Archive for the ‘Arts’ Category

“Race to Nowhere” or Waiting for Superkids.

In her new documentary "Race to Nowhere," first-time filmmaker Vicki Abeles explores the pressures facing many middle-class kids today, including her own young son Zak.

In her new documentary "Race to Nowhere," first-time filmmaker Vicki Abeles explores the pressures facing many middle-class kids today, including her own young son Zak.

The much-discussed documentary “Waiting for Superman” focuses on low-income children languishing in low-performing schools that ask too little of them. The film “Race to Nowhere” trains its cameras on middle-class children striving in high-achieving schools that expect too much of them.

Born out of first-time filmmaker Vicki Abeles’ concerns over the demands on her children, the documentary is a montage of over-scheduled kids working at a literal fever pitch to be smarter, faster and better to get ahead in what has become an arms race to win admission to top colleges.

“I didn’t think when I had kids, the only time I would see them is 20 minutes at dinner,” says Abeles.

“Childhood has become indentured to test scores, performance and competition,” she says.

“I started to make some changes in my home, but the …

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dz NE1 care bout sp n gramA Ny mor?

Should grammar and spelling matter to us anymore?

A few weeks ago, I wrote about the students at J.C. Booth Middle School in Peachtree City who created a web site that listed the school’s best-looking and popular kids as well as those they suspected of being gay.

A Booth student sent this note, which I appreciate for its passion and its decency. But I worry about its spelling and punctuation, which I suspect may be influenced by texting where information is reduced to its essence.

With kids now writing more than a thousand texts a month, texting has become a more familiar literary form to them than the essay. They may rewrite the rules for the rest of us.

Here is the message:

i am a student at the school where this happened. My friends were on these lists, I see the hatred from my peers day after day. When this site was made i wasnt suprised. i was just horrified someone would have the nerve to acctually make the site. Every student at my school new people who talked bad, but …

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“We are getting our children through education by anesthetizing them. We shouldn’t be putting them to sleep. We should be waking them up.”

Thanks to teacher Jordan Kohanim for alerting me to this very entertaining and enlightening video by education innovator Sir Ken Robinson.

Robinson addresses the problems with our production line mentality of educating “children by batches…why is there this assumption that the most important thing children have in common is how old they are…it is like the most important thing about them was their date of manufacture.”

“They have spent 10 years at school and been told there is one answer and it’s in the back and don’t look,” says Robinson.

He criticizes the American embrace of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, noting that diagnoses have risen in tandem with the rise of standardized testing and prescriptions for ADHD drugs increase as you travel east across the United States.

“People start losing interest in Oklahoma,” he says. “They can hardly think straight in Arkansas and, by the time they get to Washington, they’ve lost it completely. It’s a fictitious epidemic.”

“We …

Continue reading “We are getting our children through education by anesthetizing them. We shouldn’t be putting them to sleep. We should be waking them up.” »

Fulton County school board election: Three candidates want to lead District 5

We collected answers to three questions from the three Fulton County candidates in the District 5 race. (We also did other counties and will post those candidate responses in the next day or so.) These responses will appear in the print edition in shorter form throughout the next week.

1:  How do you feel about Fulton possibly becoming a charter school system and what factors would influence your decision?
2:  Would you be in favor of restoring the band and orchestra programs at the elementary level school  even if it meant making additional cuts elsewhere?
3:  What’s one thing you would improve about the school system?

Gregg Blotner is a chiropractor in Alpharetta with two children in Fulton schools.

Gregg Blotner

Gregg Blotner

1. I am not opposed to Fulton County becoming a charter school system. However, turning an entire public school system into a charter system is not an easy task and will require extensive input.  Since charter school systems do not have to follow state approved …

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Parent’s passion: Keep playing that piano. You’ll thank me someday. I hope.

As a longtime fan of advice columnist Dear Abby, I valued her practical answers, especially about raising children. However, one question stumped her years ago, and she threw it out to her readers to answer: Should children who hate piano lessons be forced — even kicking and screaming — to continue because they may eventually find joy in it and even decide that music is their passion? Abby’s mail was split. Readers wrote that they hated every second of their childhood piano lessons, and the experience soured them forever on music. Others wrote to say that they were now with the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music or the Boston Pops and were forever grateful that their parents held their ground.

One mom maintained that parents force kids to do many things, including bathe, brush their teeth and eat their vegetables. Why should music be any different? Her son begged to quit piano when he was 10. Today, she said, he was a noted conductor and music professor.

But another mother …

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Does postermania ever end? Or will I be buying gluesticks in the nursing home?

This week, we are drawing the map of Spain in my household. In painful detail.

