Klingbrief March 2015
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Asking More of Our Kids
Richer and Poorer, by Jill Lepore

Within independent school circles there is much talk about the content and the skills students will need to be thoughtful and productive citizens in the twenty-first century. One skill that all students should master - regardless of the century - is the ability to synthesize into a wholly new piece of scholarship multiple sources and perspectives. One piece of content should most likely be an understanding of the growth of economic inequality, in both the United States and across the globe, and how this inequality could undermine our social and economic systems. "Richer and Poorer" delivers on both of these fronts. In this long-form New Yorker essay, author Jill Lepore uses a critique of Robert Putnam's new book, Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis, to explore both the causes of economic inequality and some potential corrective paths. Lepore posits that Putnam's narrative is as incomplete as it is thin on solutions and that it deliberately steers away from identifying any of the "villains" who drove the growth of economic inequality. In an attempt to fill in these gaps, Lapore then explores much of the contemporary literature on economic inequality, particularly focusing on the role that politics plays in both the expansion of, and the potential curbing of, this emerging problem. The resulting essay serves as a primer for a richer understanding of economic inequality and a model for constructive literary critique.

Chris Lauricella, The Park School of Buffalo, NY
  New Yorker Magazine, March 16, 2015  
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 information about submitting to Klingbrief, please click here.
  March, 2015 VOL 52

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

PK-12 Director of Studies, The Walker School, Marietta, GA

Klingenstein Center Director, New York, NY

Head of the Park School of Buffalo, NY

Assistant Head, Albuquerque Academy, Albuquerque, NM

Principal, The Dr. Eric Jackman Institute of Child Study, University of Toronto, Canada

Principal, Bruce A. Shaw Consulting, LLC     Essex, MA        

Head of English Department, American School in London, England

Head of Lick-Wilmerding High School,
San Francisco, CA

Operations Manager, Klingenstein Center,
New York, NY

03_15_2WorkingPaper   No Child is an Island
Supportive Relationships and Active Skill-Building Strengthen the Foundations of Resilience, Working Paper 13, The Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University

The science of resilience work being done by developmental psychologists, including those who have contributed to the 2015 Harvard National Scientific Council on the Developing Child working paper on the Foundations of Resilience, adds important perspective to our understanding of resilience. Here we learn exactly what science tells us about tipping the scales toward positive outcomes for children. The authors' evidence-based clarity on widely held misconceptions about resilience is invaluable. That there is no "resilience gene" is well known, but here we learn that resilience requires relationships, not rugged individualism. We would be overlooking the most important variables in resilience if we focused only on grit, self-reliance, and strength of character. More salient are these: at least one completely reliable, supportive relationship and multiple, safe opportunities to develop coping skills. Of significance to those who teach is the evidence that the capabilities that underlie resilience can be strengthened at any age. The authors leave the reader with four clear mandates to pursue for all children: facilitating supportive adult-child relationships; building a sense of self-efficacy and perceived control; providing opportunities to strengthen adaptive skills and self-regulatory capacities; and mobilizing sources of faith, hope, and cultural traditions. Each contributes to the necessary conditions for resilient life.

Elizabeth Morley, Dr. Eric Jackman Institute of Child Study Laboratory School, Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, Canada
  Harvard University, March 2015  
03_15_3PisaGender   Unsettling Data about Gender Gaps in Education
The ABC of Gender Equality in Education: Aptitude, Behaviour, Confidence, Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD)

OECD's comprehensive study, based on PISA's 2012 worldwide testing program, finds new gender gaps across the world in education, including among the highest achieving students such as many independent schools have. Boys are not as engaged as girls in school, do less homework, see fewer reasons to study, and too often leave school early; they are more likely to be under-achievers. Girls, on the other hand, are under-represented in the fields of mathematics, physical sciences, and computing; only 14% entering university in 2012 chose majors in science-related fields compared to 30% of their male counterparts. When high-achieving girls expressed lack of confidence about their mathematical abilities, they tested almost 20% lower than boys. When they felt confident, however, their performance was on par. Furthermore, girls have higher expectations for their eventual roles at work, but those expectations go unrealized more than boys'. The data in this study also show that students in the United States rarely manage to get beyond the middle of the pack among the countries studied. The antidote according to OECD is changing attitudes, which starts at home and in our schools. This is an important study, providing detail and substance to issues surrounding gender and education that affect both sexes.

Bruce Shaw, Bruce A Shaw Consulting, MA
  PISA, OECD Publishing, 2015  
03_15_4Third_gender   Rocko Gieselman
A University Recognizes a Third Gender: Neutral, by Julie Scelfo

Accepting gender as a continuum instead of a binary is occupying an important space in the public discourse on biological sex. In "A University Recognizes a Third Gender: Neutral," Julie Scelfo tells the story of Rocko Gieselman, who was born female, came out in seventh grade, and now identifies as transgender. Rocko's story serves as the backdrop for work that the University of Vermont has undertaken to make the school more inclusive for gender queer students. The school has installed gender-neutral bathrooms to help alleviate the stress transgender students may feel while navigating the campus. Students have also organized identity conferences to raise awareness about evolving notions of gender. Additionally, the University has allowed students to change their names on school documents without a legal name change and to determine if they would like to be associated with a gender pronoun. Though the work of inclusion is never complete, the University of Vermont seems to have provided the beginning of a roadmap for other institutions seeking to become more welcoming to students with a wide range of identities.

