and homework day in and day out, being told that his loss wasn’t “an excuse” for being unable to function at school. Thank goodness he was able to grieve fully and in a healthy manner!

      I’m impressed that you travel three or four hours to see a child’s game- that’s awesome. However, love is not tough. It is tender, empathic, compassionate and selfless. Toughness is aggression and it does not have any place in learning.

      Laurie

      Author
      • Cecilia 28 April 2012 at 9:21 am (PERMALINK)

        I wonder if an adult with a paid job would be able to take four months off work to stay by his grandmother’s side with no questions asked, and still get paid? Even being a stay at home mom, I would not be able to go without doing the cooking, the cleaning, the laundry, for four months. Did you??? Being able to grieve without other “interruptions” is all very good, but is it realistic? In the schools I have worked in, I have never heard any teacher expect a grieving student to do the same amount of work as his peers. I certainly wouldn’t expect it. In reality, though, after death there is life, and eventually life goes on. How will a child make the jump, if not expected to eventually cope with his grieving?

        Author
        • Laurie A. Couture 28 April 2012 at 10:32 am (PERMALINK)

          Cecilia,

          I didn’t take four months off from work, but I was able to take part of my work to the hospital with me daily. I had my schedule set up so we visited my grandmother three times per day on some days, twice per day others, but always for hours at a time. The point is, schooled children would not be allowed to do this.

          Adults CHOOSE their careers, children are forced to go to school against their will. An adult can choose to leave or change jobs, a child can’t choose to leave school.

          Doing household chores in the privacy of one’s own home as an adult (able to cry and grieve while doing them) is very different from a child being forced to go to school while in a state of grief, forced to “suck it up”. The child can’t cry and grieve while being forced to attend to mindless school work. Glad to hear that in the schools that you’ve worked in, that you’ve “never heard any teacher expect a grieving student to do the same amount of work as his peers”. However, according to your statement, the grieving children are still expected to “do work”. In the many schools I’ve consulted in and worked in, grieving children are expected to do the same amount of work, function and “behave” as everyone else. The only provision is an allowance for brief visits to the school counselor, but these are expected to taper off quickly. If a child repeatedly needs the support, he or she may be accused of “abusing it to get out of class”. It is a no win situation for children.

          You asked how a child “makes the jump”? The way nature intended, by being allowed the freedom, space and quiet to grieve, to be with loving family and to work it out through play. My son “made the jump” by being allowed to grieve fully and hard. Instead of carrying repressed grief for years like many school youth, he’s light years past it.

          Laurie

          Author
    • JW 26 September 2011 at 8:33 am (PERMALINK)

      “…no kid I teach would ever have so much homework that they couldn’t do it in less than a half hour.”

      Another example of the system expecting all children to be alike. My daughter would often come home with what her teacher decided was “just 30 minutes of homework”, and we’d struggle for over an hour (sometimes two) because maybe she wasn’t ready yet to grasp a true understanding of that particular work, or couldn’t keep her focus, or was physically tired or not feeling well or couldn’t get past the resentment of her sister out playing and having fun while she was stuck at the kitchen table…, etc. In honesty, homework was probably 90% of why I took my kids out of school. (The other 10% was the teacher who yelled constantly and the kids were afraid of her.) Homework is an encroachment on family time, even if it’s 5 minutes worth. If my child sits in the classroom for all those hours everyday, and you can’t get the work done in that time, then I call that an incompetent system and why am I sending them there? If I had a full time job and at the end of working the whole day my boss handed me more work and said, “Here, you need to take this home as well and complete it before tomorrow.” …I’d quit my job. Especially if I wasn’t even getting paid! Kids in the system don’t have the freedom to quit, and that’s called a prison.

      Author
      • Lisa68 28 April 2012 at 12:05 am (PERMALINK)

        JW: I hear you on this one. My son used to get “a little” homework every day. But, he struggled with perfectionism, and the “little” homework regularly ate up a couple of hours or more of our evening. Most of this was working on illustrated stories (they were assigned a new one each month). He’s a very talented artist, and wanted his pictures to be *perfect*. His stories had to be “perfect”. Nothing would convince him otherwise, and his efforts were rewarded with a stream of As, and comments such as “wonderful story” and “excellent illustrations”. I’m sure his teacher thought it was awesome…but it destroyed our family time for a whole school year.

        He’s graduated now. I’m homeschooling my younger kids.

        Author
    • Lisa68 27 April 2012 at 11:59 pm (PERMALINK)

      “I love my job, I love my kids”.

      *Your* kids? They’re not *your* kids. They’re our kids. I sincerely hope none of my teachers ever thought of me as “their” kid. Blech.

      Also, I feel compelled to point out that I had teachers and counselors occasionally hint that they’d like to hear about my problems. I know they thought those problems were at home. My problems at home (there were some) were a scratch on the surface of the giant iceberg that was my existence at school. School was painful, unpleasant and pretty much a nightmare, I couldn’t wait to get out. I’m in my 40s, and I still don’t like being in a school building. I was “in distress” a lot. It had very little to do with home. It had a lot to do with school.

      Author
  6. Frank Buck 12 September 2011 at 8:20 pm (PERMALINK)

    I saw your message specifically to me on Twitter and have read our post. It certainly illustrates there are multiple ways to view a given set of circumstances. I am not sure who you mean when by “you,” whether you are referring to all who work in public education, whether you are thinking about certainly bad experiences in our own childhood.

    If by “you,” you are including Ron Clark, that’s a pretty good “you” with which to be associated given his track record with making a positive difference for large numbers of kids.

    For you, home schooling is the better choice. You have a vision, and for those who have put the careful consideration into child development which you obviously have and who hold the strong opinions that you do (and there are many), I applaud that choice.

    I would issue you one challenge–be a substitute teacher for a few days and show the educational community how things are supposed to be done. Walk a mile in the shoes of the “yous” you speak to. Walk a mile in the shoes in which Ron Clark walked in Harlem. Then come back and write about your experiences.

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    • Laurie A. Couture 13 September 2011 at 8:15 pm (PERMALINK)

      Frank,

      By “you” I meant Ron Clark and the teachers he represents.

      I don’t need to substitute teach. I have worked with well over 1,000 youth in multiple capacities, of all ages, all demographics including gang involved youth. I adopted an older child and I mentored a troubled youth from age 8-18. I know youth well and it has been extremely rare that a youth has ever shown me disrespect. Kids disrespect teachers because they hate school! Point blank. Yet, their feelings don’t seem to matter to society and that is not taken seriously. How can a society justify forcing youth to go somewhere that treats them like prisoners day in and day out, a place they dislike and then get incensed when these children rebel, lash out, act out, show disrespect??? It is illogical and inhumane.

      Laurie

      Author
  7. Greg 12 September 2011 at 11:27 pm (PERMALINK)

    When there are up to 40 students stuffed into a classroom, our teachers become babysitters, not educators. When you as parents refuse to pass a proper school budget, you force the babysitters to work with outdated materials or none at all.

    How about parents take some personal responsibility? These treasures… these special unique individuals you care so much about… your babies… you brought them into the world, you have the biggest impact on their growth and development. Teachers chose the profession not to get rich, but to try to make a difference and mold something good out of the product of your drunken Saturday night so many years ago.

    Parents want to be involved in their child’s education, but not really. Parents are lazy, over indulged, over payed, under worked and generally the same kind of worthless bully moron garbage their pathetic child turned out to be.

    This article proves everything that teacher was trying to tell parents not to do. Parents refuse to let the educators do what they are very poorly paid to do, and then blame the system when their child turns out like them.

    Here’s an idea, buy a big mirror, look long and hard into it and then proclaim “you are the problem!!!!” at the image staring back at you.

    This country’s education system is heading down the drain and it’s the parents whose collective hands are on the flusher.

    Author
    • Laurie A. Couture 13 September 2011 at 8:20 pm (PERMALINK)

      Greg,

      Remember, the majority of these parents that you claim are lazy and uninvolved are almost all products of the very school system you claim they should support. What does that tell you? It tells me that the school system produces the populace that it intended to produce when public school was instituted in 1852, modeled after Prussia’s system: A dulled, docile, apathetic population that is addicted to consumption. Many parents admit to me that they feel ill when they step into their children’s schools, feel intimidated by the environment and still have nightmares about their own schooling experience. People who graduate from democratic schools and home education tend to grow up to be much more involved, pro-active, passionate and enthusiastic.

      Laurie

      Author
    • Angela 3 October 2011 at 2:01 pm (PERMALINK)

      Greg, I sent my kids to school when they were of age because I had been socialized to believe that is just what one does. I volunteered in their classrooms and saw that school was just one big day care, and I did see the teachers as mere babysitters. Well, I wasn’t working, so I didn’t see the need to institutionalize my children any longer. My husband and I took our kids out of school and we take full responsibility for them. We are completely involved in their education. We refuse to let the educators do what they are very poorly paid to do, and we no longer feel the need to blame the system for anything. We look in the mirror and proclaim “we are the solution!!!!” at the image staring back at us.

      I think schools should be available for parents who can’t or don’t want to care for their children (or for kids who really want to go to school). But I think it’s sad that there are a lot of parents and kids who are not happy with the school system and don’t know that there are other options. Or maybe they know of the options, but can’t grasp how they can take matters into their own hands.

      Author
    • Lisa68 28 April 2012 at 12:09 am (PERMALINK)

      Greg…I’m almost shaking with rage right now, but others have addressed most of your points, so I’ll stick to the one that really made me angry.

      None of my children are the result of a drunken Saturday night. Thank you for letting us know what you really think of parents. My children were all very much wanted, and I went through 10 years of heartbreaking infertility, multiple unwanted surgeries (c-sections), multiple miscarriages and a stillbirth to get them here. Maybe any children you have are the result of a drunken Saturday night, but don’t presume everyone brings life into the world so carelessly.