After four kids,  I think I would have been smarter to invest in poster board and gluesticks than high tech stocks. My kids were always racing the clock to finish posters, projects and presentations.

After years of helping kids create dioramas, panoramas and kidney-bean maps of Alabama, I have to wonder — do children learn much from these endless school projects?

In their zeal for hands-on learning — a zeal shared by many parents — schools have adopted what Education Week once described as the “Crayola Curriculum.” Kids are now coloring and making trifold posters even in math and chemistry classes. Parents hoard shoe boxes for dioramas. The back-to-school shopping list now includes sheaths of white poster board and Styrofoam balls for the inevitable solar system project.

My household has been through just about every iteration of school project, from the classic paper mache volcano to a tasty …

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The strong policy focus on struggling students shortchanges the gifted students in Georgia schools

Folks, To quote my colleague Jim Galloway, I have “gone fishing” this week. (I have actually gone hiking.)

I will have no computer access, but am posting some great stuff in advance, including this essay by Gyimah Whitaker, president of the Georgia Association for Gifted Children, and Ann Robinson,  president of the National Association for Gifted Children.  It runs on the Monday education op-ed page.

I will be back online on the 19th.

By Gyimah Whitaker and Ann Robinson

Children across Georgia are now back to school. For some students, the return to school felt like a burden, a necessary chore they have to slog through every day, but not for the reasons you might expect.

Rather than viewing school as an unhappy departure from carefree summer days, many of the most disinterested students in a classroom are also the high-ability children who spend the bulk of their school days going unchallenged and largely ignored.

Our nation’s education system has a long history of …

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When a public school complex costs $578 million, have we lost our minds? Give me a state-of-the-art teacher over a state-of-the-art building.

Here is one view of the nation's most expensive school campus, the $578 million Robert F. Kennedy Community Schools  in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)

Here is one view of the nation's most expensive school campus, the $578 million Robert F. Kennedy Community Schools in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)

The AJC has quite a story about the new $578 million public school complex opening next month in LA.

When schools are cutting days and teachers, this seems a terrible moment to unveil an architectural wonder of a campus. Yes, I think children deserve to learn in comfortable settings, although I don’t know of any research that shows kids learn more in so-called “state-of-the art” classrooms. The more important investment to me would be “state-of-the art” teachers.

Keep in mind that this is a k-12 setting that will house 4,200 students. There are three schools – elementary, middle and high school — located on the single campus.  But even then, you are still talking nearly $200 million per age group. I also don’t like the large size of the complex; I would rather drop my kids off to a smaller-scaled school building.

The …

Continue reading When a public school complex costs $578 million, have we lost our minds? Give me a state-of-the-art teacher over a state-of-the-art building. »

Sally Wylde: A force of nature who will be missed by many children

Sally Wylde understood the power of nature and art and integrated both in her creation of a community garden in Decatur that has become a learning tool for countless schools. Here she is with the students  from the Global Village School in Decatur.

Sally Wylde understood the power of nature and art and integrated both in her creation of a community garden in Decatur that has become a learning tool for countless schools. Here she is with the students from the Global Village School in Decatur.

I am sad to report the death of Sally Wylde, founder of the Oakhust Community Garden in Decatur and a dedicated friend of education and children in Georgia. Long aware of her good works, I met Sally when she and I were both in Leadership DeKalb. (Leadership DeKalb honored her with its Distinguished Leadership Award in 2005 for founding the Oakhurst Community Garden.)

She died today of cancer with her husband, children and grandchildren around her in Massachusetts where she always spent her summers.

She had moved to Georgia to attend Candler School of Theology from the coast of Massachusetts where she was an artist and teacher for 30 years. Through her studies and in her own transition from wild, open spaces to a densely packed urban …

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Have parents given up on the arts in public schools? Is it a factor in state superintendent’s race?

Have parents become so jaded over school budget cuts that they are resigned to fewer and fewer arts programs?

Have parents become so jaded over school budget cuts that they are resigned to fewer and fewer arts programs?

I received the e-mail below on state school superintendent candidate Beth Farokhi’s arts platform. I found it interesting because there has been very little discussion of arts education in this election season.

I think most parents assume unhappily that there just isn’t money for the arts any longer. With the exception of the outcry in Fulton over the loss of elementary school orchestra and band, I have not seen much protest of arts program cuts elsewhere. When systems are talking about slicing weeks from the class calendar, I assume parents aren’t going to take to the streets over whether there is chorus or drama.

In the few superintendent candidate debates, the arts never came up in a substantive way. I do think arts programs are important, especially in low-income areas where parents can’t afford to send their children to private music lessons or drama camp.

But …

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