Many schools are zoos
ringed around with bars.
The wild mind, whose
tendrils reach into the universe
is hampered, curtailed
by merciless rules.
That study has failed
to generate wisdom
in numerous schools
is proverbial. Our need
is for dreams of living mind
to be freed
to range the wise-spreading globe
knowledge as desire
as pure pleasure, as attraction
to inner deep fire.
For creation as mind-winged
is multifaceted Love, at last
Logos shown as Word.
When will the heart’s trumpet blast
Awaken in zoo-cages to be heard?
I am writing to unknown friends who are already helping to transform things that are crying out for change. I am inviting you to help free our children from the zoos.
My two major concerns are the environment and education. I wrote my first book about creating gardens—in the soil and in our minds—(“Our Sacred Garden: Awakening the Visionary in Us”). Now I am working on a second book, “Pegasus ,New Wings in Education”.
I am hoping together we can speak out against injustices, support teachers and public schools, pool our resources of ideas on the Internet and actually help to change exploitation and greed in both the environment and in our schools. If we tackle each problem in depth we can succeed.
The major problem right now is over-testing for “accountability” under the government-inspired laws of No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top. These were passed with good intentions: to train students to fill America’s economic consumer market goals, but not for the curiosity or love of learning.
The constant “kill-drill” testing, now starting with the 3rd and progressing up to the 12th grades—and even threatening kindergartners—is leaving such a wake of distress, distrust and disrespect among students, teachers, parents and many educators that they are up in arms across the country. It causes teachers to “teach to the test” (with rote answers rather than real understanding of the subject), tempts cheating with false scores rather than failed results, because failure means loss of jobs for the teachers and potential closures of schools.
The immediate answer is to urge our school administrators and state politicians not to use these tests but to find other and fairer ways of measuring accountability. Many states across the country, including California and Texas, are considering stopping the testing, to name a couple of states that are taking active steps for change.
I envision three ways to bring love into the classroom which would then help our children learn with joy:
1) Realize that kids have different kinds of intelligences and learning styles—therefore each contributes in a different way. By finding out what each child loves to do, and therefore does well, teachers can encourage their students unique talents, provide loving support and thus help students develop self-assurance. Teachers can engage their students’ curiosity by asking them questions that engage their imagination such as “What stories do I hear that I like? What poems do I want to hear or sing or tell? How can I write down what I like? Why do I have to learn numbers? What do they do?” This approach allow for students to feel more included and passionate about their learning experience.
2) Give each child enough time to absorb and really understand what he or she is learning—the way Salman Khan does for mathematics. Let them discuss the content and ask questions about the subject. By slowing down and creating more space for ideas the concepts sink in and learning is applied more deeply and holistically.
3) Have teachers use oral questions to assess what the student has learned. Use more comprehensive writing examinations where students can do an essay, story, or some kind of action or activity that tells them if the child understands the subject. By engaging students on multiple levels it will be a more in-depth and enjoyable learning experience that results in more accurate assessment of what they have learned.
The long-range answer is to teach for curiosity’s sake, love of each subject, for self-knowledge and creative action for principles of democracy.