      Author
    • Jody 28 April 2012 at 11:40 am (PERMALINK)

      My children are NOT the product of some drunken Saturday night many years ago. I know almost to the date when each of mine were conceived, and where; and neither parent was drunk at the time. My children are the product of two adults who loved each other very much and who very much wanted to share that love with new lives; to the point that we sought fertility assistance from an ob/gyn.

      Author
  8. Vanessa Pruitt 13 September 2011 at 1:30 pm (PERMALINK)

    Incredibly spot on. We really do stunt our children’s learning and growth with our own expectations of them, it’s sad. I especially loved #4. It has been really eye opening for me (as a mother of 3 boys) to read all of the information about how boy’s interests are played down and made unimportant in school.

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    • Laurie A. Couture 13 September 2011 at 8:43 pm (PERMALINK)

      Vanessa,

      Boys are treated very poorly in most traditional schools, to the point where maleness, or being a boy, is considered a disorder or a mental illness. Boys are drugged in epidemic numbers for their boyness. It is tragic that our precious boys are being tormented and disrespected in this manner.

      I adopted my son when he was 11 and unfortunately he was in public school prior to me meeting him. I found that he had a deep seated shame about being a boy in large part because in school, he explained, “Girls were seen as always good, no matter how ‘badly’ they behaved. But boys were seen as always bad, no matter how ‘good’ they acted.” He said that he was also given a clear impression that girls were intelligent and boys were not and that the overall message he received from school about being a boy was that boyness was bad and “stupid”. (The media he watched back then also perpetuated those stereotypes. He attended several different schools in those first years of his life, not only one.)

      My son is right. The hundreds and hundreds of boys I have worked with over the years have confirmed this, that boys and their natural, wonderful boyness is considered bad, wrong, a disability or a disorder. They are treated harshly and without compassion by many adults in the school system, and in the 19 states that legally assault children, boys make up the majority of the children assaulted. In fact, when girls are assaulted, there is often an outcry.

      Additionally, in cases in which boys are sexually abused by female teachers, the law does little to punish the woman, however, when the genders are reversed, the penalties are severe for male teachers who abuse girls.

      School is a dangerous place for boys, who are more emotionally fragile from birth on than girls.

      Laurie

      Author
      • Lisa68 28 April 2012 at 12:12 am (PERMALINK)

        Laurie: At the end of the year (I was picking the kids up from a “grad” field trip), I told my son’s seventh grade teacher that the boys in her class felt that she favoured the girls. I thought she’d like to know that, as it obviously affects the classroom dynamics. Her response horrified me. She said, “I know they think that, and they’re right – I do. The girls are better students and they behave better”. What does one even do with that??

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        • Laurie A. Couture 28 April 2012 at 11:12 am (PERMALINK)

          Lisa68,

          Disgusting. Sadly, this is very common with public school teachers. This sexism, vilification, pathologizing and mass drugging of boys is one of the countless reasons I encourage all parents to unschool their children or find a democratic school for their child like The Sudbury Valley Free School. Public and traditional school is toxic to all children, but especially boys.

          Laurie

          Author
  9. Missy 13 September 2011 at 2:07 pm (PERMALINK)

    I’m an unschooler now, but as a former educator I feel I have to chime in here. Please know that for many of these issues, the teacher’s hands are tied. Any time I hugged a child, shook her hand, touched his shoulder – I was at risk for serious repercussions – we were told that touching was not allowed, that we could be sued. We were required to give homework and actually had parents complain when we didn’t do it. We are required to “teach to the test” or risk losing our jobs. If we strike out on our own and do something different, we are ridiculed, threatened, and observed strictly. We want to help. We love kids. We want to do the best we can and be creative – but we are shoved into this horrible box of a system. There are teachers out there who are trying SO HARD. There are teachers who are blessed, gifted, creative, and amazing. There are also parents who can’t afford to stay home with their kids and while school becomes daycare teachers become parents. I had many kids for whom I WAS the parents. They were left at the school for hours after extra-curricular activities and I risked my job to take them home. There were kids whose parents couldn’t afford lunch, and I shared mine. I have a friend who was fired very recently for driving a girl home after a play rehearsal because it was so late and he couldn’t contact her parents. The parents were angry that he didn’t just wait at the school until they came (he had already waited an hour, and it was 10 PM). I agree that “the system” isn’t the best. I understand why the article made the blood of alternative ed parents boil – because we KNOW our kids – but that article wasn’t meant for us. It was meant for the parents whose child decides not to do any work and they come in and scream until the administration awards a passing grade. It was for the parents who don’t talk to their children, who never see them, who parent bullies and refuse to own up to it. It was for the parents who truly do count on the school to raise their kids – and there are many out there. I know it struck a nerve for parents who love their kids and really DO know best – and I will tell you, I’ve had my share of issues with education from both sides – but please have mercy on the teachers who put their time and energy into children who don’t have another chance – for whom school is truly BETTER than home – who love, who care, who listen, who reach out, and who are bucking the system even though it could mean they lose their jobs to do the right thing.

    Author
    • Laurie A. Couture 13 September 2011 at 8:22 pm (PERMALINK)

      Missy,

      I challenge all of the “gem” teachers to subvert the system rather than perpetuate it. They have a choice not to be there or do the things that go against their beliefs. The children are hostages but the teachers are not. There are plenty of wonderful progressive child-centered schools they could retreat to rather than “following orders”.

      Laurie

      Author
      • Lisa Nielsen 15 September 2011 at 10:38 pm (PERMALINK)

        “I challenge all of the “gem” teachers to subvert the system rather than perpetuate it. ”

        This is a brilliant statement worthy of it’s own post. If you are inspired to write it, I’d love to share it!!!

        Author
  10. Claire 13 September 2011 at 7:15 pm (PERMALINK)

    I was a primary school teacher for 8 years before I had my daughter. I often felt that I was not meeting the needs of the children in my care, and that despite my understanding of what those children needed (eg play, exercise, creative time,) I was confined and restricted in what I was allowed as their teacher to do with them.

    It was only when I had my daughter that the enormity of the level of responsibility I had been given for all those years, and all those lives, sank in. I really struggled to find my way as an attached parent, and now unschooling mum. I had to swim against the advice of my parents, health visitors, friends, and my own blinkered vision from my 26 years of being in the education system. I had to really listen hard to my instincts and stand up for my beliefs when I chose not to go back to teaching, to look after my daughter myself and not send her to pre-school, and eventually to not request a school place for her. But it has been absolutely the BEST decision I could have made for her, and for me too.

    I think this article is FANTASTIC, and I particularly love the challenge to teachers at the end to follow their instincts too and pursue a different career path which will better use the love that they have for children. I for one would have felt awful if I had read this article when I was still teaching, because it is so true, and I would have felt powerless to do anything about it. I think very often, wonderful people become teachers, because they genuinely have a great heart to see children develop and flourish. But those exact same people become disillusioned in a job which ends up being very different from what they expected. Very often the teachers feel as ill at ease as the children do, in an environment which has changed for the worse, even in the 13 years since I qualified, and especially since I was at school in the ’80s. It is a sad reflection of the way society at large has become so legalistic, impersonal, and results-driven. Well done to the author, and best wishes to anyone choosing freedom! :D

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    • Laurie A. Couture 13 September 2011 at 8:25 pm (PERMALINK)

      Claire,

      Thanks so much for your thoughtful and heartfelt response. You are truly what I call in my book a “gem” teacher. You allowed yourself to think outside of what you had been taught, you allowed yourself to become aware of what the system does to children and you gave your children a wonderful experience- I LOVE hearing stories like this of teachers who choose to subvert or leave the system rather than claim helplessness and perpetuate it. Kudos to you!

      Laurie

      Author
  11. Ashley Byrd 14 September 2011 at 10:47 am (PERMALINK)

    I respect your views on unschooling children. I really do. I think you have a very admirable stance on the emotional needs of students. It’s not for everyone, but I see it being beneficial for many. I also think that you have an oversimplified and overgeneralized view of what really happens in public schools (it’s not that traumatic for all students) BUT I understand that you speak as a parent who has been highly wronged by many teachers. That’s fair. Your perspective is valid and it makes a lot of sense. With that said, I wonder what you think of teachers who decide to stay in public school settings? Given that EVERYONE cannot (for logistical, financial or personal reasons) go with the alternatives you present. How do you address the traditional school systems that are going to be in place regardless of the alternatives available?

    My question is this: How do you encourage parents to have functional and professional relationships with teachers in traditional/public schools? Are teachers and parents ALWAYS enemies because they work in a school system that you don’t agree with? I am really not looking for a debate. I respect what you do. I just really want to know how parents and educators can work through these types of issues..rather than only resorting to having a teacher fired or having a student removed from traditional. This is for the parents and teachers who opt to stay in the traditional school setting and see a lot of promising benefits from remaining in it.

    Look forward to your response :)
    Ashley Byrd

    Author
    • Laurie A. Couture 28 April 2012 at 1:41 pm (PERMALINK)

      Ashley Byrd,

      I don’t believe children should be in traditional public school. Period. I advocate for unschooling, and democratic learning communities where children lead their own interests and everyone in the community (including children) are free to offer classes to the public and anyone can attend- or not attend- at their will. There should be no “professional” relationships going on that are not at the consent of the child. A parent’s job is to care for and advocate for her or his child, not to collude with “professionals” on how to force their child to conform to a system.

