"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Susan O's Letter to the NYTimes

Posted August 8:

To the Editor:
I witnessed the educational abuse of South Korean children documented in “How South Korea Enslaves Its Students,” by Se-Woong Koo (Sunday Review, Aug. 3), when I was asked by the Korean teachers’ union in 2007 to speak about the dangers the No Child Left Behind law brought to American schools. I asked if I could go early and visit schools in Seoul.
While Seoul kindergartens were filled with the playhouse items that once filled our own kindergartens, Seoul middle schools provide study carrels so that students can eat dinner at school and return to their studies for very high-stakes, competitive exams. They study until 10 p.m. or later.
Although in the name of college- and career-ready skills we’ve wiped out kindergarten as a “children’s garden,” we can breathe a sigh of relief that American schools aren’t keeping children at their desks until 10 p.m.
In Seoul, I shared the podium with Peter Johnson, the president of the Finnish Principals Association, who gave a view of national education policy in sharp contrast with the corporate scheme shared by South Korean politicians, Presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton, and President Obama. Mr. Johnson pointed out that while the global educational trend is for standardization, Finland emphasizes flexibility and what he called “loose standards.”
He said Finland trusts teachers. What a radical notion.
Charlotte, Vt., Aug. 3, 2014
The writer, a retired public-school teacher, is a critic of national standards and testing.

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