Education, education, education ..

It’s the drum I beat in every political, civic or social discussion I have. It is so basic and so necessary that it seems too obvious to be the fix we are looking for. Fixing, improving and expanding our public school systems is no easy task. I understand, personally, I did my best with our local K-8 school and it was a snake pit obstacle course with head winds. There are vast competing interests, egos, philosophies and economies, the deck is very stacked against change. If we are going to close the divide in this country we have to dig in and start here.

I am not talking about test scores. That is a fools distraction and proves only that special interests are the winners. Real, enriched and in-depth education that promotes thinking and real problem solving for all our children is what I mean. This includes literacy, art, music, civics, global history, math – beyond just the rote numbers, the sciences and all in a safe place with well paid teachers. No small task. We have to get there. We have to invest in this or we will loose our country for good.

Let’s look to countries like Denmark, Norway, Sweden and Finland who spend some of the most money on education as a percentage of their gross domestic product, according to the World Bank. These Scandinavian nations all ranked in the top third of Best Countries istock_000014186302mediumby Education, generally outperforming Asian nations. (Source) We can take what works and improve on the rest. These countries, not coincidentally, also rank among the top 10 places for quality of life for all it’s citizens.

The conspiracy lover in me thinks that the defunding methodically, over the last 20 years of public education and demonizing the educated has been a slow and deliberate plan to make the electorate ignorant, uniformed and susceptible to believing just about anything. It is much easier to rule an uneducated population. H.G. Wells was not wrong when he created the Eloi. All you need is to scare them enough and they will pretty much do whatever you tell them.

This election is a wake up call for all of us. Once the protesting and fervor dies down, I hope we will all get to the hard work of fixing what lead us here.

Read this article by Nate Silver: LINK

 

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Not a Dys-Ability

I need to rant a little here today…3f4b7446e642eecc10735b7cf43fbae8

As you know I have been doing a lot of thinking, writing and reading on the subject of Dyslexia lately. A list has been made on twitter , News alerts on google, sites bookmarked and I am starting to think about getting re-diagnosed.

All this to say STOP thinking of Dyslexia as a disability. Just cut it out. It is no more a handicap than being left handed makes you the puppet of the devil or redheads turn into vampires when they die. In this culture where being sick is equal to being special, please stop counting Dyslexia among your lazy Susan of options to feel sorry. If I read one more “The Warning Signs” dun dun dun… headline I am going to scream!

Yes, we learn differently. News flash .. everyone learns differently from each other. We are not robots that can all easily fit into the industrialized education system we have made for ourselves. Not all of us fit so nicely in the warehouse model of “school”. It is not the job of “Education” to be a place to stash your kids while you go to work, make the lives of teachers and administrators easy, fit into silent rows of desks or for the love of Peter, expect good results on tests that measure NOTHING.

5009895781_6129f801b0_bCome on people, asking an 8 year of any stripe to sit quietly and still for 8 hours is the real issue here. Those that think this is a good idea are the disabled ones.. How stupid and out of touch with reality do you have to be? I mean really?

Why is it expected for us to conform to your system? We are 1 in 5.. And that is not including all the other learning styles out there.. When did the institution, School, become the god we have to all bow to? Where is the populist revolution I keep hearing about?

Across the street from my apartment is a Success Academy, I here the children chanting daily “Good Morning Miss …, A, B, C,..” and so on, in unison, all neatly lined up in a row against the wall in their uniforms. It makes my skin crawl.. It’s good to teach children to conform and submit to authority early right? Lesson learned at the Success Academy.

There is a huge and widening gap between school and education. Our society is suffering for it. The evidence is in our election choices and the rise of things like racism and isolationism.

Singling out the Dyslexics, spectrum, ADHD, behavioral issued and underserved as the excuse for a broken, ill conceived system is a losing proposition. It’s not the kids or the learning styles that’s the problem.