Roxanne Leff, Ed.M. candidate, The Klingenstein Center, Teachers College, Columbia University, NY
  The New York Times, February 3, 2015  
03_15_5Training_in_Progress   On Board
Training in Progress: A program at Credit Suisse helps high-level employees – and valued clients – to master the art of nonprofit board service, by Lalita Advani & Julia Chu

Lalita Advani and Julia Chu, two high-level executives at Credit Suisse, report on a program (now in its fifth year) that helps to educate Credit Suisse employees for non-profit board service. What started as a way to engage its high level employees to volunteer more has turned into a fascinating model for how to match the needs of non-profits with the talent pools available in for-profit businesses. "The content of the Nonprofit Board Training Program," the authors explain, "focuses on the need for integrity and transparency. Among the topics covered in training sessions are fiduciary oversight, conflicts of interest and nonprofit financial literacy, as well as the importance of strategic planning." The program's results are impressive, with 800 employees completing the training and 100 of them joining non-profit boards through the program. Imagine if our independent school board rooms were filled with trustees who had received this training before joining our boards. Also, imagine if our schools were able to access the talent of top executives, some of whom may be outside our community sphere, to help us achieve our missions. Not only can we learn from the training these individuals receive, but also we may want to think about how, as an industry, we are grooming the next generation of talent for our board rooms.

Eric Temple, Lick Wilmerding School, CA
  Stanford Social Innovation Review, Spring 2015  
  Wake Up Call and Response
Waking up White, and Finding Myself in the Story of Race, by Debby Irving

In this hybrid memoir and interactive journal, Debby Irving chronicles her awakening to her own "whiteness," looking closely at the ways she came to understand her own assumptions, cultural framework, privilege, and worldview. The result of such introspection, for her, was the opportunity to participate more fully and authentically in the dismantling of racism in our country, work to which she had long felt drawn. Her story is deeply honest and often painful to read, and many white readers will easily see themselves and their families in her struggles to more fully understand and respect the experiences of people of color. Irving's empathy, her emotional intelligence, and her willingness to confront hard truths is inspiring and will be helpful to anybody working to level the playing field for all Americans. Irving vividly describes her work in schools, as both a teacher and a parent, and her examples of moving through missteps to connection and growth will resonate deeply with educators. In a nod to the practical, Irving provides questions at the end of each chapter to spur personal reflection or jumpstart groups seeking to become stronger advocates for social justice or to find ways to actively disrupt systemic racism.

Stephanie Lipkowitz, Albuquerque Academy, NM
  Elephant Room Press, January 9, 2014  
  The Child as the Center of Gravity
Loving Learning: How Progressive Education Can Save America's Schools, by Tom Little and Katherine Ellison

In Loving Learning, Tom Little, the longtime Head of Park Day School, and Katherine Ellison, a Pulitzer-prize winning journalist, explore the core beliefs of progressive educators and how schools are putting those beliefs into practice. Little visited 43 schools, public and private, all across the country, before writing this thoughtful and relevant book. Putting the child at the center of gravity, as John Dewey once said, Little and Ellison offer both a definition of progressive education and a rationale for progressive schools to proudly claim their more than one hundred year old tradition. Readers are encouraged to forget Finland as a focus for inspiration and to seek solutions for America's educational future in the authentically American tradition of Dewey. While some of the classrooms sound idyllic, this book takes on salient current debates including testing, technology, and equity. Little's legendary emphasis on "joyful learning" permeates pages relentlessly focused on children and their capacity to grow into "bighearted innovators." At its most powerful when discussing the potential of school to serve as a "secular ministry," Loving Learning challenges all educators to examine how educational vision is implemented in the daily lives of our schools. Rich in examples of classroom and all-school teaching, Loving Learning is excellent reading for teachers, administrators, and parents alike.

Cricket Mikheev, Pear Tree Point School, CT
Scott Duyan, Presidio Hill School, CA
  W. W. Norton & Company, March 2, 2015  
03_15_8InvisibleClassroom   A Mindful Approach to Mindfulness
The Invisible Classroom: Relationships, Neuroscience, and Mindfulness in Schools, by Kirke Olsen

Mindfulness has migrated from new age bookshelves to TED talk buzzword. In an engaging book rife with examples from a career in education, Kirke Olsen sets out to rescue the term from its own popularity. Olsen begins by parsing learning as a cognitive process and proceeds through a structure related to that of Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs. Building on settled science of learning, and a basis of cognitive neuroscience, Olsen examines safe environments and classroom relationships before delving into memory, attention, a strengths-based approach, and finally, mindfulness. The text shines brightest when it provides concrete "tools for school" at the end of each chapter, linking content to practical moves any educator can make right away. Independent and international educators pride themselves on developing strong and supportive school environments, and this book at once delivers the science, the practices, and the next steps to continue building responsive learning communities. As we model mindfulness in our teaching or leadership practices, or teach basic mindfulness to kids, Olsen reminds us that we are focusing on something that matters. What's more, she provides a foundation of neuroscience to help focus an important topic that can sometimes seem fuzzy.

Ian Hoke, Zurich International School, Switzerland
W.W. Norton & Company, July 28, 2014

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