Education Readings August 8th

By Allan Alach

I welcome suggested articles, so if you come across a gem, email it to me at

This week’s homework!


Thinking about One’s Thinking

“Metacognition is, put simply, thinking about one’s thinking.  More precisely, it refers to the processes used to plan, monitor, and assess one’s understanding and performance. Metacognition includes a critical awareness of a) one’s thinking and learning and b) oneself as a thinker and learner.”

‘This kind of explicit instruction will help students expand or replace existing learning strategies with new and more effective ones, give students a way to talk about learning and thinking, compare strategies with their classmates’ and make more informed choices, and render learning “less opaque to students, rather than being something that happens mysteriously or that some students ‘get’ and learn and others struggle and don’t learn”’

An Open Letter To My Son’s Second Grade Teacher

My son is a curious kid. He’s high-energy and artistic and he loves thinking deeply. He’s a sensitive soul and sometimes the smallest amount of criticism can feel crushing.  I could tell you the ideal way to teach him. I’d probably tell you to avoid the stickers. Opt out of homework. Go with qualitative feedback instead of grades. Forget the Class Dojo points and the Firebird Dollars and think instead about being ethical.”

Run schools like a business? Flip that theory to see flaws

“This is an absurd comparison, yet schools are continuously compared to a business model, which, when reversed, would be considered stupid by those in “business,” for there would be little if any profit, and the expectations of 100 percent success are delusional at best.”

One True Path

Another great article on Curmudgucation by Peter Greene.

“This is one of the fundamental articles of faith for reformsters– there is One True Path to a good life, to happy, healthy, productive adulthood. This idea– along with its corollary (all happy, healthy, productive adult lives look pretty much the same)– is so patently, observably false that I resist writing about it because I feel as if I’m using a slice of the internet to argue that grass is usually green. But as long as these guys keep saying it, we have to keep pointing out that it’s wrong.”

Child Prodigies and the Assault on Creativity

This is a very good article, that examines how the system restricts opportunities for children, especially those with Aspergers, ADD/ADHD, and other so-called disorders.

“For some time now, the education system has been geared increasingly towards controlling children in an authoritarian environment (much research has been conducted into the comparison between schools and prisons), preparing them for a regimented series of arbitrary tests to make them suitable for a particular vocation.” 

This assault on genuinely creative and original modes of thinking is inevitable, given that the ruling elites of the system are characterized by psychopathy, a personality trait which is inherently incapable of creative thought.”

Payment by results – a ‘dangerous idiocy’ that makes staff tell lies

Not that neoliberals will take any notice, of course…

“Here’s why: payment by results does not reward organisations for supporting people to achieve what they need; it rewards organisations for producing data about targets; it rewards organisations for the fictions their staff are able to invent about what they have achieved; it pays people for porkies.”

What do standardized tests actually test?

Another excellent article by US educator Marian Brady, a leading voice in the US anti-GERM campaign.

“That’s three very different approaches to teaching—telling, showing, and involving. The first two lend themselves to standardized testing. The third one—the only one that really works—doesn’t. It says that what needs to be evaluated are the outcomes of personal experience, and personal experience is very likely to be too individual, too idiosyncratic, too much a product of a teachable moment exploited or created by the teacher, for its outcome to be evaluated by machine-scored standardized test items.”

The Danger of Back to School:Children’s Mental Health Crises Plummet in Summer and Rise in the School Year

Another very useful article by Peter Gray – brings back memories of the torture that was my experience of Rotorua Boys High School.

“School, too often, is exactly like the kind of nightmare job that I just described; and, worse, it is a job that kids are not allowed to quit.  No matter how much they might be suffering, they are forced to continue, unless they have enlightened parents who have the means, know-how, and will to get them out of it.  Including homework, the hours are often more than those that their parents put into their full-time jobs, and freedom of movement for children at school is far less than that for their parents at work.”

This week’s contributions from Bruce Hammonds:

Habits for Success in School and Life

Bruce’s comment: A number of schools in NZ have implemented Art Costa’s Habits of Mind. The link below will refresh your appreciation of  the thinking habits.

‘The 16 Habits of Mind are drawn from a modern view of intelligence that casts off traditional abilities-centered theories and replaces them with a growth mindset for remaining open to continuous learning, another important habit. These habits are often called soft skills or non-cognitive skills. In fact, these skills are among the most difficult to develop because they require a great deal of consciousness. Ultimately, they become an internal compass that helps us answer the question, “What is the most ‘thought-full’ thing that I can do right now?”’

How to Make Your Classroom a Thinking Space

Take a moment and imagine a creative work environment. Don’t worry about the kind of work going on. Just focus on the space. Close your eyes and picture it. What is that space like? What does it sound like? How are people interacting? Is there movement? Is there evidence of work in progress? Is it tidy, or busy-messy? Can you imagine working there?”

“Think back to your mental image of a creative workplace. Was the place you imagined a school? If the answer was “no,” why not? School is a work place for 55 million people in the United States where 51.5 million student “workers” and 3.5 million teachers are charged with shaping the future. That’s a big job. That’s work!”

6 Things for Children to Understand About Writing and 4 Ways to Help Them Get Started

We understand that if kids don’t read and write over the summer, their reading and writing muscles grow slack. They lose some of their imaginative muscle. Just like a coach sees the difference in her players if they spent the summer lounging instead of being active, I certainly see a literary sluggishness in my students if they return to school in the fall without picking up a book or writing in their journals with true engagement.”

Learning your way into the future – applied to a Space Study

A blog posting by Bruce.

A recent TED Talk presenter, when talking about developing innovative enterprises, said the future was about learning not education. He continued that education is what others do to you – learning you do for yourself and that it is important to learn how to learn. ‘We need’, he said, ‘to learn our way forward’.” And:

A visit to your local primary or secondary schools will show that teachers are still teaching as if it is they who control the learning. Current teachers reflect the way they themselves were taught or are conformed by accountability systems and pre-defined curriculums.”

An article by Bruce for New Zealand readers:

Nigel Latta: The new ‘Haves and Have Nots’ – time for Moral Leadership in New Zealand

“Even the idea that education is seen as a basis for a successful life is in doubt.  Students mount up tremendous debts. University students leave with $50000 loan debts and still have trouble finding jobs. Even students of the middle class are feeling the squeeze – something never experienced by their parents. Free education is a myth.”


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