February 24, 2009


Elizabeth Davis - Since August, I have received eight students in my classroom from KIPP Academy. . . My first instinct upon receiving these students, was that they were unruly, low achievers. . . kicked out of KIPP because their behavior was intolerable, unbearable. I was careful not to allow my preconceived notions about "charter school reject" cloud or inform my judgment about their academic abilities or expected behavior. I was right in doing so. As it turns out, each of these students were good students. Some were great students. But I would have missed the opportunity to discover their talents, their academic abilities and multiple learning styles if I had not cultivated a learning environment that welcomed diverse learning styles and modalities.

Judging from conversations with these students (as well as my own students) I've realized that a teaching/learning environment that only values one way of behaving, learning and socializing could very easily morph into one of social engineering. Is social engineering healthy for creative, imaginative, self-directed learners? I would say no. Judging from my 30 years of teaching experience, I've observed that the world class artists, scientists, engineers, mathematicians, writers, think-tankers, etc, are cultivated in classrooms that afford them the space to think critically, imagine, question social injustice, talk back to their teachers and interrogate the world, not classrooms that require them to sit in a corner for challenging their masters or walk in a single file on the right side of the hallway to confirm their obedience; or chant positive affirmations that will guarantee them success. This process is archaic It's been done already. with slaves, native Americans, just to name a few.

The irony is that individuals who create, fund, promote these types of schools, mostly for children who have been left in the margins of society, would never enroll their own children in them. I wonder why? I wonder how many have done so?