      Children and their own parents should be the only team discussing what is best for the child. Children have a birth right to live and learn in accordance with their unique and individual callings and blueprints for life. Each child naturally knows what he/she needs to learn and the best way to learn it. The job of parents is to facilitate, guide and connect children with community resources (including classes if desired) to help nurture their children’s learning and passions. If a teacher is selected by the child, then the child and parent together can discuss with the teacher how they can best “work together” to meet the child’s needs, not the adult’s agenda.

      Laurie

      Author
  12. Jennifer 15 September 2011 at 1:55 pm (PERMALINK)

    Laurie, I appreciate your publishing another perspective on the issues raised by Ron Clark’s article. I must admit, that I do take offense to your “paint all with the same brush” approach, just I as did with Ron Clark’s piece. I think both you and Ron Clark incorrectly assume that you speak for “all teachers” or “all parents.” His article made parents sound like they were the sole reason for the debacle (yes, I use that word deliberately) that is education in America while you place the blame squarely with teachers. Unfortunately, I think the ultimate result of both articles will be to make everyone defensive instead of opening a genuine dialogue that might lead to a re-imaging of the goals of education.

    I left the classroom after 12 years of frustration. As a high school teacher I endeavored to use a project-based approach to social studies, to reignite the curiosity and creativity that had been extinguished by years of mandated high-stakes testing and all that entailed, to provide multiple pathways for exploring/learning, and to help students define for themselves “success.” Instead of writing research papers my students produced original documentaries. We spoke with veterans instead of taking notes about D-Day. We had heated debates about world issues and tracked many back to parallel events in history. We partnered with students from across the country and around the world through challenge-based learning activities. My students developed empathy and discovered their own world by experiencing, inasmuch as that was possible through the use of connective technologies and real-world based problems. Students produced original and authentic artifacts of learning and shared them with their parents and community through their blogs, podcasts, and special evening events. I cared about each and every one of my students and, even today, hear from many regularly. I attempted to work within the system, affecting change one student at a time. I was able to make connections to students who had become so disaffected by school that they resorted to disruptive behavior just to have a few moments respite in the vice-principal’s office. I rarely had to deal with inappropriate behaviors and I fancied that my classroom served as an oasis for many.

    At nearly every turn I was met with resistance from my school system. My district believed that I was not following the curriculum and, therefore, not properly preparing my students for the state tests (even after my students consistently scored better than the district and state averages). The innovative web applications that could connect my students to learning were blocked. I constantly had to defend to parents, colleagues, and superiors that while my methods many have been unusual, they were pedagogically sound and that my students were, in fact, learning. After many years, taking my methods more than once directly to the superintendent and school board, I won over my district. My methods were validated and I received support. Success story of one of your “Gem teachers” subverting the system, right?

    Wrong. Although I succeeded in winning over my district, many parents were dissatisfied with the lack of “real work” (a.k.a. traditional assessments). I think David would empathize with my experience. I can’t possible count the number of parent-teacher conferences and phone calls where I had to defend my methods against the typical “why can’t my son just take a test and be done with it?” and “why doesn’t he have homework” or “I see no benefit in collaborative work” — Many argued that “project learning” was too subjective to quantify as a “grade.” (I actually attempted to do away with letter and number grades entirely in lieu of portfolio conferences, anecdotal observation reports, and student-generated progress checks, but parents literally rebelled.) Although I frequently invited parents into my classroom, especially when were were having learning celebrations/displays/performances, only a handful in 12 years ever attended. Sadly, when I sent home “good news cards” to celebrate a student’s reaching his/her personal goal, the compassion with which they interacted with a classmate, or a particularly powerful performance, that was usually followed-up with a call or email from the parent simply asking for his grade or to argue a B+ up to an A-. Yes, David, many did get in the way of these holistic and meaningful experiences.

    It was so disheartening. I invested so much of myself, often at the expense of my own family, in my students. Yet, the reward was so frequently complaints. Now, let me be clear that there were absolutely parents who applauded and supported my efforts. But, “it’s the squeaky wheel that gets the grease.” In my experience, satisfied parents rarely make the effort to reach out to their child’s teachers, principal, superintendent, or school board to express their appreciation. The school system is way more likely to hear from the dissatisfied parents and it’s their accusations and demands that tend to drive policy. You know, Laurie, from your own experience that parents CAN make a difference. Ultimately, it is parents that have the most sway over district policy. The teachers have very little, if any.

    So, while I gradually became disenchanted, I can understand how this happened. The emphasis on grades stems from, naturally, the push for all students to go to college. This is inherently problematic. The opportunity should be there for any child to attend college, but they should not be pushed into it as a matter of course when their life’s path is taking them elsewhere. You pointed out that many of the world’s celebrated luminaries did not follow the traditional or expected path. This phenomenon, coupled with the disastrous interference of the federal government (e.g. No Child Left Behind), has produced a system that defines success only numerically — what is the magic number that students much achieve to have been deemed “proficient” on the NCLB-mandated state test? Come on! Doesn’t anyone see it as totally contradictory that a nation that treasures and celebrates “diversity” believes that every child will learn at the same pace, from the same methods, and with the same level of proficiency as every other child when compared on the same exact measurement tool (test)? Children are not widgets and schools are not factories, but we apply the same principle of “quality control” that we use in a factory to children. It is absurd. Because these NCLB tests must measure all students, be administered often, scored expeditiously, and the results reported in the media, the tests are often multiple-choice and watered-down writing exercises. They rarely assess deep understanding and creative synthesis and tend to only be successful in assessing the lower levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy. When districts fail to meet this ridiculous goal, it is controversial and the media covers it ad nauseam. To make matters worse funding is tied to success on the required NCLB tests. Districts are punished when they do not meet the threshold. I wonder if parents are aware that a school can be listed as “failing” if too many students are absent or if they don’t “improve” on their statistics from last year? I know of some schools that were listed as failing and punished because their attendance rate dropped, one went from 98% to 95% and, even though all their student populations (learning support, ESOL, free and reduced lunch, etc.) met the state’s proficiency levels, they were listed as failing. And, yes, your students with special needs or who are still learning English must take the same test in most cases. If just one subgroup fails to meet the threshold the entire school is punished by losing funding or being forced to submit to a government mandated uniform curriculum. As a result of the constant threat of the punitive NCLB, schools have had to “teach to the test.” Please don’t let my diatribe against NCLB distract your readers from the fact that NCLB is a law. It was passed by a legislature voted into office by the people. Thus, parents (as voters) have a weapon to combat this. Teachers aren’t creating these exams that have become the focal point of education. They are as much victims of misguided politicking as students. Just as teachers and students suffer alike by drastic budget cuts. You highlighted the importance of approaching each student as an individual. This is next to impossible in many of our nation’s overcrowded classrooms. I left the profession as overcrowding due to budget cuts became a real problem. It’s not all that uncommon to hear about high school classes with 40-50 students and elementary classes with 30-35. That is a tragic situation, as Greg pointed out in his comment.

    Please don’t get me wrong, while I definitely have strong feelings regarding mandated testing, I still believe that teachers or schools should be “accountable.” I believe that that administration should be more visible in the classrooms and be participatory members of the learning community. I think parents should decide for themselves by coming into school and/or meeting with teachers and students. I think we should re-frame student success as more than a letter and I think teachers, students, and parents should be equal partners.

    But, it takes real leadership to do this. A handful of teachers here and there trying to buck the system will not achieve the type of change that will allow learning to be joyful. I believe that our legislators need to remove themselves from the equation and allow local communities the autonomy to define their own goals and explore innovative learning pathways. Blaming teachers, parents, or children is counter-productive. When the system forces teachers to either “get with the program or get out” or when well-meaning reformers charge teachers to “subvert or get out” it will only serve to drive away those creative, caring educators who could affect change when allowed to truly teach again. I would be beneficial for teachers to remember that parents have known their children a lot longer and have a better understanding of the “whole child.” Parents would do well to remember that teachers have a measure of expertise with regard to pedagogy and can be a vital partner. Both groups must remember that acting in concert without the distraction of egos can result in the best and most individualized solution for our nation’s children. There is shared blame for the way the system has evolved. There must be shared ownership in the development of a solution as well.

    Author
  13. Valerie 15 September 2011 at 9:22 pm (PERMALINK)

    Laurie,

    Your story about how your son spent the last months of your grandmother’s life with her, and was then was given time to process and work through his grief really touched me. I’ll never forget my deep disappoint with a family I once knew who decided to stop homeschooling their sweet daughter solely because a grandmother was ill and likely to die from her illness. They placed so much priority on academics, believing it was best to put her in the public school. They even told me they thought the “stress” of her grandmother’s situation would be easier on her if she was busy with school instead of involved with the experience. It broke my heart.

    I have been a homeschooler for a whole lot of years – often as what might be considered a “reluctant unschooler,” because too often I would be trying to meet the expectations of others. Growing up I was a girl with boy learning tendencies: easily distracted, hyperactive and not moldable to school policies. (I was a child back in the day when “hyperactive” was the new and first label for ADHD, and I was labeled.) Many were convinced I was “intelligent” so I was given no breaks, I was pressed to a college-prep education. It did very little to prepare me for life. I hated nearly the whole experience, it felt abnormal and torturous.

    I love your challenge to good teachers to subvert the system. I used to try to ask teachers in my church to consider teaching my kids a subject or piano or whatever they enjoyed or were good at. Of course, they tended to respond to me more like I was an enemy rather than as one giving them a compliment.

    Overall, I have found teachers to be unable to think outside the box of their mass-education training, as indicated by several teacher comments above. And I have some difficulty believing that most teachers teach because they care and what to make a positive experience in the lives of children and not for the money, because they continue to teach in “unfriendly,” “difficult,” and “unproductive” environments. They won’t consider letting go of their health packages and tenured jobs in order to make themselves available to “homeschooled” children for less money and less guaranteed work, no matter that their efforts would likely be better appreciated and more thoroughly received. I think there is something about the “system” that they like. Could it be that they like enforcing the appearance of authority over the parents, whereas in an independent homeschool situation they would actually be in immediate submission to the parents expectations? Do they have a bit of an authority complex? The more children over which they have influence, the more important they feel, maybe? I don’t know. But whenever a teacher appears shocked and offended at my “nerve” to be the primary influence in my children’s lives at the “risk” of “damaging” them and “ruining” their education. Well . . .

