Posts Tagged ‘education’

early childhood education

Busy parents put baby’s nose to the grindstone

Michelle Epstein
Sydney Morning Herald

Are we a nation obsessed with educating our children? Do we really believe that a child should be subjected to formal learning during as many waking hours as possible? Everything these days is about learning. It is squeezed into messages, games, songs, TV programs and cereal boxes. We just want to provide our children with the very best … or do we?

I’m beginning to wonder if there is an unconscious motive at play. Are we increasingly finding new ways to obviate our responsibility as parents – and feel good about it?

I recently saw the Wiggles on TV. There was Dorothy and Wags playing giddy-up horsies in the backyard. This content was clearly aimed at toddlers and preschool children. Suddenly, Dorothy talked about seeing a plane soar and poor Wags wondered why the plane was sore. Had the plane been hurt? Next thing you know, Dorothy was giving an intensive seminar on homophones. Does anyone really think that children under four need to know about homophones? My daughter tells me she learnt about them in year 6.

Perhaps the Wiggles have sensed that what parents want is educational content. Clearly there are other shows that have traditionally provided quality TV for this genre. Take Play School – age-appropriate learning in among a lot of fun. But what I was seeing here was age-inappropriate learning that was barely concealed as an interruption to the fun. This clumsy attempt at what is now known as “early learning” was patronising, contrived and annoying. What ever happened to Hot Potato Hot Potato?

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t blame the Wiggles. They are such nice boys; who could blame them for anything. They are just responding to the message out there. They are just trying to give parents what they want. The question is: what is this thing parents want? More importantly, why do they want it?

I’m not suggesting parents are actually asking for anything. However, something has evolved without us noticing. The zeal to provide quality education for our children in those formative years has combined with the ever-increasing need for parents, and especially mothers, to come up with more creative ways of being superwomen.

The demands of being wife, mother, housekeeper, P&C activist and career woman have become the all-time mother of necessity. How can we find time for all these roles? Parents find themselves increasingly dumping kids in front of the TV or farming them out. We end up with a seething mass of guilt-ridden parents with a real dilemma on their hands. Magically, research starts to surface telling us that getting a good education in the early years optimises the chances that children will reach their full potential. Politicians, parents and educators start to take note and there are efforts to improve early learning opportunities. This is good, but somehow the idea has run amok.

At my local shopping centre, I often pass by an early learning centre. As I watch mothers wheel their tiny infants though the front door, I can’t help thinking: what can a newborn possibly learn? Not much. And certainly not for so many hours. It cannot be denied that it feels better dropping your infant off at a place called “early learning centre” than a place called “long day care”.

Kate Ellis, the Minister for Early Childhood Education and Childcare, recently announced initiatives that recognise early child care as part of a child’s formal education. High quality national education programs are to be rolled out. Just as “quality time” can be a euphemism for not spending enough time with your child, the National Quality Agenda seeks to set less parental involvement in stone with legislation. Don’t stay at home with your baby. Send them to early child care for a better education. Of major concern is that even so-called “play-based learning” is the slippery slope. Where there is formal learning there is also formal testing. Now homework and preparation for the HSC can start at birth.

Whatever happened to kids having fun? Why must play be so purposeful? Why must fun even have an agenda? I don’t think this is what Julia Gillard and Kevin Rudd had in mind when they spoke of an education revolution.

Dr Michelle Epstein is a clinical psychologist.

Public Military Schools

The Military Invades U.S. Schools: How Military Academies Are Being Used to Destroy Public Education

For the past four years, I have observed the military occupation of the high school where I teach science. Currently, Chicago’s Senn High School houses Rickover Naval Academy (RNA). I use the term “occupation” because part of our building was taken away despite student, parent, teacher and community opposition to RNA’s opening.

Senn students are made to feel like second-class citizens inside their own school, due to inequalities. The facilities and resources are better on the RNA side. RNA students are allowed to walk on the Senn side, while Senn students cannot walk on the RNA side. RNA “disenrolls” students and we accept those students who get kicked out if they live within our attendance boundaries. This practice is against Chicago policy, but goes unchecked. All of these things maintain a two-tiered system within the same school building.

