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Education as Anesthesia or Aesthetic Experience?

Changing Education Paradigms, by Sir Ken Robinson

From the always interesting and thought-provoking library of recent TED Talks come the theories, philosophies, criticism and humor of Sir Ken Robinson. In this Ted Talk, Robinson addresses the impact of the Enlightenment view of intellect and the Industrial structure of education, linking it to issues such as ADHD, decline of divergent thinking, and the lack of importance the arts play in public institutions. The talk unfolds as a clever animation that diagrammatically displays the ideas he verbalizes. We are still trying to educate our children of the future with the same beliefs we've used in the past, Robinson argues, and this approach alienates a whole population of students who see no value in the results of an education. Are we truly educating children in a way that allows them to experience the world aesthetically or are we anesthetizing them instead? This TED piece is a perfect review of everything Robinson has been preaching for years.

Nisa Frank, The Town School, NY
Ed.M Candidate, The Klingenstein Center, Teachers College, Columbia University, NY
TED Talks, December, 2010
January, 2011 VOL 18


Coordinating Editor, Associate Head of the Brearley School, New York, NY

Klingenstein Center Director, New York, NY

Head of the Park School of Buffalo, NY

Assistant Head, Albuquerque Academy, Albuquerque, NM

Principal of the Child Study Institute, University of Toronto, Canada

Trustee, Glen Urquhart School, MA

Head of the Carey School, San Mateo, CA

Assistant Head, Upper School
Montclair Kimberley Academy, Montclair, NJ

Klingbrief is a free, monthly publication of recommended articles, books, research reports and media selected by and for independent school educators.  The Klingenstein Center for Independent School Leadership provides graduate programs and professional development for independent school educators throughout their careers. For more information about submitting to Klingbrief, please click here.
EliteCollege The Legacy Advantage
At Elite Colleges, Legacy Status May Count More Than Was Previously Thought, by Elyse Ashburn

Michael Hurwitz, a researcher at Harvard University, has published a study that puts real numbers to the effect of legacy preferences in admissions at highly selective colleges and universities. Preferences for legacy students are well documented as a practice, but this research may surprise even the colleges and universities themselves, both because of the strength of the preference and also because this research distinguishes between a primary legacy (a parent attended) and a secondary legacy (another relative attended). Previous research had underestimated the power of legacy advantage, and Mr. Hurwitz estimates that with a primary legacy, a student's chances of admission to a selective college will have a 51.6 point advantage when compared with a student who does not have a legacy connection. Hurwitz also did research that looked at applicants' SAT scores and the level at which the legacy advantage kicked in most powerfully. Students, parents, and secondary school college counselors need this kind of research to be realistic about students' actual prospects at highly selective schools.

Stephanie Lipkowitz, Albuquerque Academy, NM
Chronicle of Higher Education, January 19, 2011
APImage AP Redux: Another Market Ploy or Significant Change?
Rethinking Advanced Placement, by Christopher Drew

All of the following are true about the Advanced Placement curriculum, except:
  1. It often grants students the early opportunity for college-level work
  2. Currently, it boasts a participation rate of 1.8 million students taking 3.2 million tests
  3. Students have the opportunity to take exams in thirty subject areas.
  4. The breadth and expansive nature of courses encourages deep critical thinking and meaningful application of concepts.
Most would choose "D." Fortunately, the College Board is now also in agreement. In the New York Times article, Rethinking Advanced Placement, Christopher Drew explains that by the 2012-2013 school year, the process of restructuring the"the New A.P." will be underway, starting with French and German and followed by Biology and United States History. The College Board has responded to the criticism that teachers are lured into "teaching to the test" and students are evaluated more on their encyclopedic memory than imaginative or even practical application of information. The aim of the modified and more thematic approach is "to clear students' minds to focus on bigger concepts and stimulate more analytic thinking." Already one teacher selected to "roadtest" the proposed changes for AP Biology exclaimed that it resurrected the engagement factor in her classroom. Ultimately, this new AP claims to prompt problem-solving skills and reduce the teenage stress that often accompanies the burden of breadth over depth.