    Author
    • Laurie A. Couture 28 April 2012 at 2:14 pm (PERMALINK)

      Valerie,

      I appreciate your thoughtful response. You asked if teachers won’t give up their comfortable tenured positions because they enjoy having the power and authority over the parents. I think they get a power trip over the universal, omnipotent and nearly total power they have over the bodies, bodily functions, minds, emotions, actions and futures of children in their classrooms. Few adults who truly love the wild, free spirits of children would want to dominate them and control them.

      I have seen many sadistic teachers in my years of working with youth, especially at the middle school and high school grades. For years youth have been telling me or writing to me about their school teachers forcing them to retain their urine, teachers watching them beg and then their teachers still denying them in their distress. One woman even physically barred a 16 year old boy who had repeatedly begged her to use the toilet and after she kept denying him, he tried to run out the door. She ended up giving him no choice but to urinate in a bottle. Guess who got in trouble? NOT the sadistic teacher. Are you going to tell me there wasn’t some power trip (not to mention sexual sadism) going on there? School teachers in the 19 states where assaulting children with paddles is still allowed seem to enjoy that sadistic power as well.

      However, sadism aside (although it is common in situations where one person has so much control over people made powerless by the system- See Stanley Milgram’s studies of blind obedience), on a daily basis, teachers having control over hundreds of youth at a time, forcing them to sit and listen to them and comply with every word, meting out punishments or verbal retorts for noncompliance and reaching into their personal lives with homework is no doubt a power trip for many, although I’m sure they lack awareness of that reality. Add that to the paid summers off (of course youth still have summer homework), and they have a good reason to stay colluding with the system. It is hard for school people in positions of power to subvert the system and start democratic learning communities, working side-by-side as equals with those people (children) who they formerly subjugated, had power over, ordered around and viewed as less human than themselves.

      There is also the issue of “Gem” teachers who truly love their students, but fear leaving their students because they feel they are the only safety zone in the school. To them I suggest that they teach children about the system, how it dominates and subjugates children and teach children how to subvert, beat, break and leave the system. I also recommend they start democratic learning communities in their town to run as charters.

      Not all teachers are on a power trip, but I believe from years of experience working with these oppressive school systems that a large majority are not aware that they are playing out past childhood issues with regards to being powerless, hurt, abused, ignored, bullied as youth and that they enjoy in some manner the domination they have over children. What they don’t realize is that dominating and controlling children doesn’t rectify their own pasts, it only causes them to become accustomed to and apathetic to their power and how it effects children and society as a whole (teaching blind obedience). The fact that this seems so obvious with teachers who work with adolescents really seems to add meat to my point.

      Laurie

      Author
  14. Nathan 15 September 2011 at 11:38 pm (PERMALINK)

    Hi Laurie,

    I agree with the harms you mention about schooling. I believe Ron Clark is a ridiculous cheer leader for conventional education.

    But to blame teachers is only adding to the problem. If you think that by chastising teachers you will save students, I believe you are wrong. Blaming teachers only emboldens those who believe in authoritarian models and it weakens those who are trying to be progressive. It’s because of the chastising that many of our most progressive, compassionate teachers quit.

    You say you want “gem teachers” to subvert the system and leave. Is that really the solution? Create an entire schooling system of harmful teachers because the good ones left? Don’t you think these “gem teachers” do less harm than other teachers? Why would you want them to leave? The system is not going to change because a few progressive teachers quit.

    Yes, these teachers can form progressive charter schools, but this won’t help the majority of students who have parents who aren’t looking to do the research or apply to alternative schools.

    Like other’s have said above, those parents who are highly involved in their child’s development are to be applauded. Hopefully they have the option to unschool, or they will elect to send their child to a progressive charter school. But the point you’re missing is that there is a huge population of students for whom school is their place of refuge, damaged or not.

    There are harmful practices throughout civilization, but those who are working from within the system are not to be ostracized. All progressives need to support each other in the many roles which are needed. To belittle all teachers because of their title is extreme and unhelpful for the students we are all working towards helping.

    -Nathan

    Author
  15. Blake Zinn 16 September 2011 at 4:02 pm (PERMALINK)

    Laurie-

    I think it has been stated but it is definitely an issue with your article and Mr. Clarke’s that there are serious generalizations being made. What you have described is among the strictest and most conservative of institutions and it is saddening as an educator to hear that there are schools out there still like this. Some of these by choice, some of these by necessity, and some because of restrictions placed upon them by the administration. However, I encourage (especially seeing the unschooling advocate label near your name) to take time in a public school classroom that is more progressive and I think you would like what you see. I am not trying to be disrespectful, but there is no way that “unschooling” the nation would be effective. You must realize that there is a place for public education, just that it should not be the stifling classroom that you described above.

    Enjoy,

    Blake

    Author
    • Laurie A. Couture 28 April 2012 at 11:20 am (PERMALINK)

      Blake,

      From my most recent blog post, a bit of history:

      “Traditional compulsory schooling was instituted in 1852- That means we have only been mass schooling for just 162 short years, yet humans have been around for thousands of years. Although there were places of study and non-compulsory, locally run schools, the majority of learning and education through out human history was done outside of school as unschooling or some form of homeschooling! Natural learning (unschooling) does not require anyone to “teach” a child. The myth of homeschooling is that it is “school-at-home”. Children resist teaching, as it interferes with their natural process of learning. It is only the parents’ responsibility to support their children’s interests and provide resources, opportunities, connections in the community and a deeply connected parent-child relationship. No teaching is necessary- In fact, when parents attempt to “teach”, they may see some of the same “symptoms” of distress that the child showed while in school!”

      and

      “How did you think people raised their children for thousands of years? Every mammal raises their young! I want to add, it “worked” for the thousands and thousands of years that our species has been on this planet. The fact that most people in industrialized countries believe that they have no ability to support the learning of their own children is a tragic symptom of public schooling. It is our schooling and our culture that has caused us to believe that we as parents are not capable of one of the most fundamental elements of mammal parenting- Helping our children learn. What does that say about the public schools that after 13 or more years of “education”, we graduate unqualified and incompetent to guide the learning of our own young? Why would we want to send our children to such a grossly inept institution?”

      Laurie

      Author
  16. paul bogush 17 September 2011 at 9:30 am (PERMALINK)

    Really…as a teacher, a parent of a school kid, and past school kid myself…this is so accurate.

    Author
  17. Sc Mak 19 September 2011 at 12:42 pm (PERMALINK)

    Hi Laurie, thanks for writing that article.

    Here’s my response – a collection of successive comments I made at first sight on my fb group in the middle of the night upon reading the article.

    Author
    • Sc Mak 19 September 2011 at 12:55 pm (PERMALINK)

      I’d like to ask for your permission to translate this into plain English for my ESL students.

      Author
  18. Ben 21 September 2011 at 10:22 pm (PERMALINK)

    There is just as much research out there that supports what schools do as there is that shows them to be counter to natural human development. There is also research available that shows a correlation between positive parent involvement and academic achievement (Jeynes 2005), which is partly the point that Clark was making…positive support for school at home has been shown to positively impact student achievement. The author of this post is clearly biased, and therefore an unreliable source of information. The author clearly wrote her response with a vitriolic mindset bent on rejecting ideas that are not congruent with her own. By the way…identifying bias and reading critically is something that I teach my students…at a school.

    The most appalling aspect of your article is that you make generalized claims about what children need. Would it not be healthier to look at children on a case-by-case basis and make an informed decision about what each individual child needs? Many students thrive in traditional education and reap all the benefits of it by finding areas of study that truly compel them and finding meaningful careers in those areas. Some students are incredibly fulfilled by the offerings of traditional education…both male students and female students. And do you know what? Some students simply cannot thrive in traditional academic settings. Good for you for recognizing this in your son and providing him what what he (as an individual) needed.

    School reform is a hot button issue. It is fueled by many interests that do not have anything to do with the well being of students. It is a very popular idea that our schools are broken, and perpetuating that idea is helping people to make their place in the world (politicians, charter schools, and even authors). I think that if you looked honestly at educators as individuals (and not as one big faceless group trying to deprive children of their humanity), you would see mostly people who want the best for your children.

    Author
  19. brooke 26 September 2011 at 1:05 am (PERMALINK)

    I’m honestly not sure how to respond to this article. It made me re-think even wanting to be a teacher. I’m currently pursuing a degree in ech special ed, and i love those kids to death. this article kinda upset me. both of my parents are educators. and i believe they are what you would call “gem teachers.” but so are the teachers my dad currently works with. what i especially dislike is how you just place all teachers in one category. not every teacher is bad, but not all teachers are great either. and you say that you’ve worked with youth for quite some time, but have you ever, ever tried to be a teacher in a classroom setting like that with all the restrictions that teachers have to deal with? i’m gonna take a wild guess and say no. so please, before you write something like this again, go check it out. volunteer or something. do some research in the classroom before you offend people again.

    Author
  20. Alisa Terry 6 October 2011 at 6:12 am (PERMALINK)

    Thank you. You have articulated the various thoughts I have had about school since I was a teenager, myself. I even wrote an article in my school paper about how most teachers have no comprehension about how how learning happens. As a result, my father tried to explain to me how he succeeded all the way through Law School by figuring out what each individual teacher wanted and giving it to them. He thought he was imparting wise counsel but he essentially confirmed my conclusion that school isn’t about learning, it’s about obeying.

