Friday, September 2, 2011

What I Learned In Kindergarten, And What Education Leaders Missed

I've always been a pretty big fan of Robert Fulghum. If you remember, he wrote one of the first essays to go viral on the internet, way back when people emailed such things to each other rather than post them to Facebook. It was called All I Really Need To Know I Learned In Kindergarten. You can read it here if you've never read it before. Yes, it's sappy and sentimental, but it's oh-so-true.

The premise of the essay is that if we all behaved as we were taught to in kindergarten, the world would be a better place. Here are some examples of things Fulghum exhorted us to do, and how education leaders have failed us.

Share everything.
Almost nothing is shared with teachers. The rich get richer while teachers get laid off. Our billionaire mayor has seen fit to get rid of some of the most poorly paid school workers while offering no-bid contracts to his cronies. Bloomberg has eliminated Teacher's Choice, so teachers will have to dig into their own pockets to supply our kids with materials they need to succeed. Teachers know how to share. Billionaires don't.

Play Fair.
The DOE and UFT agreed--in writing--to keep teachers' TDR scores confidential. The DOE even agreed to side with the UFT in court should it come to that. Instead, they went back on their agreement and are now pushing for the release of the scores. This will unfairly hurt many teachers, but the DOE doesn't care. Bloomberg would like for teachers to be publicly humiliated, but when his deputy mayor was arrested for domestic violence, Bloomie hid that fact from the public. If the deputy mayor had been a teacher, that wouldn't have happened.

Clean up your own mess.
You'd think the DOE would feel obligated to enforce a minimum of cleanliness in schools, but you'd be wrong. The rate of bedbug infestations has tripled in the last year. And instead of stopping the use of dangerous dirty oil in schools, the city decided to spend 70 million dollars on it (but don't worry--that will only last until 2030). To be fair (play fair!), the city is promising to only take ten years to rid school lighting fixtures of cancer causing PCBs.

Don't take things that aren't yours.
NJ Governor Chris Christie would like to solve the state's pension shortfall by shafting teachers and other workers who have contributed their share to the system over the years. He withheld a 3 billion dollar payment that the state owes to the pension fund. That money was not his--it was money that was promised to the pension system through collective bargaining. Christie rationalized this by saying the state can't afford to pay for the things it promised, even though he refused to ask his millionaire and billionaire pals to pay an extra cent. I wonder what Christie's kindergarten teacher would say about that?

Live a balanced life - learn some and think some and draw and paint and sing and dance and play and work every day some.
There's none of that in the public schools. It's all testing, all the time.

I'm sure I could go on and on, but you get the point. The government in general and educational leaders in particular have forgotten the most basic lessons that they should have internalized long ago. One hopes they at least remember to flush.


Leonie Haimson said...

great post; thanks!

harvey said...

I always read this essay on the first day of class to my students. Your application of this lesson for the DOE is right on point! Thanks.

Pogue said...

Really nice post. It even goes further to the politicians and their rich cronies, running things in Washington.

zulma said...

You hit the nail on the head; those are the most basic lessons. The ed deformers should include those basic lessons in the Leadership and Broad Academies' training sessions.

Bravo to you for the post!

ASTRAKA said...

This post is perfect! Thank you.

Anonymous said...

From an early childhood teacher who works with pre-k and kindergarten children all of the time, fabulous post!

Also, you can make an addendum to learning in kindergarten:

"Use your words". - Now a days, teachers are unable to use our words, speak professionally to advocate for ourselves and have to take harsh and abusive treatment from supervisors.

Rosemary Church said...

Seems like the older they get, the more a kindergarten knows better. It is just sad that these leaders are more concerned with their own well being rather than serve their fellow people.

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