Thursday, March 31, 2011

this amputated view of human nature

Melissa Cordero sent me this article by David Brooks, "The New Humanism."

Here's a sample:
"When we raise our kids, we focus on the traits measured by grades and SAT scores. But when it comes to the most important things like character and how to build relationships, we often have nothing to say. Many of our public policies are proposed by experts who are comfortable only with correlations that can be measured, appropriated and quantified, and ignore everything else.

"Yet while we are trapped within this amputated view of human nature, a richer and deeper view is coming back into view. It is being brought to us by researchers across an array of diverse fields: neuroscience, psychology, sociology, behavioral economics and so on.

"This growing, dispersed body of research reminds us of a few key insights. First, the unconscious parts of the mind are most of the mind, where many of the most impressive feats of thinking take place. Second, emotion is not opposed to reason; our emotions assign value to things and are the basis of reason. Finally, we are not individuals who form relationships. We are social animals, deeply interpenetrated with one another, who emerge out of relationships."

7 Sins of Forced Education

Rakesh Agrawal often sends me stories to read. Here's another from Psychology Today: "7 Sins of our system of forced education."

Don't get hung up on the section about schools as prisons. If you're interested in Gray's argument, read it. He's quite convincing. Otherwise, skip ahead to the section on The Sins.

Author Peter Gray says, "It is not easy to force people to do what they do not want to do. We no longer use the cane, as schoolmasters once did, but instead rely on a system of incessant testing, grading, and ranking of children compared with their peers. We thereby tap into and distort the human emotional systems of shame and pride to motivate children to do the work."

Friday, March 25, 2011

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Here's an invitation I sent today:

Faculty, Staff and Board:

Service is at the core of our mission. In my Weekly Post letter last week, I quoted Post Oak alumnus Nikkil Schneider who said simply, “That’s just what we do.” Service is baked in to Montessori kids from the earliest age. For us, service to others is more than a food drive at Thanksgiving. It is a character trait whose roots are nourished in the infant community classroom when one two-year old helps another put on a sweater.

Montessori kids learn to give help and to receive help in matters of practical life, and in their studies as well. What do you call it when one child helps another in class? Cheating? That’s what most schools call it. We call it the ideal. Business writer Steven Covey agreed. He said that the traditional American ideal has always been to move from the dependence of childhood to the independence of adulthood. Covey suggests that an even higher state of development comes when we recognize and embrace our interdependence. Once again Dr. Montessori was ahead of her time. In the Montessori elementary curriculum we present a chart entitled “Interdependencies” when we study the organization of society. That is an academic model, an intellectual construct, one that becomes a lens through which the Montessori student views the world. On a more concrete and practical plane, helping each other from the earliest age is augmented by service to the classroom community, to the school as a whole, and then service to the wider community as the child matures and their worldview expands.

Montessori graduates understand that their work is a part of the network of interdependencies that comprise our society. In that way, all work is service. Beyond that, Montessori graduates have learned to give and to receive help. They have learned that this is a core value of community, and so they look to serve. As Post Oak alum Lt. Will Treadway said when I asked him to connect the dots between Montessori education, West Point, and a career in the military, “Leadership and service.”

And so I am pleased to see that the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS) is promoting service. Read about its “One Million Hours of Service Initiative” . NAIS Executive Director Pat Bassett frames service as part of the “public purpose” of private schools.

I would like to contribute our voice to this dialog and am asking for volunteers who are willing to lead this project for Post Oak. Please let me know if you are interested.


Baked In

“You can’t understand Google,” vice president Marissa Mayer says, “unless you know that both Larry and Sergey were Montessori kids.” She’s referring to schools based on the educational philosophy of Maria Montessori, an Italian physician born in 1870 who believed that children should be allowed the freedom to pursue their interests. “In a Montessori school, you go paint because you have something to express or you just want to do it that afternoon, not because the teacher said so,” she says. “This is baked into how Larry and Sergey approach problems. They’re always asking, why should it be like that? It’s the way their brains were programmed early on.”

But the dominant flavor in the dish is his boundless ambition, both to excel individually and to improve the conditions of the planet at large.

From “Larry Page Wants to Return Google to its Start-up Roots”

Monday, March 14, 2011

Reason vs Emotions

From Post Oak parent Melissa Cordero:


I love reading about the “deeper talents” that some are just now recognizing the importance of as if revolutionary; and which have been the core of Montessori education for a century!

Enjoy your Spring Break,