    In addressing the many educators who have taken offense here; if any of you can answer yes to the question of whether students have to ask for permission to use a bathroom or are not permitted to eat in class, then no matter how much you care about students or love your job or encourage creativity, you are causing harm. I give the same challenge to parents who put babies on a feeding schedule or deny a child a drink in the evening in a misguided attempt to prevent bedwetting. Any time we make another human being go hungry or thirsty or wait to use a restroom without a serious reason, we are causing harm. Period.

    Add to this the insistence that children sit still in a chair, even if they are familiar with what is being taught, and you have now completely lost the argument. Scientist and Educator Maria Montessori said that a child who has been forced to sit in a chair and stay there for long periods of time against their will is not a child disciplined but a child annihilated.

    It does not matter if your intentions are good and you are trying to help kids. The damage is being done despite your intentions.

    If you answer no to all of this and your classroom is nothing like this, then you are the exception to the rule, this article isn’t aimed at you, and you should stop looking for offense where none was intended.

    Author
  21. Has.A.Brain 24 October 2011 at 7:03 pm (PERMALINK)

    Umm… have you ever seen the inside of a classroom? Are you honestly suggesting that we let a child do whatever they want and they’ll learn? Or that kids stay home all day every day hanging out with their parents until they’re 20? How does that teach them how to be a responsible adult? Also, I’d like to hear about a school that refuses to let kids go to the bathroom or eat to the point that it results in medical issues. There is a huge difference between telling them to wait and telling them they can’t go to the bathroom or eat.
    Also, how are they supposed to hold down a job? You don’t get “play breaks” in the real world. All of what you suggest is just a formula for raising a kid to be a failure.

    Author
    • Laurie A. Couture 7 January 2012 at 3:31 pm (PERMALINK)

      Has.A.Brain,

      The hostility and lack of research by public school supporters stuns me sometimes! You asked, “Umm… have you ever seen the inside of a classroom?” Apparently you did not bother to click on my Bio to learn the answer to that question prior to posting. I was in public school against my will until graduation, I used to work in early childhood education (and ran three classrooms), I have visited around 50 K-12 schools over the years and I have been working with youth and consulting in schools for over a decade. I think that qualifies me to say yes, I have seen the inside of a classroom, and that is why I write what I write.

      It sounds like your idea of unschooling and homeschooling is not based on reality, nor do you seem to realize that children lived for thousands of years learning by playing, being close to parents and their communities and grew into responsible adults. It wasn’t until 1852 that forced public schooling was instituted- It was instituted because people become dangerously intelligent and self-sufficient when they learn on their own- They make terrible factory workers and don’t succumb easily to being obedient. Forced school was the answer. I’ll invite you to do the research on homeschooling, unschooling, parent-child attachment, and the history of public school, which should answer all of your questions.

      You said you’d like to “hear about a school that refuses to let kids go to the bathroom or eat to the point that it results in a medical issue”. How about just about every public school in the country? Some research would show you that when a child can’t respond to the urge to urinate or defecate, it puts the child at medical risk- There is no “to the point where”. Not eating or hydrating upon need can lead to dehydration and lowered blood sugar. I guess I assumed it was common sense that nature builds body signals into us to alert us to when the body must have a need met- If it was negotiable, I’m assuming the body would not be signalling a need. You might be interested in these links:

      http://www.nospank.net/frbw.htm

      http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12913750

      http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19233931

      And, scrolling down to the bottom of my homepage to The Archives of ChildAdvocate.org section, and donating $5. will allow you to read pages and pages of letters sent to me by parents whose children from preschool to high school have suffered due to being forced to delay their elimination needs:

      http://www.laurieacouture.com/

      I guess what I am curious about is why you believe that children need to grow up to go into “jobs” that oppress them or that mimic the terrible conditions of public schools? Is the traditional office/factory grind the only way that you can imagine someone making a living? How about the millions who work for themselves, work as consultants, authors, artists, musicians, webmasters, working at their passions? I guess if you believe that children should be locked in a building all day, not being allowed to respond to their basic needs, being miserable and bored, doing mindless busy-work, sitting at desks listening to teachers drone on and on and peers sneering harassing comments, then I guess it makes sense that you’d believe that the next logical step would be a “job” where similar mindlessness and abuse occurs.

      I have not held any adult jobs like you describe, and I never intend to in the future. I have never had a job that denied me the right to use the toilet (that is illegal, by the way, as it should be when it is done to children in school), and I have plenty of “play time” during my day (between consulting clients) to do physical activities, shoot hoops, spend time with my family, eat and relax. That is the “real world”. My heart goes out to you if you are spending your adult life in public school conditions.

      Laurie

      Author
  22. The Teacher 30 November 2011 at 1:30 am (PERMALINK)

    This article makes me absolutely sick to my stomach. Actually, I have never been more infuriated in my life. I won’t pretend that our education system is perfect. Probably far from it. But if YOU and these parents spent time supporting children’s academic needs, rather than criticizing teachers, we wouldn’t have children addicted to video games and jobless at 25. (Calling teachers ignorant and abusive isn’t going to fly in the education world. Name calling doesn’t usually result in change too often, Ms. Couture.) If we do not make parents and children responsible for their actions and their role in education, we are doing them an enormous disservice. We are teaching them to make excuses, instead of instilling valuable life lessons in them. As parents, you need to teach your child to be self starting. Teach them to initiate relationships with peers and to invest time in building their own intellectual agenda. By ignoring their academics and “homework,” you are teaching them not to care. You are teaching them to hate homework, thus resulting in the belief that furthering their education doesn’t matter.

    I spend 40 hours a week with my students. Add up the time you are home AWAKE with your child. Is it close to 40 hours? Didn’t think so. I watch them build relationships. I watch them grow as readers. I see their faces light up when they realize they got an answer right. I watch them discover a skill they didn’t know they had. I’m there to console them when there are problems at home. I’m there with band-aids when they fall. I’m Mom. I’m Dad. I’m Grandma. I’m Grandpa. I’m their support system when you’re not there. You’re not the only one who has a bond with this child.

    I reread the article, hoping to find some sense of clarity in your ideas. Alas, nothing. My only hope is that the parents who find themselves reading it use their damaging, prison-like education to help them realize that only an ignorant, mindless person would blindly believe this. (Sorry about the name calling. The Golden Rule keeps coming to mind…)

    Author
    • Laurie A. Couture 7 January 2012 at 2:02 pm (PERMALINK)

      The Teacher,

      It sounds like you were so sick to your stomach that you were unable to actually read my blog post, nor read about me and the fact that I spend more time with my son than you could ever spend with your students because he is unschooled. It saddens me when people skim posts or read only titles and a few choice snippets, then respond with aggressive remarks that could have been cleared up had you read the post thoroughly and researched my other posts as well. I’m guessing, The Teacher, that you would not tolerate such sloppy reading, research and presentation from your students. If you actually read the post you would have seen that I am advocating that children should NOT be forced into schools, that the natural state of children, how they lived and learned for millenia, was by learning by playing, doing and interacting freely with their environment, with their relationships with their families being the primary focus of their lives. The fact that you know people’s children better than their parents is actually very frightening, but before you ask me, “Add up the time you are home AWAKE with your child. Is it close to 40 hours? Didn’t think so”, I’d suggest you find out who my son and I are first. Is it close to 40 hours that I’m with my son a week? Try 105 waking hours a week minus the times he is out with his friends, interacting with the community, outside being physically active, attending groups, events and meetings based on his passions and interests- actually I’m with him for so much of that-(and of course he is allowed to meet his basic physical needs anytime he has the need). So yes, The Teacher, I’d say you were right when you said, “Didn’t think so”. Like most unschooling and homeschooling parents, we are involved with our children and their lives about THREE times as much as 40 hours a week!

      Laurie

      Author
  23. Michael Louton 5 January 2012 at 6:58 pm (PERMALINK)

    Just because your child who you raised incorrectly outside of school is having problems, does not mean that your anarchist agenda for school systems is correct. I am a senior in high school who loves the subjects he is taking. And you know what? I was a slacker. In your ideal program, I would have slacked off in every way, never learning anything because I was never made to. And now, my favorite classes are those that have been the fruit of the system, that I never ever could have achieved through your lax perspective on schooling. I love my Calculus and Government classes; Math and History have been my favorite two subject these past two years in high school. You don’t learn those two things from “exploration” until you get farther along, those two subjects seem pointless, because you are learning the basics of them. I hated history up until last year, because everything I was learning seemed pointless. However, I needed to learn those things so I could have a background for what I needed to learn to be able to understand those things which really interested me. And I could never have learned to understand Calculus or Statistics without first learning basic arithmetic, geometry, and algebra. You don’t learn all that from being “let loose and allowed to learn from exploration”. You learn that from studying well. And your ideas that children need more touching and time with parents is completely wrong. Those ideas merely stem from your own want for spending time with your children. Children staying too attached is what results in hindered social development, resulting in sociopathy and autism (YES, AUTISM). Children need to learn to function not necessarily alone, but away from their parents, and you can’t do that by confining them to your home. Actually, now that I think about it, my least favorite subject last year was one more akin to your beliefs – hands on and fun – Physics. My physics teacher neglected to teach us what we needed to learn about how physics works, which caused me to lose respect for him, and lose interest in physics. I wanted to learn how all physics worked mathematically, and he gave me what I could have just found in a video on the internet, instead of a class.

