Empathy is Great, But It’s No Silver Bullet for Ed Reform and Poverty

Empathy is the bedrock of our civilization. Without it, we might as well pack up our tent and leave the planet. We can’t have enough of it—in government, in schools, in families, in communities, and the world.

Kids develop empathy earlier than we ever could have ever imagined, as Alison Gopnik, a professor of psychology and philosophy at Berkeley, has been reminding us for years. Such a revelation. But they do so with other human beings—in a dance choreographed from birth. As the human ecologist, Urie Bronfenbrenner, wrote:

In order to develop — intellectually . . . Read full article →

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A Moment of Conscience: Toward a Family-Friendly U.S.A.

Last week, my stepson’s wife returned to work after a three-month maternity leave. As she wrapped up the first days of her work-family balancing act, President Obama addressed the nation, a sneak preview of the White House Summit on Working Families. “Family leave. Childcare. Flexibility. These aren’t frills – they’re basic needs,” Obama declared. “They shouldn’t be bonuses – they should be the bottom line.” He spoke to the deepest desires of parents—women, and increasingly men:

At a time when women make up about half of America’s workforce, outdated workplace policies that make it harder for . . . Read full article →

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Trickle-Down Academics and the Early Grades: A Case of Deja Vu

Each generation of education reformers thinks it’s forging a new path. Such hubris. As any historian will tell you, we’re traveling in well-worn grooves, protected by a case of amnesia.

In 1988, the year my son started kindergarten, an article by Lorrie A. Shepard and Mary Lee Smith appeared in The Elementary School Journal, out of the University of Chicago. With the no-nonsense title, “Escalating Academic Demand in Kindergarten: Counterproductive Policies,” the authors depict a situation that, pretty much to a tee, resembles our state of affairs today. More than a decade before No Child . . . Read full article →

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Rethinking Kindergarten, or How to Avoid A.D.D. in the Pursuit of Higher Test Scores

Last week, Jan Hoffman, a reporter at the New York Times, weighed in on the latest findings of a study focused on—are you ready?—interior design in the kindergarten. It seems that cluttered classrooms have joined the growing list of detriments to children’s cognitive development:

The study, one of the first to examine how the look of these walls affects young students, found that when kindergartners were taught in a highly decorated classroom, they were more distracted, their gazes more likely to wander off task, and their test scores lower than when they were taught in a room . . . Read full article →

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