Hollis Amley, The Browning School, NY
Ed.M Candidate, The Klingenstein Center, Teachers College, Columbia University, NY
New York Times, January 9, 2011
twobrooks A Convergence of Two Brooks
Amy Chua is a Wimp, by David Brooks
Social Animal: How the new sciences of human nature can help make sense of a life, by David Brooks

Let's celebrate David Brooks for what he is: an Independent School gadfly. In two recent articles, he takes aim, albeit indirectly, at what we teach, how we teach, and the prototypical population that we serve. Brooks' grenades lobbed in Amy Chua is a Wimp and Social Animal include claims that the typical extracurricular routines of the elite class (e.g., tutoring, specialized training) are less "cognitively difficult" than hanging out with a group of friends; that our measures of success fail to jive (even a little bit) with what really matters; "young achievers" are adept at gaining a skill set that ensures neither character nor happiness. Brooks' proclivity to cite cutting edge research means that whether he annoys us or inspires us, he merits our consideration. We can't ignore what might be true. Besides, underneath his sometimes dazzling rhetoric, he seems to speak our language, pushing for collective intelligence, emotional intelligence, a questioning of "formal learning," and a cognizance of the fact that students learn everywhere, not just in our classrooms.

Stephen J. Valentine, The Montclair Kimberley Academy, NJ
The New Yorker, January 17, 2011
The New York Times, January 18, 2011
EffectiveTeaching The MET program and the Gates Foundation
Working with Teachers to Develop Fair and Reliable Measures of Effective Teaching, by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation launched the Measures of Effective Teaching (MET) program in 2009 in an attempt "to develop and test multiple measures of teacher effectiveness." Independent and public schools alike have struggled to define what "teacher effectiveness" looks like, and few schools have shaped good evaluation systems. In the public sphere especially, the political debate has become heated as think tanks, politicians and unions all weigh in. MET's goal is to "improve the quality of information about teaching effectiveness" so that policy makers and educators alike can make informed decisions that will positively impact the quality of classroom instruction. This Gates Foundation report begins with what research has proven: the effectiveness of a teacher has more impact on student learning than any other identifiable factor. By using research and working with teachers, MET hopes to improve student outcomes through evaluation based on multiple measures that will lead to improved instruction.

Bruce Shaw, Trustee, Glen Urquhart School, MA
Measures of Effective Teaching Program, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, 2009
  The Brains of Boys: First, Understand Nature, Then How to Nurture
The Male Brain, by Dr. Louann Brizendine

In her book The Male Brain (2010), the neuropsychiatrist Louann Brizendine, MD, further contributes to the gender-based brain science dialogue. In the similarly glib style of her companion work, The Female Brain (2006), Brizendine tracks the biological and hormonal changes from the womb to maturity that influence male cognition. Unlike writers such as Michael Thompson, Peg Tyre, Abigail James, and Michael Gurian, the author does not only target educators, but attempts in general to provide a neurobiological context for particular behaviors. For example, Brizendine connects her research regarding the twentyfold increase in testosterone levels that occurs within boys, ages nine and fifteen, to issues of bedroom territoriality, incomplete homework, the "sleep clock," and a teen boy's perception of facial expressions. While her breezy style and, at times, oversimplified conclusions have drawn criticism, the compelling anecdotes found within the first two chapters, "The Boy Brain" and "The Teen Boy Brain," hold a useful reminder for educators: typically, the chief competitor for the attention of male students is not media or technology, but hormones.