    That being said, I do agree that many teachers are doing things wrong. Not all, but many. Instead of completely removing an academic program, kids need to learn at their own pace, yet with a schedule. The real problem is that kids are being held back from their potential by having to remain on topics that they have mastered, instead of being able to spend more of the time they have saved through quick mastery on problems that they need longer to solve. Teachers should be teaching through a wide spectrum of tools, not have all but one tool taken away as you have suggested. For example, my Government teacher teaches through discussion, debate, lecture, reading, research, and videos. This allows for everyone in his classes to learn through methods that help them the most. Combined, they offer the most engaging and memorable experience possible. Last year, the same teacher taught my computer aided drafting class, a topic that I didn’t discover through “exploration” but because i had to take another class, and my friends were in it. In the class, he allowed us to progress through the program that he set up at our own pace, which I relished. With the type of freedom that he offered – keeping us on task, but without difficult deadlines – I excelled in the class, completing two years worth of the class in one year, faster than any of his students prior. And I loved it. I didn’t discover this type of work through investigating it, I was presented with a program and tasked with its completion. Sadly, the majority of classes do not work this way. Usually in classes, I was not encouraged to work ahead, but instead to inhibit myself through far too much class work than needed, which left me tired and overworked. That does not mean that homework is bad, merely that yes, there is far too much of it. Personally, the class that I hated most to take in all school was english, which offers far more homework than it ever should. I believe that math should be the only required class through all of school, though the level or type should not be specified, just that students should be required to be enrolled in a program. Students should be able to progress at their own pace in every single subject. Basing subject matter learned on grade should be abolished.

    Don’t bash on teachers. Stop preaching your “just doing orders” bull. They aren’t killing people, they are merely teaching how they have been taught is correct. That doesn’t mean that they are evil. Yes, there are SPARSE examples of teachers going far out of line, but it isn’t the norm. Most teachers are passionate about teaching. And yes, they cannot stray from the curriculum because they do not want to lose their jobs. You wouldn’t start doing things that would get you fired in your job either. This is a tough economy. No one can afford to do that. I respect all of my teachers. I know that they all could do better jobs, especially the ones that don’t try. But don’t belittle their efforts just because your child is a behavioral mess.

    But its not like it matters anyway. You’re just a children’s rights activist.

    Author
    • Laurie A. Couture 7 January 2012 at 1:39 pm (PERMALINK)

      Michael,

      At first I thought your response to my blog post was a parody of what mainstream people believe about school and parenting- I stopped chuckling when I realized you were serious and I felt very sad for your childhood and the damage done to you. Clearly you have not met any unschoolers or teens who have close and loving relationships with their parents- nor does it sound like you’ve met many actual sociopaths or people on the Autism spectrum and studied their lives. I am guessing from your email that your relationship with your parents is ambivalent and distant at best. I feel badly that you can’t see what you’ve missed out on by learning the way some of our most brilliant minds in history learned prior to 1852- with minimal or no schooling (1852 was when public school was first instituted, of course that is way after the Declaration of Independence and the founding of the country).

      So sorry that school has mangled your view of learning and family so much, causing you to believe that learning must occur in a shallow prison-like box, that children can’t learn and find learning resources on their own, that children can’t figure out that in order to do trig they need algebra, that close parent-child relationships cause sociopathy and autism (when actually the fields of psychology, anthropology and neuroscience have known for decades that sociopathy is caused by POOR, disrupted parent-child attachments and that Autism is a neurological and developmental disorder caused by genetics and environmental toxins).

      I can see the lack of critical thinking and lack of empathy and compassion for your own peer group, as well of a lack of understanding of basic child development, learning theory, psychology 101 and how humans lived through the millennia prior to industrialization, even a lack of knowledge about how the geniuses, forefathers and Masters of the past centuries learned (search famous homeschoolers)- Your presentation was very typical of how public school mold’s youth’s beliefs and constricts their ability to think outside the box.

      I could almost believe for a moment that a disgruntled adult wrote the post to make it appear as if a teen believed that way (this has happened before), but I am willing to give you the benefit of the doubt. I’m impressed that you had the free time to write so much given how consumed you must be with school and homework. Maybe you could use some of that time in the future to do some “homework” about what you are writing about before writing a scientifically and historically nonfactual rant on a social science professional’s blog.

      Laurie A. Couture

      Author
  24. Cinda 16 February 2012 at 2:01 pm (PERMALINK)

    May I just say that I am a teacher. I am a teacher that has a BA in BOTH psychology (with an emphasis on childhood psychology) and Theatre. I am also a teacher that has a Masters Degree in Elementary Education. My thesis was “Integrating Arts into the General Education Classroom to Enhance Student Achievement”. I teach in a traditional school. However, my methods of teaching are anything but “traditional”. I touch ALL of the multiple intelligences and all of the types of learning when I teach. My students learn through song, through field trips, through plays, through readers theatre, through dance, through movement, through copperative learning, and through technology.

    My students are allowed to bring water bottles into the classroom and drink from them when they need to. At almost every point in the day my students are allowed to take the pass and use the washroom. My students eat lunch late (NOT DUE TO ANY FAULT OF MY OWN) but we have snack during our day to combat that.

    Despite all of that, I have had the type of parents that Ron Clark talks about. I recently had a parent tell me “You’re not good enough to teach my child. You’d be fine teaching the younger one. After all… a cat could teach her”. There was NOTHING that I had done to deserve that type of insult. I spend my teaching hours (and then some) bending over backwards to find ways to help children grow. I give everything to my kiddos. And still I have parents that tell me I am simply a baby-sitter. I give everything to my kiddos. And still I have parents that are making excuses for why their child decided to call me “a f-ing B****.” I would never call a student names, degrade them by screaming at them, or telling them how awful they are. Yet I have parents that are degrading and dehumanizing me.

    I have some wonderful parents too. Parents that are always willing to go the extra mile and make “Mock Rocks” for science for me. I have parents that will help me cut out and prep any crafts that I do. Parents that are willing to come in and do costumes for our plays.

    Just like any public place that you encounter, you will have positive people and negative people. When teachers complain about parents- take it for what it’s worth. There is some truth to it. There is often times a common thread with what teachers have to say about parents. If it is that common- then maybe there is hint of truth mixed in. Maybe, just maybe it’s not ALL the teacher’s fault.

    Author
  25. Mark 17 April 2012 at 1:49 pm (PERMALINK)

    Let me start by saying that I am a fourth grade teacher and have a masters degree in elementary education. I have been teaching for five years now and I truly love my career and my sutdents with all my heart.

    After reading your article, there are some points that I agree with; however, overall it seems to me that you are not leaving this debate open for discussion. You think that you know everything and that your way is the only right way to do things. I’m here to tell you that public education and teachers are not perfect, but neither are you and your ideas.

    Here is a little picture of how I execute my classroom. I make sure that each and every unit has a combination of the multiple intelligences so that every learner has an equal chance to be successful. In fact, during the first month of school, I do a lesson on the multiple intelligences and have the students learn which intelligences they learn the best from. I always have my students work in small groups or partners in addition to sometimes working independently. Throughout each unit, the students receive a combination of social activities, hands on manipulatives, multiple intelligences and games to help them learn the skill. For example, I recently taught a unit on fractions. Although I do model this skill for them and require them to take notes and complete worksheets/tests, I also brought in Fraction Bingo, manipulatives to practice with, website games to try, fraction books to read and a culminating project where the students could work with friends to design a visual fraction using any materials in the room.

    I give my students extra recess, snack time in the morning whenever they feel they are getting hungry, access to water all day and weekly center time when I put out games and allow them to play as reinforcement. Whenever they need to use the bathroom, they do. Yes I give homework, but not every night and only when I feel like it will truly help them learn. I also make sure that I do not overload them so that they can have free time to just be kids and to spend with their families.

    Are there teachers out there that are not effectively helping our children? Absolutely. Does that mean that every teacher is harming students growth (as you seem to imply)? Absolutely not. You are generalizing your opinion to accuse all teachers and all schools of being ineffective. That is not true at all and it is unfair to make such accusations.

    I have received a Teacher of the Year Award. I have students tell me that I make learning fun and that they love being in my class. I have parents tell me that they appreciate all I do and that their children say how much they love me. Every single day I have students ask to stay longer with me after school instead of going home. Every day of the week I have at least 8 kids in my room after school ends, choosing to stay with me longer and admitting that they would rather be in school than go home to an empty house. When my students cry, I hug them and talk to them about their issues. When they have extracurricular activities, I make it a point to go cheer them on (giving up some of my own free time). When my students lose someone close to them, I always buy them a card and attend the wake. I laugh with my students and tell them how great they are each and every day. I respect them and they respect me.

    Are you still going to sit there and say that I am not a good teacher? That I am not fulfilling my students’ needs? That what I am doing is wrong? The truth is, some of the students are probably happier in school than they are at home. Some of them (not all) are receiving more love from me and their friends than they do at home. They are in a safe place where they can eat a healthy meal, socialize, learn and play. I know a lot of other teachers that feel the same way that I do – amazing teachers that give up so much of their free time to help these kids. You’re going to judge us and say that your way is better than ours?

    If you do, you are wrong.

    You say that rules, classroom management, and routines do not help children. I am here to say that they absolutely do. At some point, students need to learn how to follow rules and how to possess self control. If they do not, how will they ever survive as adults? How will they get a job and keep it? When they are adults and need to support themselves, they will work in places where there will be rules to follow. They will have to follow routines. It will not be all fun and games. They will have to adapt to other people’s orders and policies. They will have to wait for lunch time to eat. They will have to hold off on the bathroom until they can step away. They may be given work to take home with them that they must get done. If you teach your children that they should not have to do homework or follow other people’s rules, you are setting them up for failure. You are teaching them to ignore others and not take work seriously. When their boss gives them work to take home or to stay late finishing, you are basically saying that they should not have to do it. That it is ok to not follow directions. Where will that get them in the future? Fired. Jobless. Unable to support themselves.

