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Law, culture, and Catholicism...up in smoke!

Monday, April 25, 2005

New school treats children, teachers as equals

While driving home from work today, I was listening to a NPR story on what's known as Big Picture high schools. Link here. The schools rely more on an apprentice type program where the students are encouraged to explore their interests and find their passion; there are no classes, no tests, and no grades. Although the approach is interesting, and I can see it being effective for certain disillusioned kids, what really struck me was a particular parent's praise for the program. The mother praised the school's treatment of children, teachers, and parents as equals. In other words, when the parent-teacher conference came around, or when the student had to choose an interest to pursue, the student's decision and opinion was treated as on par with the teacher's or parent's.

At first this stuck me as rather off the mark. After all, the lack of authority imposed, and obedience expected of children is the root of the educational system's crisis, no? Surely this is just another example of pop-psychology empowerment? Yet, it was the comment of a school administrator that made me see it. He said that society has a habit of separating children from adults. Sure enough, at a young age, authority must be imposed on a children at all times. The reason, though, is because we expect no independence from a young child, nor, quite frankly, do they want it. With a high-schooler, however, we should expect independence, otherwise, we can we demand no responsibility. After all, the goal in these final formative years is to teach the student to behave like an adult. Being experiential, maturity is only learned through practice.

So comes my question: We say that kids grow up fast these days, yet they seem to be terrible new adults. Could the problem be that we hold them to a different standard, expecting less of them? Treat a man like a slave and he will act like a slave. When was the last time you heard of a young man who was ACTUALLY expected to be the man of the house, because of some tragedy?