This phenomenon is not restricted to Senn. Chicago has more military academies and more students in JROTC than any other city in the US. As the tentacles of school militarization reach beyond Chicago, the process used in this city seems to serve as a model of expansion. There was a Marine Academy planned for Georgia’s Dekalb County, which includes 10 percent of Atlanta. Fortunately, due to protest, the school has been postponed until 2010. Despite it being postponed, it is still useful to analyze the rhetoric used to rationalize the Marine Academy. Many of the lies and excuses used to justify school militarization in Chicago and Georgia may well be used in other cities as militarism grows.


Conversations on peace education

Posted: April 21, 2009 in society
Tags: ,

peaceTwo Global MindShift volunteers, Carolyn Mycue and Larry Adamson, have each created a conversation on a subject they care deeply about, and think you may too.

I’m Awake…Now What? Consciousness Practice in Everyday Life

is an opportunity to explore our different experiences of putting the tools for enlightenment to daily use. Says Carolyn: “Sharing what we’ve learned about cultivating an environment that’s ripe for Life’s purpose to unfold is a great way to serve life and at the same time deepen our own practice.”

Peace Education in K-12 Public Education

is an exploration into what type of education promotes the things that really matter: learning to truly listen and respecting differences. Says Larry: “The information and opinions developed in this conversation will be used as part of a teacher education class being taught this summer.”

About Global MindShift conversations…

Global MindShift offers a safe, small-group (8-12 people) environment for respectful and thoughtful conversation. Every conversation is a week or more in length, and is “asynchronous”: rather than being online at the same time, each participant goes online at whatever time is most convenient for them.

Because space is typically limited, the conversation you want may be full. If so, send us an email at and we’ll put you on a waiting list should it be offered again.


cover-imageOnly a few years ago, some companies were saying climate change wasn’t a problem. Now, as its impacts become apparent, many of the same corporations are suddenly scrambling to claim leadership on the issue. Desperate to avoid regulation that may hit their profits, they present a dizzying array of “false solutions,” quick fixes that perpetuate inequalities in our society while they cash in on the crisis. Upon closer examination, many of these technologies and policies are merely dangerous detours on the road to a just, livable planet, distracting us from the root causes of the crisis.

Rising Tide North America is pleased to announce the release of the first short yet comprehensive survey of these bogus climate change solutions.

The 20 page pamphlet — “Hoodwinked in the Hothouse” — covers topics as diverse as Clean Coal, Agrofuels, Geoengineering, Carbon Offsets and over a dozen other non-solutions to the climate crisis, all in concise, colorfully illustrated and information packed essays.

Download It! (PDF)

It’s Getting Hot In Here

I wouldn’t agree with Green Tech Gazette’s conclusion of their post below that with the concept of sustainability integrated into the schools, the green future is looking very promising indeed, but it’s good to see awareness growing. And after all: it’s the new generations that will have to deal with the results of the mess we have left them with.

sustainabilitySustainability has been a core value for a small number of people for a long time and now even businesses are getting into the act. But, if you want to change the world you need to start in the schools.

Today, I’ll outline three different schools where sustainability is making an impact. The first is the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California where students incorporate sustainability into the core values along with form and function.

Some of the students are working on projects such as designing bikes from local materials for third world nations, making attractive designer bags from Army tarpaulins and dog tags and inventing an electric tea set that does not waste heat.

Students in the Art Center College’s Design for Sustainability class must submit their projects for a life-cycle analysis first that measures the environmental impact from the beginning of the source materials to what happens after the consumer is finished using the product.

The Denver Public Schools have signed on to using TREES software that will help in reducing greenhouse gases at over 180 public schools in the area. Energy savings and efficiency are key components to using the software.

And, in Cooper Elementary School in Northwest Arkansas, the students have just won the “It’s Good to Be Green” contest for sustainability. Producing a video, a banner and writing an essay on sustainability was the task and the grand prize was a playground made of recycled parts.

Let’s hope sustainability will become a core part of curricula all over the world.

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