    I can promise you that my students are having fun and learning to love education. They are being kids and spending plenty of time with loved ones. But I can also promise you that they are learning how to be self motivated and sucessful. They will know how to work hard and will grow up with self control, confidence and high academic knowledge. I am not saying that your ideas are wrong, but you should not judge others when you clearly do not know everything about what is going on in the public education field. You say that we have a choice to either teach in public education or to find a more effective teaching position that will nurture children. Well I am telling you that you also have a choice. You can keep your judgements to yourself or you can keep offending teachers that are simply trying to do their jobs and help children. If you choose to keep judging, than you are a huge part of the problem and part of the reason why education is not reaching its full potential. By judging and insulting, YOU are now the one who is hurting children and taking away their basic needs and setting them up for failure.

    Those that can’t do – teach. Those that can’t teach – should keep their comments to themselves.

    Author
    • Laurie A. Couture 28 April 2012 at 1:21 pm (PERMALINK)

      Mark,

      I appreciate the time you took to write, but my primary response is that your points are so typical of school teachers that you are missing the critical point of my blog posts, and all of my other posts: Public school is unnatural and strips children of their human rights. Compulsory/forced schooling in which an institution forces a certain group of citizens to be force-fed and held against their wills for 13 years of their lives is the antithesis to democracy. No matter what semblances of humane action or moments of fun you have in your classroom, the fact remains that you are colluding with a system that oppresses, dominates, imprisons and harms children. Nature intended children, (including teens) who are all unique individuals, to learn through and by playing, by following their own interests, by imitating the work of those adults they admire and by being part of a loving community of mixed aged youth and adults. Nature didn’t intend for children’s bodies to be sedentary, their bodily functions regimented and their developmental manner of learning (playing) to be viewed as superfluous; nature intended for children to live and learn in environments of family love, community support, positive adult modeling, peer socializing and hands-on real life experience.

      Unschoolers, relaxed homeschoolers and children in democratic free schools such as the Sudbury Valley School, live and learn this way everyday. No matter how many awards you win for throwing in a few moments of respite in a system where children are distracted from their own free will, your classroom can’t compare to the freedom and respect children receive as unschoolers, relaxed homeschoolers and students in democratic free schools. And although I am touched that you love your students (that is wonderful- I had a small handful of “Gem” teachers like you, too that made school more tolerable), you could never love my child like I love him and therefore, you could never meet his needs like I can and do.

      You may be interested in this other post of mine: http://www.laurieacouture.com/2011/10/im-generalizing-teachers-teachers-generalize-most-of-the-children-in-the-country/ as well as others which answer all of your questions and respond to each of your points.

      This all being said, you seem to be one of the teachers I refer to as “Gems”– teachers who are a respite for children. I encourage Gem teachers to subvert the system, read John Taylor Gatto, talk with children about how the system subjugates them, why it is wrong, how to protect themselves, how to subvert it and how to leave it. I challenge Gem teachers to stop colluding with the system and consider starting a democratic public learning community in their town, run like a charter school, or, to take a job at one of the many democratic schools around the country and world.

      To end, in response to your “Those that can’t do – teach. Those that can’t teach – should keep their comments to themselves” comment, I will leave you with these two remarks: 1. Telling someone to keep their comments to themselves is what keeps oppression (especially of children) alive and thriving and is a typical silencing tactic of school teachers that I refused to adhere to while in public school and I will refuse to adhere to now. 2. Choose to DO and free your students to DO (instead of them passively listening and sitting), and stop trying to teach; as you stated, it is a lack of doing that leads to teaching. Go do something you love and offer mentoring and individual instruction to youth who voluntarily want to learn your craft.

      Laurie

      Author
  26. Sarah 23 April 2012 at 8:27 pm (PERMALINK)

    So, I just finished reading “What Teachers Really Want Parents to Know” and then I read half of this article. I must say that I am SO disappointed that anyone would respond in this manner! I am in agreement with Mr. Clark and the statements in his article. It is the parents’ God-given responsibility to raise and train their children. If they do not agree with how the education system is run, then it is within their power to remove their children from that system. I am not at all saying that the educational system is flawless, far from it. However, I do not think that parents setting themselves in opposition to their children’s educators is at all the solution to any of the problems that do exist in education. A much better approach to helping the situation is for parents to utilize their rights as American citizens and influence the legislators who impose most of the restrictions that this article declares to be so fatal to the development of students. Even so, though, one cannot expect, in a classroom of 25 children, for teachers to allow the children to act without structure and schedule, that would lead to chaos and would totally prevent any sort of education at all. If a parent really has all of the concerns listed within this article then the most reasonable and practical response would be for that parent to withdraw his child and to homeschool him, which would give the freedom to allow his child all of the freedoms he feels that he needs. And I say this as a future educator. Although I know that if every family chose to do this, I risk losing my position. However, my desire as a teacher, and I would say the desire of most teachers, is that students learn and develop to their fullest potential and thus I would be willing to give up my career if that would be the result.

    Author
    • Laurie A. Couture 28 April 2012 at 11:56 am (PERMALINK)

      Sarah,

      I was going to delete your comment as you stated that you “read half of this article”. You should not comment without reading all of the points to prevent redundancy. Also, if you read the rest of my blog, all of your points have been answered. However, I wanted to respond to a couple of your statements.

      1. “It is the parents’ God-given responsibility to raise and train their children. If they do not agree with how the education system is run, then it is within their power to remove their children from that system.”

      Your use of the word “train” sounds like we are discussing circus animals. Children do not need to be trained. They need to be loved and parented in a compassionate, free, joyful environment, as children were raised for millennia in peaceful tribal societies. No one “trained” children then and in Attachment Parenting and Unschooling families today, no one “trains” children- Like the tribal children, our Attachment Parented, unschooled children are some of the most compassionate, caring, cooperative and peaceful people in society.

      If it is the responsibility of parents to help their children learn, then you might want to work towards having the compulsory forced schooling laws abolished that were instituted in 1852. Children were taken by force in the mid-1800’s beginning in Massachusetts and one town attempted to even fight back with guns to protect their children. Now, most parents are a product of the public school system and have been beaten down and subordinated by it and rendered by it with a sense of incompetence. Most don’t believe they can raise their own children, so they send them off to imprisoning environments. Teachers collude with this system by working in it rather than choosing to work in democratic child-centered schools.

      That brings me to your next point:

      2. “…[O]ne cannot expect, in a classroom of 25 children, for teachers to allow the children to act without structure and schedule, that would lead to chaos and would totally prevent any sort of education at all. ”

      That is why I advocate for unschooling.

      However, over a century of democratic free schools around the world have proven your point incorrect. Summerhill, The Sudbury Valley School in Massachusetts, The Albany Free School in New York and many other democratic schools highlighted in books by A.S. Neill, Jerry Mintz, Ivan Illich, Matt Hern and others have been running democratically, with children learning freely for years. In democratic schools, children all do what they want, when they want, how they want with no rigid structures, inhumane rules and no regimentation of bodily functions. Children have equal say in all votes, including rules, as these schools are run as democracies. Far from being chaotic, these schools are buzzing with passion, life, joy and happy children who are generally cooperative, kind, respectful of one another and who are able to pursue their passions and interests. Teachers function as facilitators and guides, not dictators and police. When children are treated in this respectful, humane manner, it is remarkable how healthy, symbiotic and cooperative the atmosphere. It sounds like you could really benefit from some deschooling, especially if you are planning to actually enter the system and become one of the oppressors.

      To take a quote from a previous blog post, “Unschoolers, relaxed homeschoolers and children in democratic schools demonstrate everyday, year after year, as they have for decades that interest-led, play-based, democratic learning grows joyful, intelligent, creative, brilliant, confident, successful and passionate children! If these [democratic free] schools can pull it off with such success, why not public schools? Some of the most innovative minds in history and in the world today never attended school. In fact, many unschooled and homeschooled children run businesses, are public speakers, authors, performing musicians, artists, artisans or inventors and some even attend college early.”

      Laurie

      Author
  27. Rob D 28 April 2012 at 1:15 am (PERMALINK)

    1) In your response to Megan: “The last thing children need is for their parents to align with teachers.” Please explain why parents and teachers working together to create the best system for the child is a bad thing. (If you meant to imply that parents shouldn’t align with teachers against their children, I’d understand that, but even in context, that’s not implicit by any means)

    2) In response to Greg’s difficulties with “Remember, the majority of these parents that you claim are lazy and uninvolved are almost all products of the very school system you claim they should support.” You blame the system for their attitudes and lots in life, and yet when teachers point to the system as the source of their issues, you tell them that being part of a system is never an excuse. This is inherently hypocritical, so please explain this contradiction without merely implying that I am missing the point of the article or taking your words out of context, as you have with several other like-minded responses.

    3) In response to Has.A.Brain’s rant, you state that public school “…was instituted because people become dangerously intelligent and self-sufficient when they learn on their own.” Please provide a source for this. It is extremely difficult for me take as fact that the United States public school system was created solely to suppress intellectual growth.

    4) Later in that same response, you mention that you “…have not held any adult jobs like [Has.A.Brain describes], and [you] never intend to in the future.” You explain that you would never want to have one of those jobs, and that your situation is “the real world” for you. However, there are many hard-working parents in the U.S. that DO have jobs that dictate their hours away from home. These jobs are integral to the productivity of the country, and without them, the infrastructure of the American economy would collapse, I feel as though this is straight forward enough to be an accepted fact. The vast majority of these parents cannot home-school their children, cannot afford to have their children tutored, and do not live near enough to a democratic school for attendance to be feasible. What do you suggest these parents do?