Further reading: The Dyslexic Advantage, Unlocking the Hidden Potential of the Dyslexic Brain. by Brock L. Eide M.D. M.A.  Fernette F. Eide M.D. (@drseide)

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To my true mind all of the sounds of the alphabet are arbitrarily assigned symbols that represent those sounds. It’s the arbitrary part that always caused me the most trouble. Someone, somewhere in the 1st millennium BCE – likely an old, mean monk – decided the sound “pah” should look like “P” combining at least three different alphabets. Everyone acquiesced and then POOF several thousand years later I am just supposed to agree? (I can hear an english teacher I had in the 8th grade shaking her head and say, ”dear, dear, Aryn, why do make it so hard?”…)

2015-03-05-04-54-34-pmIn a way Dyslexics are natural born linguistic philosophers. No part of letters or numbers is taken for granted. It is only through conscious repetition that sound and symbol eventually get married. Now, you are saying to yourself, isn’t that true for all kids? Yes, to a degree. The difference is that there is always a lingering skepticism. There is always some air between sound, meaning and symbol. This makes reading forever slow.

“The large brown cow grazes in the green meadow.” You skim, “Lg Brwn Cow Grazes Grn Meadow”. I read “The   large   brown   cow   grazes   in   the   green   meadow”. You will forget that sentence by breakfast tomorrow. I will forever have an impression of Ferdinand with a flower behind his ear grazing in the tall green grasses outside of Madrid not remembering where I read such a lovely sentence but glad nonetheless.

Teachers are the saviors for us Dyslexics. (They can also be our biggest hurdles.. I have heard some pretty terrible stories) Good, well trained, patient, loving teachers are what make the difference. I had three that I can remember clear as day. I’m even friends on Facebook with one of them – shout to you MM! There were others, like my Chemistry teacher in the 10th grade who seeing that I was smart, but totally ill equipped for science, and wanting me to at least learn something in his class, let me write a 20 page paper on the Armenian Genocide just to pass – Thank you Mr. A. (He is Armenian and was lobbying in his off hours to have the genocide recognized officially by the UN)

There were also the countless hours with parents and guardians hovering and helping. My step mother would take dictation and type my papers for me. Into the wee hours of the night my mother would all but write my papers for me. Uncle M. would help me with geometry and my poor dad would try and muster the patience to explain multiplication again for the tenth time – 7s still give me trouble. It always confounded him that I could grasp scale, but multiplying 9×7 was torture. All this and the tutors, it truly takes a village.

My stepmother tells this story, she challenged the then headmaster of The Calhoun School to stay true to her word, that they wanted children of all learning styles. It’s right there in the mission statement still, “At Calhoun, teaching and learning begin with the strengths, needs, questions and diverse life experiences of the individual student.” I can promise you telling my stepmom “no” is not easy. So, that is where I went for eight years. Thank goodness I did. Progressive education saved me.

Most class curriculums, including most progressive formats, are based on the concept that you build up on the lessons before it. This is done linearly. The essential assumption in that concept is that the students must commit the lessons to memory and be fluid with the information. Often we do not get fluid and some simply can’t memorize any more than they could turn themselves purple. Imagine trying to do Algebra when you are still counting on your fingers.

Things like Math and Science are taught with a heavy amount of rote memorization and “it’s true because it is so”. We have already established that, for me, that argument is fruitless. I have always wondered how much easier and fun it would be, not just for the Dyslexics in the room, but all the kids, if curriculums were turned upside down and inside out. Teach the concept, the reasons, the stories and then the facts and figures. Use the numbers and signatures to illustrate the content. This way you would have a population that at least understood the basic principles of physics, even if they cannot do the problems. It should be noted here that 1 in 5 Americans are Dyslexic. Progressive could take on a new gravitas and not just be code for small classes and hands on projects.

I have mentioned this over the years to a number of teacher friends and heard all the lazy reasons why it won’t work. I can tell you that A Brief History of Time and The Tao of Physics are among my favorite books. Smart is not the issue. Different is not lesser. Once culture truly absorbs that, then anything could be possible.

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#Dyslexia #DyslexiaAwarenessMonth #Adulting #Education #LearningDisabled #Neurodiversity