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Are We Putting the (Knowledge) Cart Before the (Emotional) Horse?

What would you say if I told you that all of our current national efforts to improve public education were blind to the actual way people learned and interacted with the world? Depressing, right? But it’s true. To prove it, watch this short video — just 100 seconds long — and be prepared to describe to yourself what you see: You just watched a short film about bullying, didn’t you? The larger triangle was harassing the smaller triangle, until the two smaller shapes banded together and outwitted their aggressor. Except that’s not really what happened; all you saw were shapes and lines moving around on a piece of paper. And although it’s true the subject is in the air thanks to this month’s release of the new feature film Bully, I can assure you that what you saw had nothing to do with the zeitgeist. In fact, people have been seeing that same story in that video now for more than 60 years. Why? According to Daniel Kahneman, a Nobel Prize winner and the author of the current bestseller Thinking, Fast and Slow, we all see the same story because our brains seek instant explanations, and the quickest way to

Jilanne Hoffmann’s Learning Story

We enrolled our son in a Waldorf-inspired preschool at the age of 2.5. During the next two years, he thrived in an environment that emphasized respect and empathy for his peers that was modeled by his teachers. Electronic media were NEVER used. Children took many nature/outdoor hikes/walks. They helped teachers cook and clean. Learning was also CHILD-DIRECTED, with teachers encouraging children to ask questions and “find out more” whenever possible. This year, in preparation for public school, we put him in a traditional pre-K. We were appalled at the use of media for the purpose of crowd control (the opiate of the masses) and the lack of respect for children as people. We were also appalled at the mind-numbing “homework” given to 4-5 year-olds. Given this experience, we chose an alternative private school in San Francisco for our son. The school’s philosophy emphasizes respect for all people and all things, encourages students to view teachers as resources (not adversaries), and offers creative (not mind-numbing) learning opportunities. If public school could do this, we’d be first in line.

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