    I feel as though you make a great deal of fascinating points. I am middle school Piano instructor and try to keep my classroom fresh and exciting. However, I need my students to remain seated for the majority of the class so that they can play their instruments. I allow bathroom and water breaks at all times. I assign no homework. I do not allow students to have food or drinks at their stations for the basic reason that the equipment is easily damaged through spills and crumbs. Unlike many other teachers, I allow students to socialize during and after the completion of their in-class assignments. I feel that, although I am part of the system that you loathe, I do an excellent job regarding the basic needs of my students.

    In the end, even though I do all of this, your article is an attack on me as much as any teacher. You explain to one commenter that “…by ‘you’ I meant Ron Clark and the teachers he represents.” However, you never say that. At no point in this article do you intimate that. Your last words before beginning the list are:

    “…based on the years of complaints I have heard from parents and their children about traditional schools, I have compiled a list of concerns and presented them to teachers in the context of their own education.”

    Through this wording, you are implying that the target of the diatribe that follows is just about all teachers in traditional schools. You made no attempt to make clear the difference between Ron Clark and his disciples and any other teacher. It is an unfair and irresponsible clumping of educators and it is the biggest I cannot take this article to heart. Which is it, all teachers or just Clark and his group? Considering you wrote this article to respond to the “dangerous” nature of Ron Clark’s generalizations, it is absolutely mind-boggling to me that you turned around and did the very thing that you condemned Clark for doing.

    I look forward to hearing your response.

    ~Rob D, Connecticut

    Author
    • Laurie A. Couture 28 April 2012 at 12:31 pm (PERMALINK)

      Rob D,

      You are a piano teacher, you are not the type of teacher I am addressing. Assuming children come to piano lessons at their will, you are not a hostage keeper, dictator, babysitter, but a person providing a service that a child is (I’m assuming) requesting at their will. My posts are addressing classroom teachers who are paid to hold youth hostage against their wills in buildings at desks, force-feeding/injecting them an agenda that is irrelevant to their personal lives and developmentally inappropriate. Unschooled and homeschooled youth voluntarily attend music lessons all the time, as well as many other types of lessons. My own son took piano, guitar, rocketry and rock climbing lessons and many other classes at his will, as an unschooler. You trying to compare children forced to be in public school classes all day with their human rights violated and their own passions and interests ignored is not a comparison to youth attending a piano lesson and being asked to keep their water and food a few feet away from an expensive instrument.

      However, if your students are there against their will, or due to coercion, then any art or music teacher could easily abuse that dynamic and run the lesson like a dictatorship rather than as a way to encourage and enrich a child’s talents. I had a piano teacher at age nine who, upon her getting new glasses, became infuriated realizing that I had penciled in tiny drawings of the letters representing the notes because I was struggling to memorize the notes without the reminders (I was and still am a visual artist and a person who thinks in vivid pictures). Rather than praising and encouraging my ingenuity and my unique way of learning (which was actually helping me memorize the notes), she freaked out, feverishly began erasing pages of my tiny drawings and insisted that it was “wrong”, that it was unacceptable and I wasn’t “really learning”. Needless to say, I ran out of her room at the end of her tirade and never returned to studying the piano. Teachers, in their need to “be right”, can truly stifle and destroy a child’s unique way of learning.

      I will answer one other of your questions:

      “…[P]lease explain why parents and teachers working together to create the best system for the child is a bad thing. (If you meant to imply that parents shouldn’t align with teachers against their children, I’d understand that, but even in context, that’s not implicit by any means).”

      Children and their own parents should be the only team discussing any “system” best for the child. Children have a birth right to live and learn in accordance with their unique and individual callings and blueprints for life. Each child naturally knows what he/she needs to learn and the best way to learn it. The job of parents is to facilitate, guide and connect children with community resources (including classes if desired) to help nurture their children’s learning and passions. If a teacher is selected by the child, then the child and parent together can discuss with the teacher how they can best “work together” to meet the child’s needs, not the adult’s agenda. What you are suggesting is leaving the child out of something that is affecting his/her very well being and life- Two powerful adults aligning against the child to conform the child to the system. You might want to read my son’s response to Ron Clark’s article, as he addresses how he would feel if I aligned against him with a teacher: http://www.laurieacouture.com/2011/10/what-children-really-want-to-tell-teachers/

      I encourage you to read the rest of my blog posts, including this one: http://www.laurieacouture.com/2011/10/im-generalizing-teachers-teachers-generalize-most-of-the-children-in-the-country/ to answer the rest of your questions- I have already answered most, if not all, of your questions several times in my posts.

      Laurie

      Author
  28. C 28 April 2012 at 2:49 am (PERMALINK)

    I have to agree with many of your points here but also must agree with Sara. I was in one of the supposed “top ten” schools of the nation, had to pass tests to get in, all of that jazz. I had some wonderful teachers but I also had so many cruel ones. I was a straight-A potential student, worked hard to be that way but so many teachers didn’t even teach hat they were teaching so that i was understandable. I had one teacher, a geometry teacher, who had an “It’s my way or the highway” version of teaching, yet what she taught was so hard too figure out that finding other ways to do it on your own became the easiest, yet you would fail if you didn’t do it the way they were taught.

    Another thing I’d like to add here is a lot of these teachers, not all, but several, don’t stop to think about the mentality of their students. During my sophmore year of high school I was raped, three times, one the school knew about, the other they did not. They gave me 3 days off of school then I had to be back and not only make up the work I had missed but continue on through school as if nothing had changed.

    I wound up skipping a lot of classes and going hom or sleeping in bathrooms because I didn’t feel safe. The man was still lose, had been a cop, and had had guns at his disposal the last time I had checked. So I can speak from experience that this is not healthy for attempting to “learn” anything as all I wanted to do was escape.

    I had many teachers that tried to be sympathetic as best they could within the restricted bounds of the school district’s “rules,” even had one go so far as to not mark me down as not being there when I would skip his class, but I definantly agree that the school system needs changed and the teachers who don’t believe in how the students are treated are the crucial key in doing so.

    Parents and children can raise their voices against it all they want and can slowly see change but if teachers start taking jobs at other schools that are not like this, or start speaking out against the district, or even implementing their own rules within the classroom, they change could happen faster.

    Author
  29. Siobhan 28 April 2012 at 10:24 am (PERMALINK)

    You make several important points in your article, Laurie. I wish that instead of attacking the individuals in “the system” that are, generally, advocating for children, you would attack the lawmakers, politicians, corporations, and administration that are responsible for the policies you are criticizing.

    You, I assume, are not only financially secure enough, but also motivated and proactive, to find such an individualized curriculum for your child. Unfortunately, a lot of families are unable to devise a plan like that for their children. I whole-heartedly advocate unschooling, homeschooling, private schools, and additional alternative education models. Public education exists because everyone deserves access to education. At this point, I believe you would take issue: are public schools actually providing education?

    Sometimes. Unfortunately, teachers, who know their students, are not the ones in power in the schools that I’ve worked in. I work as an elementary public school teacher because I believe that all children deserve the opportunity to learn to read, to spell, to calculate, to think creatively, critically, and with compassion for others. I feel as if I am an inside-spy, subversively helping support children in an environment that is not tailored to their needs.

    I will not abandon my students, as you suggest, by finding a better system to work within. The public school system is the only option for many of my students. All I can do is work to change it from within. Instead of attacking me, and the colleagues I assure you do exist, please reconsider your over generalizations and verbal attacks on the ” you”s in public education. There are certainly individuals in schools, in teacher positions, who encapsulate the criticisms you’ve identified. But I hope that you recognize that some of us are truly there because we love children and want to help them in a society that often forgets their existence.

    Also, I would never deny my students the opportunity to use the restroom, to drink water, to spend time with their families during a special time (celebratory or mournful), or to have home time BE home time.

    Author
    • Laurie A. Couture 28 April 2012 at 11:00 am (PERMALINK)

      Siobhan,

      You assumed wrong about me. I am a single Mom living on an income that many would say is impossible and I will assume is far less secure than yours. Financial security isn’t the issue. No matter how dire my financial situation, I would not put my son in the toxic, abusive environment of public school. It is love, not finances that motivates me. I don’t view public school as an option.

      You also assumed wrong about “having a curriculum” for my child. He is an unschooler. As nature intended, his “curriculum” is following his passions and interests, to do what he loves, to play and be loved. Anyone who follows our family’s journey knows my son has accomplished exceptional achievements, like many unschooled youth who aren’t held against their will and force fed someone else’s agenda.

      Glad to read that you “don’t deny” the children in your classroom the right to meet bodily needs, but you are in the minority. And I find it hard to believe that you assign NO homework (you wrote that you let “home time BE home time”) but if so, I am impressed. That doesn’t negate the fact that time with family and friends and community should be ALL the time, not just when you and your school sees fit.

      You say you won’t “abandon” your “students”. In other words, you will continue colluding with the system and holding youth hostage. Unless you do what John Taylor Gatto did, which was to sneak children out into the community and truly turn his class times into opportunities to subvert the system (with the parents on board), you are only keeping the children locked into their own oppression.

      Laurie

      Author
  30. Lisa Zapantis 29 December 2012 at 5:17 am (PERMALINK)

    Your desperately needed steadfast conviction and absolute commitment to children’s inalienable birthrights are so fiercely powerful that such strong reactions are expected. Einstein said it best; “Great spirits have always found violent opposition from mediocre minds.” Shine your light, Laurie. The World needs you!!!

    Author
  31. Coco 2 June 2014 at 9:37 pm (PERMALINK)

    If you don’t like it, don’t send your children to school. Actually raise them yourself.

    Author
    • Laurie A. Couture 3 June 2014 at 6:13 pm (PERMALINK)

      Coco,

      That’s exactly what I did, and I help other parents do the same. If you read my articles, you would be aware that my son unschooled through graduation.

      Laurie

      Author

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