Hollis Amley, The Browning School, NY
Ed.M. Candidate, The Klingenstein Center, Teachers College, Columbia University, NY
Broadway Books, 2010
Applied Research about Growing Up Well
Mind in the Making: The Seven Essential Life Skills Every Child Needs, by Ellen Galinsky

Galinsky spent eight years interviewing researchers on child development and reviewed hundreds of studies for this book on how to develop essential life skills that lead to a happy, fulfilled and productive adulthood. The target audience is parents of young children and the purpose is to coach them in how to teach the seven essential life skills through everyday interactions including focus and self control, communicating, making connections, critical thinking, taking on challenges and self-directed, engaged learning. The interweaving of research findings with specific applications and examples makes the book appealing and useful for interested parents, but there is much in this book to recommend to teachers of all grades who wish to impart 21st century skills. The book is helpful in showing how teachers can model the skills in their daily interactions in the classroom — worth the read if you skip the anecdote sections and hone in on the research and applications.

Pearl Rock Kane
The Klingenstein Center, Teachers College, Columbia University, NY
Harper Collins Publishers, 2010
  A Naturalist's Memoir for Teaching Sustainability
The View From Lazy Point - A Natural Year in an Unnatural World, by Carl Safina

In the great tradition of uncompromising naturalists and conservationists from Henry David Thoreau to contemporary voices such as Terry Tempest Williams and Wendell Berry, Carl Safina's The View From Lazy Point is a beautifully written and illustrated chronicle of a year living at the boundaries and borders of humanity's often consequential interactions with those other lives with whom we share our planet. Applying the late Aldo Leopold's conservation ethic -” "A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability, and beauty of the living community" -” to his life on the tip of Long Island at Lazy Point and in his travels to the distant shores of the Arctic Sea and Antarctica, Safina weaves a personal and political story that asks all of us to honor the world as the only sacred place and to restore a sense of reverence to our lives among all living creatures. He challenges readers to create the ethical consensus to deal with our disastrous actions in a spare, enlightening prose - ” a provocation to action on behalf of a fragile planet. For those on the front lines of developing consciousness in our schools about sustaining the planet, this might be a good choice.

Peter Schmidt, Gill St. Bernards School, NJ
A John Morrow Book/Henry Holt & Company, 2011, 401 pp.
  More about How Talent is Nurtured
The Talent Code: Greatness Isn't Born. It's Grown. Here's How, by Daniel Coyle

Daniel Coyle visited 10 different "hotbeds" of talent around the globe, where an inordinate percentage of the world's greatest classical musicians, tennis players, and other professionals originate. He found patterns among the methods of coaching, practice, and motivation that lead to extremely rapid growth in ability among students. Coyle argues that talent among most elite professionals is not something inborn, but rather carefully developed; moreover, he finds that the correct "deep practice" can rapidly accelerate this growth. He explores the biochemistry that supports quick increase in brain development, focusing on new research on myelin, which coats and can greatly accelerate neural pathways. Educators may be inspired by the message that talent can be taught, but may be particularly interested in the discussions of motivation and teaching. Coyle offers in-depth descriptions of the techniques used by "master coaches" from around the world.

Alex Northrup, Foxcroft School
Ed.M. Candidate, The Klingenstein Center, Teachers College, Columbia University, NY
Random House Publishers, 2009
  Invitation, Not Dispensation
Teaching from the Middle of the Room: Inviting Students to Learn, by Frank Thoms

In Teaching from the Middle of the Room, former teacher and current educational consultant Frank Thoms enjoins educators of all disciplines and all grade levels to reframe the way we think and talk about education. A disciple of the "student-centered learning" movement, Thoms reminds us of the benefits received by teacher and pupil alike when students approach learning as active instead of passive participants. He wants us to invite our students to learn as guests rather than subjects. Through several vignettes (some from his own teaching experiences, some from experiences gleaned from other educators), Thoms offers practical examples of ways that teachers can better involve students in the learning process — ultimately creating spaces for student reflection and true ownership of their education. The text serves as a friendly step-by-step manual in which he cites many well-known ideas and scholars in the field of educational research. He also provides a bulleted list of ways for educators to consider implementing the strategies in their own classroom, charging teachers to reinvigorate their classroom practice and abandon the classroom as a "knowledge-dispensary center."

James J. Greenwood, Northfield Mount Hermon School, MA
Ed.M. Candidate, The Klingenstein Center, Teachers College, Columbia University NY
Stetson Press, 2010

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